Becoming a Pilot
The first step when you are thinking about becoming a pilot is to first decide what you want to fly. FAA’s rules for getting a pilot’s license are different depending on the type of aircraft you want to fly. There are a variety of different types of aircraft that you can fly, such as airplanes, gyroplanes, helicopters, gliders, balloons, or airships. If you are interested in flying ultra light vehicles, you don’t need a pilot’s license.
Going hand in hand with what type of aircraft you want to fly, you should also think about what type of flying you want to do. There are a few different types of pilot’s licenses, from student pilot all the way up to airline transport pilot. You will need to know the eligibility, training, experience, and testing requirements for Student Pilots, Recreational Pilots and Private Pilots, then you can start on your journey to becoming a certified Pilot.
Once you have decided what type of pilot you want to be, you need to make sure that you are eligible. The basic eligibility requirements for a private pilot applicant, are that you need to be at least 17 years old, able to read, speak and understand English, successfully complete the flight training requirements and the knowledge exam. In the end, a private pilot applicant will need to pass a practical exam that consists of a verbal exam and a flight test.
The private pilot license has been the most commonly sought-after pilot certificate for years. Some people want a private pilot certificate so they can fly as a hobby or sport, while others are enticed by the convenience of aircraft travel for vacations or to visit family members. Some private pilots and aircraft owners use their own airplane as a primary mode of transportation to business meetings or events, and for some, it’s a step in the road toward becoming an airline pilot.
Once your eligibility has been determined you must get a Student Pilot Certificate and Aviation Medical Certificate. You can get your student pilot certificate and aviation medical certificate at the same time at the aviation medical examiner’s office when you go in for your appointment. After completing your medical exam, the doctor will give you a document. This document is both the Student Pilot Certificate AND the Aviation Medical Certificate. The 3rd Class FAA-issued medical certificate is required before you can solo an aircraft.
Next you will want to find an instructor. If you don’t already have your flight instructor in mind, or have looked into a flight school, you can always check your local airport. Just by asking around the terminal you can be sure to find a flight instructor that would be willing to teach you.
You will need at some point to take the FAA Written Exam. If you are going the flight school route, most schools will require that you successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot Written Exam before you ever step foot in an airplane. Most private instructors will allow you to fly as much as you want before taking the test. The best choice is to make sure you take the test early as possible. Flying will be so much easier for you if you have the background knowledge of the task you are doing.
You will then want to get in LOTS of flying experience. A student is required to have at least 10 hours of solo aircraft flying time, but many people take more time to learn how to fly the airplane. There is so much more to flying than just take off and landing the plane. You will need to understand how the plane works, emergency procedures, using the radio, navigation techniques and eventually more difficult maneuvers.
The last step is to take the Checkride, or FAA Practical Exam. You’ll need a certain amount of experience to be eligible for the check ride. A private pilot applicant is required to have at least 40 hours of flight time, where 20 of those hours are from an instructor, and 10 are solo flights. You will also need at least 3 hours of cross-country training with your instructor, including 3 hours of night flying, one cross-country that is over 100 nautical miles, 10 takeoffs, and landings, and 3 hours of basic instrument training. In addition to that, you are required to have 10 hours of solo flying, which includes 5 hours of a solo cross-country flight, and one cross-country that is over 150 nautical miles with landings at three different airports. This exam can take anywhere from 3-6 hours, depending on your examiner, so be prepared for a long day of flying.
Upon successful completion of your FAA Practical Test, your examiner will assist you in filling out the FAA paperwork online. The examiner will give you a temporary private pilot certificate to use while you wait for the official FAA certificate to arrive in the mail.
Once you have attained your Private Pilot Certificate the door is open to advance your skills and further your certification. It’s a great base to hone your skills and you can always decide later if you want to obtain a higher certification.