Nov 9, 2021

Learning to fly or building a career in flying is often not determined by any fixed study path. Many pilots choose to complete their pilot training through a composition of full time, part time and modular training methods. Study pathways are usually determined by personal circumstances with regards to time and funding and also the type of pilot qualifications sought.

Can You Get A Pilot License Part-Time?

Pilot Landing PlaneWhile some professional pilot training programs (especially those incorporating a university degree) will require full-time study, most pilots achieve the required certifications through a mixture of both part time and full time training. For most, this means you can continue to work while completing some aspects of your flight training, however, your training may take a little longer when studying part-time.

Interested in learning to fly? But not sure if you can manage a full-time course of study? Part time training is possible within most flight training schools in NZ. It can be a viable option for those wishing to get some flight hours underway prior to committing to full time study or to extend your qualifications by acquiring further ratings while continuing to work. Here’s how part time flight training works in New Zealand:

  • PPL Or Private Pilots Licence. Part time flight training is easily achieved for pilots seeking to obtain only their PPL. In fact, it is the most common way pilots obtain a PPL due to the low number of flight hours required (a minimum of 50 flying hours) and minimal theory instruction time. In this instance, most part-time pilots will usually complete their flight training during weekends and theory or ground course requirements after hours in the evenings.
  • CPL Or Commercial Pilots Licence. A CPL  is the minimum requirement for getting a paid job as a pilot. At the completion of your CPL, you will have amassed 200 hours of flight time and completed a further six theory courses, this is in addition to the PPL requirements. As with the PPL, the theory can be completed after hours or weekends, as can the flight time however, attempting to complete 200 hours of flight time when limited to only the weekend days can be a challenging task and could take 2-3 years compared to as little as six months for full time students. Some of the factors influencing the time it takes to complete your hours are funding, aircraft availability, weather conditions, and instructor availability.
  • Instrument Ratings, Multi-Engine Aircraft Ratings, and Instructor Ratings. Upon completion of their CPL, many pilots find they need to sit further Ratings to be able to fly specific aircraft or operate within their chosen field. These Ratings are usually offered in separate modules available only to pilots with the necessary pre-requisite qualifications. Part time completion is common for Ratings as these modules generally do not require huge time commitments, sometimes a week or two out of your regular schedule is enough, or even a few weekends in a row depending on course availability.
  • ATPL – Airline Transport Pilot Licence. The theory component for an ATPL is usually completed first while the pilot continues working, with the necessary hours (1500) built up over time. Due to the high number of hours required, many NZ pilots who choose to pursue this career will enrol in Airline Integration Course with Air NZ Preferred Training Providers. This is because these flight schools run specific flight training programs designed to produce commercial airline pilots.

Pros And Cons of Part Time Flight Training

Pilot In CockpitDeciding on your objectives before you begin flight training is a good way to decide which type of training – full or part time – is best for you. If full time just isn’t obtainable, then part time is definitely a good option. Let’s take a look into the pros and cons of part-time flight training to help you understand what you are in for.


Some of the benefits of part time flight training are:

  1. Maintaining Your Current Employment. Part time students are usually able to retain their current job and continue working while they train. This has the obvious benefit of being able to better manage funding while training, but also it creates stability around family and lifestyle commitments.
  2. Flexibility. The greater flexibility of part time flight training means the ability to start and stop at any point, complete theory courses one at a time, add additional Ratings, and fly when it suits making the commitment needed for learning to fly a little less daunting. Training can be better worked around financial commitments and time constraints, allowing the student to create their own schedule.
  3. Less Risk Of Burn Out. Student pilots are not allowed to fly a lot of hours in one day, downtime must be incorporated into training, or the risk of mistakes or ‘Burn Out’ is increased. For part-timers this is usually not an issue as flights and training are spread out at a more manageable rate.


While part-time flight training can work if you are dedicated to achieving your goals, there are some rather big concerns that must be overcome:

  1. Extended Timeframes. Full time flight training programs for those interested in flying for commercial airlines can take approximately two years to complete, including the time it takes to gain 1,500 hours of experience for the ATPL. Whereas part time flight training for the same career aspirations will be based on an individual’s time commitments and personal schedule and will take much much longer.
  2. Slower Progress. Part time flight training does take longer than full time training as proficiency takes longer to develop without constant repetitiveness. Part time students fly less often, which means it can be easy to lose muscle memory over time. Even if only a couple of days, gaps between lessons will slow progress and likely require further additional hours to gain proficiency. Wait times for exams and check-rides will also need to be addressed early on to avoid unnecessary delays in progress.
  3. Limited Aircraft And Instructor Availability. Even if you are available to fly on the weekend – an instructor may not be, or the aircraft might already be booked. This is particularly common at smaller flight schools with limited aircraft and staff. There is also the possibility that full time students are given priority for instructor and aircraft time.
  4. Access To Government Funding. In NZ, some full time student pilots are able to access the Government Student Loans Scheme to help pay for some of their flight training. However, due to the lack of structure and pre-determined commitment in part time flight training, typically, students are not able to access this funding.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Pilot Licence Part Time?

Pilot Flying PlaneWhile part time flight training has its pros and cons, in the end, it’s ultimately up to the student to decide on the best option for them and their career aspirations. There are no set regulations around how long you should take or can take to do your training. However, if speed and getting into an Airline position matter most, then a full time accelerated flight training program from a Preferred Flight Training School is best.

On the other hand, if flexibility is crucial, the ability to keep your current job while working toward becoming a pilot can be the right option for you. Generally speaking, part time commercial flight training can take anywhere from 2-5 years depending on the number of hours the person can commit to per week. Although, as a general recommendation, it is best to keep in mind flying as often as you can produces the best results. The more consistent your training, the faster and more efficient your progress will be, which can lead to reduced costs when completing your flight training.

Is Full Time Flight Training Better Than Part Time?

The short answer here is – yes. Full time flight training is better than part time training as it provides a more immersive learning environment. Consistency and repetition are the key factors that allow for faster progression through all aspects of flight training, with pilots gaining greater proficiency in a shorter period of time.

However, not everyone is able to learn to fly full time, even if this is the preferred option. Reasons for this differ for the individual, but they usually revolve around both time and financial constraints. This is where part time pilot training is useful. Depending on the qualifications, pilots can complete much of the required flight training through part time study.

An accelerated, full-time flight training path isn’t for everyone; this is why Southern Wings offers flexible flight training options in conjunction with their full time programs. Contact our enrolment advisors to learn more about how you can customise your flight training today.


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