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How to Become an Airplane Pilot

Taking command of the controls and flying an airplane is an experience like no other. There’s a special appeal about aviation and seeing the world from above.

What does it take to become an airplane pilot? Time, commitment, and financial investment. Resourcefulness, focus, and flexibility. Is it worth it? Aviators will say “yes.” Flying is uniquely challenging and fun.

Get Started with a Pilot Training Program

No matter what type of pilot you may want to be (private, airline, cargo, corporate, or career flight instructor), these are the essential steps to taking to the sky:

Students learning to fly

Flight School Search:

Begin by researching accredited flight schools and programs. What makes a good fit? First, consider a school’s reputation and the quality of its training and flight facilities. Then, look at whether it offers opportunities that will help meet your goals as a pilot.

Time, location, and cost can also play into your decision: Program length varies from standard to accelerated to fit your schedule and availability. If you’re willing to relocate, there are many schools to choose from around the country, some of which offer housing. And if finances are a concern, some academies offer flexible payment options and other support. There is a flight school and training format to suit every student.

Keep in mind that most flight schools require that applicants be at least 16 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED.

Once you narrow down your search, pay a visit to your school of choice. View the facility, ask questions, and take a Discovery Flight with a certified flight instructor to get a feel for being behind the controls. Still interested after landing? Submit your application and you’ll be on your way.

Flight School Search:

Begin by researching accredited flight schools and programs. What makes a good fit? First, consider a school’s reputation and the quality of its training and flight facilities. Then, look at whether it offers opportunities that will help meet your goals as a pilot.

Time, location, and cost can also play into your decision: Program length varies from standard to accelerated to fit your schedule and availability. If you’re willing to relocate, there are many schools to choose from around the country, some of which offer housing. And if finances are a concern, some academies offer flexible payment options and other support. There is a flight school and training format to suit every student.

Keep in mind that most flight schools require that applicants be at least 16 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED.

Once you narrow down your search, pay a visit to your school of choice. View the facility, ask questions, and take a Discovery Flight with a certified flight instructor to get a feel for being behind the controls. Still interested after landing? Submit your application and you’ll be on your way.

Apply for Certification:

Apply next for a Student Pilot Certificate through the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application website. You don’t need certification to begin training, but will need it to fly solo, so start the application process early to avoid delays. You must be 16 or older and able to read, speak and write English.

Get Your Medical Exam:

Pilots need to be physically fit to fly. You’ll be required to hold a third-class medical certificate (non-commercial flying) to fly solo as a recreationalist. Professional pilots require first-class certificate. FAA Airman Medical Certificates, typically referred to as “medicals,” are obtained through an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and test vision, hearing, neurological and cardiovascular health.

The FAA requires medicals be renewed as regulated depending on the type of medical certificate, so be sure to check the requirements for your certificate. You are personally responsible to self-evaluate and make sure that you fly only when healthy to ensure safe, successful flights.

The Airplane Pilot Training Program Experience

You’ve chosen a top-notch flight school, applied for student pilot and medical certification. Now the hard work – and fun – really begins.

Pilot flying a plane

Flight Training:

There are two components to flight training: a ground school portion and the flight lessons portion. Ground school takes place in a classroom or online, where you will learn the basics of aviation and acquire practical knowledge. Lessons focus on aviation-related topics, how airplanes fly, weather, navigation, and flight planning and protocol.

Flight lessons with a flight instructor are given in training simulators and aircraft and focus on how to maneuver the aircraft, communicate with air traffic control, and tasks involved with operating the airplane. You’ll fly both dual with your instructor and solo as you acquire flight hours and demonstrate proficiency.

Pilot Tests:

A series of examinations, tests, and evaluations are a part of the journey to becoming a pilot. You will be given a pre-solo knowledge test prior to your first solo flight, usually in written form. The formal written FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test takes place next and assesses your acumen in aerodynamics, weather, and flight instruments.

Finally, the FAA Private Pilot Practical Exam, or “checkride” occurs at the conclusion of your training and tests your flying skills and knowledge. Given in two parts with an FAA examiner, it includes an oral evaluation and practical flight evaluation in the aircraft. When pass successfully, the examiner will issue a temporary pilot’s bcertificate allowing you to immediately exercise your new privileges as a private pilot. However, to work as a commercial pilot, you will require additional licensing.

Pilot adjusting airplane controls

Now You Have Your Airplane Pilot License

Congratulations! As a private pilot, you can do single-engine land, fly any single-engine airplane, take friends and family up with you, and go wherever you like. Additional investment in an instrument rating will allow you to fly “in the clouds” in low visibility.

How long will it take to become a pilot? It can vary. The more frequently you fly, the more you’ll retain and the less expensive your training will be. Whether your flight school operates as a Part 61 or Part 141 can also make a difference. Talk to the schools you’re interested in to get an understanding of their training requirements and time frames.

Pilot training takes a significant investment of time, effort, and dollars – but the payoff is great. A private pilot license will provide you memorable experiences and can be the first step toward a variety of career options.

Take Flight with Precision Aviation Training

Precision Aviation Training is a respected Part 141 flight school that offers personalized training to pilots at all stages of their careers. We partner with both domestic and international students to provide real-world environment flight training experiences at our Pacific Northwest-based facility. Our dedicated team of aviation professionals will help you to realize your dreams of flight and excel as an aviator. Learn more about our pilot academy and training and immerse yourself in the challenge, the excitement, and the fun of aviation.