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Home > Blog > How Do Pilots Count Their Hours When Learning To Fly

How do pilots count their hours when learning to fly?

Posted 13 Jun 2022

Pilot Flying Hours

Read on to find out how pilots count their hours when learning to fly, why it is important, what does and does not count as flight hours, and much more.

When it comes to starting your aviation journey and making your way towards your licence, a few things are as important as keeping a regular record of how many hours you have flown so far. You can fly for over 100 hours, but if there is no record of the flight having occurred, it is not really going to benefit you when it comes to licensing and ratings.

Flying, while an exceedingly enjoyable and freeing hobby, is not a walk in the park. It requires technical skill and the ability to perform well under pressure. Read on to find out how pilots count their hours when learning to fly, why it is important, what does and does not count as flight hours, and much more:



 In order to ensure that a pilot can handle the stress that comes with piloting an aircraft, it is important for regulatory bodies such as the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom to ensure that the pilot-in-training has enough flying experience.

When it comes to aviation, practice really does make perfect, and the more flight hours you gather, the more established you become as a pilot, giving you the ability to apply for more advanced licences.

For example, while a person hoping to acquire a Light Aircraft Pilot Licence in the UK only requires about 12 hours of total flight time in order to qualify for the certification, a pilot opting for the more advanced Private Pilot Licence (PPL) needs 45 hours of total flight time.

For those pilots who are aspiring towards a career in flying, an entry-level Commercial Pilot Licence requires about 200 hours of total flight time, and once you have completed this requirement, you are deemed fit to pilot a commercial flight.

For this reason, keeping track of your flying hours and total flight time is very important. A pilot’s logbook has historically served this purpose, and while many pilots now opt for a more modern electronic route by logging in their hours online, others still prefer the steady feel of pen and paper when jotting down flight details and time.


While it may seem obvious what does and does not count as flight time, the fact of the matter is that operating an aircraft is not as simple as just taking off and landing. Several things need to be taken into account, since piloting an aircraft is a complex enterprise.

Pilots are often confused about whether flight time is actually counted from the moment when you switch the engine of the aircraft on, when you start climbing towards the sky, or when you sit down and belt yourself into the cockpit of the aircraft you wish to fly.

In order to clarify and provide a uniform understanding of what constitutes flight time, the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom has laid out exact instructions for when a flight starts and ends. Normally, the time the aircraft takes to move using its own power via the fuel reserves and then the time it spends on the runway all count towards flight time.

If an aeroplane is stationary due to a mechanical error and the pilot is still on board, that time spent on the runway is still considered flight time. Usually, if a pilot is not seated in the cockpit, the time the aeroplane spends on the runway does not count towards flight time. 


There needs to be a certain uniform structure to your logbook, and it cannot be filled haphazardly with no organising principle. It is best to maintain tables and write in clear and legible handwriting so that when the logbook is eventually sent for authorisation, it is clear, concise, and easy to read.

 It is best not to write long sentences and change your train of thought while describing flight conditions. Keep things to the point. It will help you later on when recalling your flight experiences and will also help anyone who goes through your logbook for official purposes. There are certain features of the flight that must always be described when adding the hours to your logbook. They include:


This is the most important aspect of your logbook. You must jot down the exact moment of departure and that of your arrival at another airfield in order to accurately discern how long the flight lasted.

This will count towards your total flight hours which will eventually be needed when applying for licences and ratings, so accuracy is important. Pilots often use the Hobbs time and Tach time in order to get a fairly close reading of the exact flight time.

In some aircraft, the Hobbs meter gets activated when the master switch of the aircraft is turned on while in others it is activated when a pressure switch connected to the landing gear is turned on. In the latter case, only the time when the aircraft is literally in flight is counted, while in the former, the time is counted from the moment the engines are switched on.

 On the other hand, the Tachometer is linked to the engine RPM and offers a far less accurate reading. Together the Hobbs and the Tach reading offer a reading that is close to the actual flight time.


Where the aircraft takes off from and where it lands is very important if a pilot wishes to log in cross-country flights. It is necessary to record the location regardless but gains far more importance when cross-country flights are concerned where distance matters.

Cross-country flights are necessary in order to obtain the Commercial Pilot Licence as well as additional ratings on top of your Private Pilot Licence.

Type of aircraft

When it comes to your pilot licence, certain types of certifications allow you to pilot only certain types of aircraft.

For example, the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence only permits the pilot to fly light aircraft such as the Piper PA 28 or microlights such as the three-axis or the Tiger Moth. It is important to note down what kind of aeroplane you have been flying since piloting a more complex aircraft, such as one with multiple engines (under the supervision of a certified flight instructor), can lead to you working towards obtaining a higher rating on top of your licence.

