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Learning to Fly

For many, the idea of flying begins as a simple dream, and it is a lifelong passion.

However, the economic uncertainties facing the United States have negatively impacted the number of people who are learning to fly and receiving their pilot’s license.  Since 2008, the number of general aviation pilots has dropped considerably.  During 2010, the number of individuals earning a private pilots license fell 25% from the 2009 figures.  In addition, according to FAA statistics, this was the first time that this statistic fell below 200,000 since 1965.

Learning to fly opens countless doors for individuals of all ages, and we at the Alliance are committed to supporting individuals who want to learn to fly.  Below are some initial resources and links for anyone interested in learning how to fly.

Taking The First Step In Learning To Fly

An important step in learning to fly is selecting a certified flight instructor.  With more than 3,000 flight schools nationwide, chances there is a flight school at your local community airport or area.  It is important to make sure that your instructor has access to an aircraft, as most students rent an aircraft for training directly from the instructor or the their flight school.  The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has a comprehensive list of flight schools in the United State. Click here to search their online database today!

It might be a good idea to sign up for a short, introductory flight.  This will allow you to find out what it feels like to be at the controls of an aircraft as well as to begin to learn how to inspect the aircraft before take off and after landing.

When it comes to the cost of learning to fly, there are variables that will affect the total cost of learning how to fly.

Variables include:[1]

  • Frequency of flight lesson,
  • Weather conditions,
  • Type of aircraft used for training, and
  • Certificate being sought

With regards to flight time requirements, the FAA mandates at least 40 hours for a private pilots certificate, with many people needing almost 60 hours. Individuals considering a pilots license should be prepared for anywhere from 50 to 70 hours of private pilot training, which can be fulfilled over several months to a year or more.  According to AOPA, a rough estimate of the cost of learning to fly is between $5,000 and $9,000.[2]

Requirements For A Pilots License

The first step to becoming a pilot is taking and passing the written test.  The FAA Knowledge Test is a 40-question multiple-choice exam, which require a score of 70% or better to pass.[3] To prepare for the exam, you may choose to prepare with a trained instructor or can study on your own. There are three types of pilot certificates that one may choose from when it comes to learning to fly.  Discuss with your instructor the type of flying you wish to do and your budget, as they can direct you to the certificate that best fits your needs.

In some cases the pilot certificate is part of your medical certificate and your flight instructor will refer you to an aviation medical examiner (AME) who will issue you a combined medical certificate and Student Pilot Certificate upon completion of your   medical exam.[4] There are health requirements that must be met in order to be a pilot. For example, one must have at least 20/40 near and distant vision without corrective lenses and must be able to perceive colors necessary for safe pilot performance.[5] To find an Aviation Medical Examiner in your area, click here.

Student pilot certificates are valid for 60 months for individuals under the age of 40 and 24 months for student pilots over the age of 40.[6] It is never to early or late to learn to fly.  Today the average age of student pilots is 30, with many people setting out to get a pilots license after retirement and others beginning while still in high school.[7]  Individuals must be at least 16 years of age before they will be allowed to solo an airplane and 17 before they will be issued a pilot certificate.

For more information on the specifics of how to get a pilots license, visit AOPA’s “Let’s Go Flying!” website here.


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