many flying is a lifetime adventure. It's a multidimensional activity
that you can enjoy on as many levels as suits your fancy from sightseeing
to aircraft appreciation to aerobatics to travel to technical flying
to history to earning a living and on and on. Along the way, you meet
some great people and learn a bit about yourself along the way. And
best of all, you can do it!
Here is the basic scoop on becoming a pilot, in plain English.
become a pilot, you don't have to be in great shape or have superior
hand-eye coordination. For private pilot privileges, you will have
to, at some point, pass an FAA medical exam, but for most this is
little problem if you don't have a known heart condition and your
vision is reasonably good or can be corrected (with glasses or contacts)
to be good (not necessarily perfect). If you have concerns, see a
doctor first. Here's
a list of aviation medical examiners.
goal for most people is a Private Pilot Certificate, which comes in
several flavors, depending on which type of aircraft you train in.
For most people,. this means airplanes, though others become private
pilots in helicopters, gliders, balloons, and so forth. A "recreational
pilot" certificate is also a possibility, but in practice this
certificate (we don't say "license") has had few takers.
In 2003/4 there has been considerable talk of a "Sport Pilot"
certificate that will let people fly small 2-seat aircraft with less
training than required for the Private Pilot certificate, but whether
this will become a) a reality and b) popular is yet to be seen.
a private pilot certificate, you can fly in good weather and see some
neat stuff. As your experience grows, when you go on holiday, for
example, you can rent airplanes and take friends or family to see
the sights in a whole new way. If you so choose, you can then train
on bigger and faster aircraft. Who knows--you might even consider
buying a plane.
No - it's a snapshot from my recent weekend trip!
aircraft (airplanes) that you fly as a student pilot are typically
2- and 4- seat affairs that look like so:
properly maintained (as the vast majority of active training aircraft
are), flying in them is safe and fun. As you gain experience, you
gradually move into faster and more exotic aircraft.
Categories of Flight Training Organizations
under the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) framework basically
happens in two guises, named after the section of the Federal Aviation
Regulations (CFR 14) under which they are regulated.
"Part 141", you are flying with certified flight schools
with certified curricula. Part 141 schools are often, but not always,
set up in order to train people for professional pilot careers.
"Part 61", you are flying with flight schools and/or independent
instructors. There are more Part 61 operations than there are part
practice, both types of schools produce pilots that statistically
are equivalently safe and an airline pilot in practice is as likely
to come from a Part 61 background as he is from a Part 141.
will not be seen as a better or more serious pilot or potential employee
by anybody because you got your certificate through one type of school
or the other, and any kind of chauvinism on this front is silly and
misguided. Why do we bring this distinction up in this beginning text
then? Because if you go to your local airport you might hear some
talk of this and not quite know what to make of it. The real key in
terms of choosing where to train is to ...
a Good Instructor
local airport most likely has one or more training outlets. These can
be a flight school (part 141 or not), FBO ("fixed based operator"),
or maybe just some independent instructors. The best thing you can do
before you start your training is to canvass maybe a handful of potential
schools to find a good fit. Ideally, you'd be flying with a single instructor
for the bulk of your training, so you'd like to find one that you feel
comfortable with. Experience counts, yes, but this doesn't mean that you
should discount an enthusiastic fresh instructor.
training under either Part 61 or Part 141, there is an FAA mandated
minimum number of flight hours required of around 40. You can, for
all practical purposes, ignore this, as very few people finish at
near the minimums, and people occasionally view those who do with
some suspicion. The fact of the matter is that today's pilot needs
to know and be able to do many things that it's nearly impossible
to finish in the minimum, though a conscientious student that works
hard independently and trains relatively frequently (2-3 times a week)
can certainly keep his/her costs down. The national average number
of hours for getting a Private Pilot certificate is around 55-65.
