Military flight time on civilian applications

As a military pilot, you probably have plenty of hours to meet FAA mins (for your ATP check ride) and airline mins (for your airline app/interview). The problem: in order to prove it, you will need to learn and apply the FAA’s and airlines’ flight time definitions to your flight records. Of note, the FAA and airlines use different definitions…and unfortunately, military records do not cleanly translate to either. So you will need to wade through your flight times and translate them using a little judgement. The good news: as long as your numbers are reasonable and conservative (and you can explain them!), you will be fine. The bad news: in order to be able to explain them, you will need to wrestle with your military records a bit.

Before beginning, arm yourself with a good understanding of what the FAA is looking for during your ATP check ride and what the airlines are looking for on your application. This write-up by Jason at Aviation Bull is a great place to start:

Below is a summary of the information that you will need as you’re working on your ATP and airline applications; recommend reading the referenced regs yourself, either in the FAR/AIM or at

FAA Definitions (14 CFR Part 61)

The ATP checkride is an FAA event, so you will use the FAA’s definitions. (For any of our MIL2ATP students reading this – you can calculate your times for the FAA check ride before arriving for ATP training but it is not required! We’ll help you with this when you arrive.) The primary concern for the examiner is that you meet minimums (they are certifying that you are legal to hold an ATP), so the closer to minimums you are, the more conservative you will need to be with assumptions and the more proof you will need to show from your military records.

Total time: Per §61.1 Pilot Time, this is flight time when you are a required crew member, receiving instruction, or acting as an instructor. No other time or special crew time is included.

PIC time: Per §1.1, this is flight time when you are rated to fly the aircraft, are designated PIC for the flight, and have final authority / responsibility for the flight. As further defined in §61.51(e), PIC time includes: when you are appropriately rated and sole manipulator of controls; solo (sole occupant); acting as PIC when more than one pilot is required; performing the duties of PIC while under the supervision of a PIC in a PIC training program; or instructing.

SIC time: Per §61.51(f), this is flight time when you are qualified as SIC for that aircraft (the FAA definition for SIC qualification can be found in §61.55), occupying a crewmember station, and the aircraft requires more than one pilot (i.e. for FAA purposes, you should not log SIC time in an aircraft that can be flown solo – T-6, T-34, etc.).

Cross-country time: Per §61.1 Cross Country (vi), when applying for an ATP, a flight can be considered cross-country if you navigate at least 50 NM straight-line from point of departure (landing not required). We recommend assuming a conservative percentage of your time – 80% is a good rule of thumb which can be adjusted (e.g. if your practice areas were within 50 mi of the base, consider lowering the percentage).

Instrument time: Per §61.51(g), this is time when you are flying solely by reference to instruments in actual or simulated instrument flight conditions OR instructing in actual instrument flight conditions. You may use simulator time if being instructed in the sim (the most simulator instrument time you can count toward your ATP is 25 hours [ref §61.159(a)(4)(i)]).

Night time: This one is a direct translation. Per §1.1, night is end of night civil twilight to beginning of morning civil twilight (~30 minutes after sunset – ~30 min before sunrise). Fortunately, the military uses the same rules. Bottom line, if the time is logged as night in your military records, count it as night time.

Airline Applications

The primary difference with your airline app will be your PIC time (this will be a much bigger hassle for heavy pilots than for fighters). The airlines are looking for the flights that you signed for the aircraft. For heavy pilots, you can typically assume a conservative percentage of your time after making Aircraft Commander; 80% is commonly used, but again, make sure it makes sense for your flight time and you can explain why you used the percentage you chose.

NOTE: Pilot Credentials includes IP time in PIC (PIC + SIC = Total); Airline Apps does not (PIC + SIC + IP = Total). After inputting your flight time, check the generated total to make sure it makes sense!

Several airlines will also allow you to use a conversion; apply the conversion, even if you have plenty of time without it. (This conversion cannot be used for your FAA checkride!)


Now, how to apply this information to your flight records. To get started, recommend creating a master sheet with all of your times – military, FAA and airline. (In my opinion, an excel spreadsheet is the easiest way to manipulate your information, whether you are creating a military-flight-records coversheet or a line-by-line logbook.) First, input the raw data from your military flight records (primary / first pilot, secondary / copilot, IP, etc.); if you’re using a line-by-line logbook, there should be a column for each of those categories, and if you’re creating a summary/coversheet, create a cell for each of those totals. Then add columns or cells for numbers you calculate, assume, or carryover to the various categories (FAA PIC/SIC, airline PIC/SIC, airline conversion factors, etc.). Annotate what calculations and assumptions you used to go from the raw data to the translated data (e.g. assumed 80% of AF primary time after making Aircraft Commander is airline PIC and assumed all AF primary time was FAA PIC). With the master sheet, you can easily pull (and explain!) any information to create tailored info sheets for the FAA check ride and airline apps. **We do not provide a template because it is important that the information makes sense to you, and we’ve found that pilots who build their own have a better understanding of their flight times.

The logbook discussion…

We’ll throw in our 2 cents on the debate about creating a line-by-line logbook or not when applying to the airlines.

It is completely up to you. You have to present your flight times in a way that is easily and clearly understood during your interview, and you have to understand the data you are presenting. Some pilots feel that in order to make their application as good as possible, they need a line-by-line logbook while others go with the “if-it’s-not-necessary-why-do-it?” route. Either is fine – do what will make you comfortable on interview day.

Whether you walk into the interview with a summary page and your military records or a logbook, the important thing is that YOU understand and can explain the data you present. If you decide to create a line-by-line logbook, you can have a company convert your military logbooks to save time. But it is imperative that you understand what assumptions / calculations / conversions the software uses; go through every single number you place on your application – compare them to your military records, add up categories to make sure they equal your total, calculate each category as a percentage of your total (i.e. did you really spend 65% of your total flight time in night conditions??). An airline hiring rep has seen hundreds or thousands of flight summaries and will catch anything that looks unusual – you should be able to explain any “why?” question they throw at you. At MIL2ATP, we have many examples of students who hand us polished program-generated hours sheets that show more PIC time than total time, almost zero PIC time out of 100s of hours of single-seat fighter time, etc. You HAVE to be able to explain your hours – logbook conversion company or not, there’s no fast way around understanding the totals you are presenting.

*If you’ll be manually entering your own flight records into an e-logbook, feel free to e-mail us and we can send you an Excel template.

**If you decide to use a logbook conversion company, we tried out MilKEEP’s product – it took years of data and spit out a product that could be downloaded as a spreadsheet (my favorite format for being able to manipulate numbers) as well as some other formats for applications; after receiving the initial product, I went through the numbers and adjusted parameters to make sure the right assumptions were being applied. Like all conversions, it’s not 100% plug-and-play but it will keep you from having to manually enter years of data. MilKEEP, being military-pilot run, has a good understanding of military logbooks, and their customer service is excellent. They are a small team and answer all questions themselves, so you’ll be able to get help if something doesn’t go right or if you have questions/concerns.

Good luck and happy logbooking!