Flight conditions

It is important to note down the type of weather conditions and visibility before taking off. Flying in conditions of impaired visibility without an Instrument Rating is illegal in the United Kingdom and can lead to severe consequences, including your licence being revoked and your ability to obtain further licensing being terminated.

If you are flying in cloudy conditions or light rain or fog, it is important to make a note of it so that the person examining your logbook can get a good idea of your experience when it comes to flying. It is also important to mention whether you are flying solo, are in command of an aircraft. or are operating the aircraft via dual instruction.

Prior experience

If you are starting a new logbook, it is necessary for you to add your prior experience to it as well so that you have a comprehensive list of all the times you have flown at your disposal at all times.



Not all flight time is made equal, with the time spent in command of an aircraft and the hours spent flying solo being very important when it comes to your evolution as a pilot.

Here are all the different types of flight times that can be recorded in your logbook:

Pilot in command

 When there are two pilots on board, the pilot that has the final authorisation on what to do and what route to take while in-flight is the pilot in command. When dual instruction along with a Certified Flight Instructor is involved, this usually means the CFI since they are the ones who have the final say in the flight, not the pilot-in-training.

If you are in control of a flight and are accompanied by a junior pilot who depends on your skills and expertise to steer out of a tricky situation, you are the pilot in command. However, it is tricky to determine who the pilot in command is when there are two pilots of equal standing flying an aircraft together.

When flying an aircraft that requires multiple crew, both pilots flying the aircraft can log in the time as pilot in command.

Solo flight

This is when you are the sole operator of an aircraft. For a private pilot flying a light aircraft alone, the time flown can be logged in as solo flight time. A certain number of solo flights is necessary in order to apply to the PPL as well as the CPL.

Cross country flight

 If you live in a region that borders another nation and crossing over to another country takes no more than 30 minutes, those 30 minutes will still count as cross-country flight time when it is being logged into your ledger.

However, when it comes to which cross country flights are considered when applying for licences, there is a minimum distance requirement, depending on what licence you are applying for and what country you are a national of. Most CPL and PPL applications require a cross country flight totalling at least 50 nautical miles.

Night-time flight

While it may seem straightforward what constitutes as night-time flying and what doesn’t, when it comes to logging in hours, you can’t start logging in night-time hours as soon as you see the sun setting. Instead, various different rules come into effect after sundown, and important times to log include sunset, half an hour after sunset and an hour after sunset.

When it comes to night-time hours, they can only be logged in after the official civil twilight hours, and end right at the beginning of the official civil morning twilight.

Simulator time

Time spent training on a simulator can also be counted towards your total hours when applying for licensing and should be added to your logbook (albeit in a separate column) since this is valuable time in terms of experience.

However, officially, this time will not count towards the total hours flown as per your logbook. You should log in the hours for licensing purposes.



The total number of flight hours you need varies depending on the type of licence you are applying for:


To get your Private Pilot Licence, the total hours flown must amount to 45. Out of these 45 hours, 10 hours must be for solo flight and 5 out of these must be dedicated to a cross-country flight totalling at least 270 km. On the other hand, for the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence, the total flight time should amount to at least 12 hours.


 In order to obtain a Commercial Pilot Licence, the pilot must have a total of 200 hours flown, half of which must be of solo flight. The other half can be completed via dual instruction with a certified flight instructor (CFI). In addition to this, you must have a solo flight totalling at least 300 nautical miles in order to qualify for a CPL.  



If you are thinking of falsifying any information in your logbook, you should stop what you’re doing immediately since it probably won’t work and you could be barred from getting your licence if discovered.

The authorities who go through your logbook have seen all the ways in which pilots attempt to cut corners and add flight hours that shouldn’t be in their ledgers, so your attempt at presenting false information will probably bear no fruit.

It is best to be honest in your ledger since no amount of false data can make up for the valuable practice that comes with flying an aircraft. Once you’re in the sky, you’ll have only your experience to rely on and no amount of false data will help you successfully take control of an aircraft if you do not have the needed hours of practice. Save yourself from the backfire and stay honest in your ledger!


 Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs.

We cater to brand new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades. We offer dedicated CPL training as well as comprehensive PPL (A) training and the required experience for operating aircraft at night.

In addition to this, the club also offers simulators for various training needs and to help new pilots gain confidence before the real deal. With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we also offer a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

Sherburn also offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward. For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran.

The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation for the long run.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on flying, flight hours, and the technicalities involved.


Photo by Saj Shafique on Unsplash 



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