The decision to become a pilot is an easy one for most. But the process can be confusing. What will you need to do before you can begin flying? How do you choose a flight school? How long will it take? These are questions that every prospective pilot has, but they can be difficult to answer because each student has different needs and goals, and flight training programs are all very different. In this complete guide to becoming a pilot, you’ll discover exactly what you’ll need to fulfil your dream of becoming a pilot, including the how to choose a flight school, get a student pilot certificate, apply, build hours and get a job in the aviation industry.
Too Long? Check out Our Video:
So you want to become a pilot? Here’s a breakdown of the steps you’ll take to reach your goal of becoming a commercial pilot.
Student Pilots: To be eligible for a student pilot certificate, you must be at least 16 years old and able to read, speak, write and understand English, as required for Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 61.83.
Private Pilots: Private pilot applicants must be at least 17 years old and be able to read, speak, write and understand English, per FAR part 61.103. In addition, you must complete the necessary ground and flight training requirements as required by the federal aviation regulations.
Commercial Pilots and Flight Instructors: Commercial pilot and flight instructor applicants must be at least 18 years old, and as previous certificates require, must also be able to read, speak, write and understand English.
Airline Transport Pilots: Most ATP applicants must be 23 years old, but certain pilots may obtain a restricted ATP certificate at age 21. Read more about the ATP requirements in FAR Part 61.153.
Each pilot certificate or rating typically involves a component of both ground school and flight training. Ground school is any training done on the ground and prepares flight students for the FAA written exam as well as the ground portion of the FAA practical exam.
Ground school can be accomplished by one of any number of different methods. Ground school training at large flight schools like Phoenix East Aviation is often conducted in a classroom setting. Sometimes ground school is completed one-on-one with a flight instructor, through a computer-based course or an online learning program.
In the end, a reputable ground school program will cover all of the material necessary to prepare a student for the FAA written exam (included in Part 61.125), and will include the instructor “sign-off” needed to take the written exam. Flight training options include training with a small flight school or fixed based operator (FBO) or with a larger flight school like PEA.
There are many advantages to conducting flight training at an accredited school like PEA. These advantages include access to instructors and aircraft, frequent flights and well-maintained aircraft.
For many prospective flight students, choosing school to attend is a challenge. There are a variety of flight training schools available to get the aeronautical training you need to become an airline pilot. Here are three main types of pilot training programs:
In addition to the specific training methods involved, there are many other factors involved with choosing a flight school. These include cost, aircraft types, instructor availability, location, living conditions, student success rates and graduate job placement. Above all, the flight school you choose should be one you feel comfortable with. You’ll be spending a lot of time around the airport, aircraft and with your flight instructors, so it’s important that the flight school you choose is an enjoyable place. MORE: Choosing a Flight School
There are two different types of FAA flight training programs that are available to prospective pilots: Part 61 and Part 141 training. Both types of training are acceptable, but there are slight differences you’ll want to know before you choose a training program.
For flight training to be conducted under Part 141 regulations, an FAA-approved training curriculum is required, including detailed lesson plans. In addition, the FAA monitors the performance of Part 141 training, so too many failures or poor performance will be managed. Because Part 141 flight training is much more structured, the FAA allows students to complete the same training in less required flight time. For example, a private pilot certificate requires at least 40 hours of flight time under Part 61 rules, and only 35 hours under Part 141 regulations. Part 141 programs can be intense and fast-moving for students, and there’s not always a lot of time to catch up when a student gets behind. MORE: Part 61 vs. Part 141
The FAA requires students to obtain a student pilot certificate and aviation medical certificate before they are allowed to fly solo in an aircraft. As such, most flight schools require students to get their student pilot certificate and medical certificate before they arrive for training.
Most of the time, the student pilot certificate and medical certificate are the same document. You’ll be issued a student pilot certificate together with a medical certificate when you pass your aviation medical exam. Rarely, a student might possible a student pilot certificate separately from the medical certificate by visiting a FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).
Students who are not residents of the United States have a few additional tasks to complete in order to begin flight training in the United States.
Most prospective pilots have dreams of going beyond the initial private pilot certificate to become a professional pilot. There are a number of professional pilot job options available to students that graduate from an academy like PEA. But before you begin flight training, you should have an idea of what’s required in order to reach your goal of becoming a commercial pilot. Specifically, to become a professional pilot, in most cases you’ll obtain the following pilot certificates and ratings:
Obtaining pilot certificates is rarely enough for a person to be hired as a commercial pilot. Most commercial pilot jobs, including airline and corporate pilot jobs, require a minimum number of hours just to apply. It’s not uncommon for a person to earn a commercial pilot certificate and still not have enough qualifications to apply for an airline job.
Most pilots who want to become an airline pilot, must obtain many more flight hours than they received during training. For this reason, many new commercial pilots will also obtain a CFI certificate and work for a couple of years to gain experience before they’re eligible for employment at an airline, charter or corporate company.
Once enough hours are obtained, a pilot can apply for a job at a regional airline, where they’ll continue to build flight hours and experience in larger turbine aircraft. After a few years at a regional airline, pilots will usually qualify for a first officer position at a major airline.
Those that choose not to flight instruct often gain employment as a banner-towing pilot, a sightseeing pilot, or possibly flying skydivers or photographers around before moving on to regional airlines, cargo or charter flying jobs. Flying as much as possible is the key to getting an airline job quickly. Becoming a flight instructor is the most common way to earn money and build flight hours toward a professional pilot career.
For many, training is the easy part. Finding a job after you’ve accomplished a pilot training program can be a challenge. There is good news, though: The airline industry is facing an apparent pilot shortage, and it’s expected to continue for some time Phoenix East Aviation students are invited to interview to become flight instructors at PEA upon completion of their certified flight instructor certificates. PEA instructors fly often and can quickly gain the hours necessary for employment as a regional airline pilot. There are many types of commercial pilot jobs available to graduates of a flight training program like PEA’s. Here are just a few options:
Each of these jobs has its own specific set of requirements and different pilot jobs will require more or less hours and experience. If you’re focused on getting a particular pilot job, you should make sure you know the requirements and qualifications needed to obtain that job.
This question about cost is a tricky one, because there are a lot of variables to flight training, including the type of school, the type of aircraft and avionics used, how long it takes you to complete training, whether you’ll need to pay for housing or training materials, and various extras that may or may not be included in the projected cost.
At PEA, we offer our Professional Program I for $49,534, plus the cost of private pilot training if needed,which is about $13,990.
This is a cost for a minimum amount of instructional hours, and some students may not finish in the allotted time. It’s always smart to plan on spending slightly more than the projected amount in case you need extra time to complete a topic or a lesson. Many students take out loans for flight training, and PEA offers financial assistance and lending agreements through a third party for students enrolled in the flight program. MORE: Find out more about the flight training courses at PEA MORE: Find out more about financial assistance Flight training might seem like a lot of work, but for those that love flying, the path to becoming an airline pilot is also a lot of fun.
Flying is challenging, but most pilots will tell you that it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. Have more questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page!
If you’re unsure about any aspect of the application process or have any questions give our team a call on 386-258-0703 or +1-386-258-0703, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have.