So You Want To Be an Aviator? (What To Expect When You Start With Your Flying Lessons)

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
— Leonardo da Vinci

So you finally thought about earning your wings—good for you! Learning to fly is a very fulfilling endeavor, whether you decide to make a serious hobby of it earning your private pilot license (PPL) or making a career out of it later on.

Maybe you and some friends decided to give flying a try one weekend, or maybe you’ve been a fan of flying since “Top Gun”. In any case, here are a few things you should be expecting when you’ve signed up for your flight lessons to work your way towards your PPL.

Pilot Cockpit


You’re going to be using a lot of new phrases and acronyms a lot, so you might as well get used to some of these:

  • CFI – your certified flight instructor.
  • ATC – is air traffic control.
  • Glass cockpit – is a cockpit decked with computer screens (such as the case in most commercial jets), as opposed to the more traditional round steam gauges.

Common Planes For Beginners

According to Captain Kelsey of 74 Gear, the four most common types of aircraft flown by those just starting would most like be either:

  • a Cessna 152 or 172
  • a Piper PA-28
  • a Diamond DA40
  • a Cirrus SR-20 or SR-22

One tip he shares with aspiring aviators: don’t pay an extra fifty bucks an hour to fly a Cirrus when you can go fly a (Cessna) 152 or 172.

“At the end of the day, when you pass your commercial check ride (your final exam), they’re not gonna say. ‘Oh, well you were flying on a 152. Are you sure you can handle this?’” Kelsey explains.

“Budget (can be) tight as you’re going through flight school, (so) you can save the funds… it’s not gonna make any difference.”

About Your Flight Course

When it comes to your flight lessons, the reality is, most CFIs—your course instructors—are just logging in the flight hours to be able to get their next job.

This means they might not necessarily love teaching or want to help you, and unfortunately, that’s just something you’re going to have to deal with.

On the other hand, some might have a natural knack for teaching or might have a genuine interest in helping you learn to fly.

So know that you’re going to get all kinds of flight instructors, and you’re going to have to deal with it yourself.

Gear and Equipment

Capt. Kelsey says there are a few things that you’re gonna need while you’re learning to fly. So here are a few things you’re going to have to invest in even this early:

  • Kneeboards – a little metal board that sits on your leg with a strap around it, and you use it to write down important notes, instructions, or clearances as you fly. There’s the VFR Visual Flight Kneeboard KB-1 and the IFR Instrument Pilot Kneeboard KB-2
  • Proper noise cancellation headsets— like the Bose A20, Zulu Lightspeeds or some other similar headgear. You might as well invest in a very good pair that you can use for years rather than get something cheap that can break apart on you after a short while.
  • An E6B flight computer – it’s a metal instrument that helps you calculate things the traditional way.
  • A book called the Private Pilot Airman Certification Standards – Airplane: FAA-S-ACS-6A, for Airplane Single- and Multi-Engine Land and Sea (Airman Certification Standards Series). Everything you need to know by the time you take your final exam (your checkride) is going to be in this book.
  • Optional: a GoPro so you can film your flights and review them for later.

The Checkride

When you’ve shown that you can safely fly and land a plane, your instructors can determine that you’re ready for your checkride, which is the final exam of your training session.

There’s a written test component (which you also have to pass), and finally, one more flight to demonstrate everything you’ve learned so far. Once you’ve shown your instructor you’re a capable enough pilot, your instructor can now issue you your PPL.

Congratulations—you made it!

About Captain Kelsey

Captain Kinsey is a commercial airline pilot with a rather popular YouTube channel called 74 Gear. Here, he shares instructional videos for aviation enthusiasts, aspiring aviators, and people who want to be career pilots as well.

For more great aviation tips and stories, you can visit his YouTube video channel, or check him out on Instagram.