At the time of this writing, it
costs approximately $80-$150 per hour to rent an airplane. This includes
the fuel and oil, and the time is only counted when the engine is
on (so one hour really means one hour). Instructor rates typically
vary from $25 - $65 per hour -- some places link this to the engine
time, and some count all the clock time that you are with the instructor
in making this determination.
hours x ($100 + $35) = $8100
another $1000 - $1500 for things that you'll have to buy along the
way (like a headset), and you have a pretty rough idea of what it
costs. Helicopters cost more. Is it a lot of money? Yes. Is it worth
it? We think you know our answer!
or all flight training organizations will gladly offer you a demo
flight for an introductory flight price. A demo flight can be a half
an hour of just going up, getting a sense for what being in a small
airplane is like. On your very first flight, the instructor is likely
to let you have the controls (with him/her keeping a close watch,
hard is it?
student that we have ever had the privilege to introduce to the world
of flying has bar none at some point told us that flying was easier
than they had anticipated. Our reply, and the closest thing that we
can say that approximates sage advice with regards to flying is this:
about flying is hard, except mastering the thousands of necessary
anything worth doing, learning to fly takes some diligence and effort,
but it can be done by most people from age 16 to 106.
following timeline is written with airplanes in mind, and varies slightly
for helicopters and other aircraft types. If you schedule 3 lessons
a week, you're likely to fly 2 a week (because of weather and other
issues), and will earn a Private Pilot certificate in 3-6 months.
Each flying lesson will likely include between 1 and 1.5 hours of
flying, though the "cross country" flights (flights that
go 50 or more miles from your local airport) that you will do as part
of your training will be a bit longer. Each flight lesson will generally
contain a pre-flight and a post-flight briefing and discussion with
your instructor, so figure on 3-3.5 hours as a conservative "car
to car" benchmark.
goal is to pass a combination flight and oral test, known as a "checkride"
with an FAA Designated Examiner.
be eligible to take a checkride, you must meet certain aeronautical
experience requirements and have completed your written (knowledge)
test. Our GroundSchool software is, in our highly biased opinion,
the best choice for studying for your written test. To learn more
about the written test and/or our software, click
of your flying time will be spent on preparing for things that you
will be tested on during your checkride. This includes standard maneuvers
and procedures that you will have to fly. All of the maneuvers and
requirements are standardized in a series of publications called the
Practical Test Standards. You can find links to the practical test
standards on our website.
of the aeronautical experience requirements includes some solo flight.
That's right--no instructor. Just you, an airplane, and the wild blue
yonder. Of course, this is an exhilarating and anxious event, but
people have safe first solos every day. Someday soon, maybe that could
about "average" times to solo is misleading and counterproductive.
Unfortunately, occasionally students seem to think that getting to
solo is some sort of race. In practice, if you ever hear somebody
bragging about how few hours they soloed in, then you can almost be
certain that they are only revealing their own lack of experience.
Amongst experienced pilots, its understood that this number means
absolutely nothing. The famous WW2 ace Chuck Yeager who broke the
sound barrier in the Bell X-1 aircraft took an inordinately long amount
of time to solo. After our students are ready to solo, we generally
fly another 5 hours or so with them AND have them fly with another
instructor just to be super-super sure that everything is on the up-and-up.
That all said, many people solo in between their 20th and 35th hours,
so it can be generally said that it occurs about halfway through the
training. Here's our attempt
at humor with regards to the number of hours it takes to solo.
airplanes, you will learn at least the following maneuvers and procedures
during your training: normal takeoffs and landings, slow flight, stalls,
turns, ground reference maneuvers, cross country planning and navigation,
use of radios, use of navigational equipment, emergency procedures,
aviation weather, aviation psychology and physiology, aircraft systems,
aerodynamics, regulations, and more.
may be apprehensive about some of this training regimen until you
actually do it and see that its really not that bad, and is intended
to keep you safe! Everything that you will be taught has the goal
of making you a safe and competent pilot. Safety is the watchword
of aviation and is priority one.
hope that we have provided you with a reasonable introduction to flying.
To get more specifics, go down and visit the nice folks at your local
airport - I'm sure they'll be more than happy to answer your questions
and get you set up as necessary. When it comes time for you to prepare
for your knowledge (written) test (as could be now, because learning
the material early is best!), we hope you will consider using our training materials such as our software and apps.
The GroundSchool Team