How Do You Get Pilot in Command Hours?

To earn certification and rating as different kinds of pilots, you need to log hours when you have been acting as the pilot in command (PIC).

To become a private pilot, you need to log 40 hours but to fly for airlines you need a massive 1500 hours of PIC flight time.

Just being up in the air doesn’t qualify as PIC hours. There are strict guidelines about what kind of flight experience counts as PIC experience.

Ultimately, to log hours as a PIC you need to be the pilot who has ultimate responsibility for the aircraft. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the pilot manipulating the aircraft.

Let’s look at some scenarios for clarity. In all the following situations, you would be able to log PIC hours.

  1. You are flying a single pilot aircraft alone.
  2. You are in a two or three pilot aircrew, and you have been designated as the pilot in command.
  3. You are acting as a safety pilot and have been designated as the PIC.

Note that in the last scenario, you may only log PIC hours for the time when the other pilot is flying wearing a vision limiting device.

The key to logging PIC hours in a multi pilot aircrew is establishing who is going to act as the PIC before takeoff. This needs to be agreed and logged by the other pilots.

Can a First Officer Log PIC Time?

You cannot log PIC time as a first officer. This is because as a first officer, you have a captain who is ultimately responsible for the plane, the flight, and any infractions.

You can’t be a first officer without a captain therefore as a first officer you will not log PIC hours. You can, however, log second in command hours.

To record SIC hours, you need to collect and log the same information as if you were logging PIC hours. You also need to note or indicate the fact that you were the SIC instead of the PIC.

SIC time can also be logged by pilots who are acting as safety pilots but who do not assume the PIC role during hood time.

SIC time doesn’t generally need to be logged as it doesn’t count towards your minimum hours for certification. However, it is advisable to log all hours just in case.

Can a Student Log Time with a Private Pilot?

The answer is no unless that private pilot holds a certified flight instructor license. However, to hold a CFI you need at least a commercial pilot license. This means that you can’t log hours with someone who only holds a private pilot’s license.

The reason for this is that in command. It is used to refer to the pilot who has overall responsibility, authority, and culpability for the aircraft.

The PIC needn’t be the one flying the plane, but they must be the agreed upon commander for the flight.

SIC stands for second in command. This could refer to the first officer or a safety pilot depending on the situation.

As a first officer, you cannot log PIC time because your captain is the designated pilot in command. However, you can log PIC time if you are acting as a safety officer.

A safety officer’s job is to perform visual checks when the pilot flying the plane is wearing a vision limiting device. This is usually a pair of goggles that blocks much of the pilot’s view.

As a pilot you need to fly ‘under the hood,’ as it is known, to log hours flying on instruments. In essence the vision limiting device simulates conditions which would force you to rely on instruments to fly and land.

To complete these flights, you must have a safety officer on board. They will sit in the right-hand seat and will not manipulate the controls. However, they can still log PIC hours if both pilots agree that the safety pilot will accept responsibility and liability for the plane.

In these situations, the safety pilot can only log hours when the pilot flying is under the hood.

Can Two Pilots Log PIC Time?

This relates to what we were just discussing.

Legally, only one pilot can be designated as the pilot in command for a flight. This is the case whether you have a one, two, or three pilot crew.

The person who is designated as the PIC can log PIC hours. The first officer may log second in command hours if they wish, while second and third officers don’t tend to record anything.

The only time two pilots in the same plane may log hours is if one is a safety pilot who has assumed the PIC role before take-off. In this situation the pilot flying the plane would record PIC time for any flying they did without the vision limiting device on.

The safety officer would log PIC time when the pilot flying is under the hood. These two distinct periods cannot be recorded as overlapping, so it is crucial that flight information is entered accurately into logbooks.

Can You Log Flight Time Without a Medical?

This is an interesting question. You see, there is a bit of discrepancy between PIC hours and being qualified as a PIC.

You can log PIC hours so long as you are the sole manipulator of the controls. This means that if you’re up in a plane with a friend who holds a PPL, and they hand control over to you, you can log those hours.

It doesn’t matter if your medical has expired or lapsed because technically, your friend is the pilot in command as they are assuming liability and responsibility for the flight.

It doesn’t matter that legally you couldn’t act as a pilot in command without a medical because PIC hours mean either:

You are the sole manipulator of the plane.


You are accepting overall liability, authority, and responsibility for the plane.

In short, you can be a pilot in command and log PIC hours, or you can log PIC hours without being declared as the pilot in command.

Can You Log PIC as a Student??

Students can log PIC time when they are flying solo once they have a solo flight endorsement. In this situation they are considered the PIC because they are the sole manipulator of the plane, and the person responsible for the flight.

Students can also log student pilot in command hours when they are flying with an instructor. This is because in those situations they are still the sole manipulator of the aircraft even if the pilot is legally responsible for the flight.