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What is a Safety Pilot?

By Donn Saylor
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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A safety pilot is a certified pilot who is on the lookout for air traffic while the other pilot of the aircraft flies simulated practice maneuvers. He or she usually sits in the right-hand seat and scans the skies for other aircraft as the pilot in the left-hand seat, donning a special view-restricting mechanism, undertakes various flight maneuvers. Safety pilots play a pivotal role in aviation and flight training.

Most jurisdictions outline several stringent requirements for safety pilots. They must possess a minimum of a private pilot license with the appropriate credentials to command the planes currently being flown. When in their seats, safety pilots must have a clear view of the area in front of the aircraft as well as the area to the sides of the aircraft. If a safety pilot cannot clearly see one of these areas, an observer may be employed to enhance the vision of the safety pilot. Most airplanes in which safety pilots fly must have adequate controls on their sides of the aircraft; in smaller planes, these rules can be less restrictive if the safety pilot deems the aircraft safe to fly.

The safety pilot has extremely important responsibilities during the airplane maneuvers. He or she must guide the pilot through the maneuvers by simply referencing the appropriate instruments for the pilot to utilize. The safety pilot is a trustworthy and knowledgeable individual, cool under pressure, who ensures the safe flight and maneuvering of the aircraft.

When an individual chooses to become a pilot of this type, he or she must meet a few specific safety pilot requirements. First and foremost, the aspiring safety pilot needs to hold a current license to fly a plane. He or she typically has experience flying at least one type of aircraft, usually a private plane. The safety pilot can then work with a certified flight instructor and accumulate flight hours — known as "logging time" — in order to add more flight experience to his or her flying history.

Many pilots choose to undergo training "under the hood," meaning they opt for instrument flight training in which their visibility is restricted. Flying with a certified flight instructor is one option. Most "under the hood" pilots, however, choose to fly with a safety pilot in order to complete this type of training, as it is much cheaper than hiring a personal flight instructor.

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