Welcome to your journey of obtaining a pilot certificate!
Benefits of a Private Pilot Certificate
As a FAA certificated Private Pilot you can fly single-engine airplanes throughout the United States, and even into foreign countries such as Canada and Mexico. You can carry passengers, flight both day and night, but you will be limited to flying in fair-weather conditions initially. You can fly in furtherance of a business, but you cannot charge to carry passengers or cargo (this requires additional training and certification).
Steps to earn a Private Pilot Certificate
- Be at least 16 years of age to solo, 17 years of age to take the practical test
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
2. Choose a flight school / flight instructor
Choosing your flight school and flight instructor are two of the most important decisions you will make as you begin your training. Take the time to evaluate your options, as the flight school, and even more so, the flight instructor, will have a large impact on your flight training experience. Your instructor will be your primary conduit for acquiring the knowledge and skill you will need to safely operate an airplane. You need to make sure that they are a someone you can learn from. You should consider many characteristics of potential instructors including teaching style, experience and availability.
AOPA’s Field Guide to Flight Training for Student Pilots provides a great framework for evaluating flight schools and flight instructors.
3. Obtain a Medical Certificate
You will need to obtain a medical certificate prior to exercising the solo flight privileges of your student pilot certificate. If you only plan on exercising Private Pilot certificate privileges, you only need a Third Class Medical Certificate. If you are planning on flying commercially, you should obtain a First Class Medical certificate to ensure that you do not have any medical issues that would preclude you from obtaining the medical certificate required for exercising the privileges of an Airline Transport Pilot certificate.
Before you schedule your visit to the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) to obtain your medical certificate, you need to ensure that you do not have any disqualifying conditions that would preclude the examiner from issuing a certificate. If the AME is unable to issue your medical certificate during your medical during the visit because of your past medical history, it may take 3-6 months, additional testing and documentation, and lots of follow-up to obtain your medical certificate, all of which would be a distraction during your flight training, and may also become a roadblock to progress if you are ready to solo, but can’t due to a lack of medical.
To prepare for your aviation medical exam:
- Read through AOPA’s guide to Airman Medical Certification
- Familiarize yourself with the AOPA guide to Health Conditions that may affect certification
- Complete the application for a medical certificate using the FAA’s MedXpress website. After completing the application, print out the application ID confirmation page. The aviation medical examiner will need this ID when you schedule your appoint.
- Make an appointment with an aviation medical examiner. You can find a list of examiners at: https://www.faa.gov/pilots/amelocator/
4. Obtain a Student Pilot Certificate
Your flight instructor will help you complete the application for a Student Pilot Certificate during your first initial lessons. It usually takes about a week to receive the temporary certificate from the FAA.
5. Obtain Training
We provide an integrated training program, preparing you for both the knowledge test and practical test, while also helping you accumulate the required experience, knowledge and skill to earn the Private Pilot certificate.
Training for the Private Pilot certificate is conducted under Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, and is broken up into three stages:
- Stage 1 – Fundamentals
- Stage 2 – Cross Country
- Stage 3 – Practical Test Preparation
You can view the lesson plan for each lesson in our Learning Management System.
You will be paired with a flight instructor who will serve as your guide throughout your training. Your instructors will help you acquire knowledge, skill and decision making competencies, both in the classroom and in the airplane.
We strongly recommend that you schedule at least two lessons per week to increase the level of retention in between lessons. We also recommend a set re-occuring schedule (like a college course) so that you, the instructor and the airplane’s availability can be reserved far into the future, ensuring that they are available when you are.
6. Prepare for the knowledge test
You will need to pass a sixty-question, multiple-choice knowledge exam before you can take the practical test. In our program you will study for this knowledge test in small chunks as you progress through your training using ASA’s Private Pilot Test Prep books and test preparation software. You will take this exam prior to starting Stage 3.
You may find it advantageous to study for and complete the knowledge test before you start flight training. You can do this by taking an in-person or online ground school. A few online ground schools you may want to consider:
Note: The ground lessons in our training program do not prepare you for the knowledge test. They are designed to help you develop preflight preparation skills and in-flight skills such as air traffic control radio communications and navigation.
7. Prepare for and pass the practical test
The practical test is a half-day discussion and flight demonstration in which a pilot examiner will determine if you meet the standards required for issuance of a pilot certificate. Our third stage of training is focused on helping you to be over-prepared for this test so that you know what to expect and pass the test the first time.
Total instructional and flight time hours needed to complete training can vary depending on a number of factors including frequency of lessons, your level of preparation for each lesson, and the rate at which you learn. We recommend planning to need at least 100 instructional hours and 55 flight hours, but it’s common for pilots to need additional instruction time, especially if they experience breaks in training, missed lessons, and/or can’t consistently prepare for each lesson.
|Independent Study||Instruction||Aircraft Rental|
|Stage 1 – Solo||40||40||15|
|Stage 2 – Cross Country||40||35||20|
|Stage 3 – Prep for Practical||20||25||20|
A typical ground lesson is two hours of instruction. The instructor charge is $75 per hour. A typical ground lesson charge if $150.
A typical flight lesson is two and a half hour of instruction, and 75 minutes of aircraft rental. The aircraft rental rate will depend on the aircraft being used, but for example if it was $160 per hour, the typical flight lesson charge would be $387.50.
Other things you’ll need along the way
Besides instruction and aircraft rental, there are other expenses that you need to plan for to accomplish your training.
- Third Class Medical certificate (approx. $115).
- Textbooks and test prep books($100)
- Headset ($150-1050)
- Pilot Operating Handbooks ($30-80)
- Flight Plan Logs ($5)
- Aeronautical Sectional Charts ($8)
- Airport Facility Directory ($6)
- Kneeboard ($35)
- E6-B Flight Computer and Plotter ($50)
- Knowledge Exam Fee ($165)
- Practical Test Examiner Fee ($800)
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