Although relatively few people in the world know how to operate an aircraft, getting your own private pilot’s license is extremely easy to do if you are willing to put forth the time and effort needed to get certified.  In addition, it is not hard to learn how to fly and aviation training does not require extensive outside knowledge and prior education.  Being able to fly will enable you travel across the country for business in short periods of time, explore new places that you have never been before with little travel planning, and give you the opportunity to discover a new hobby for fun and adventure.  Furthermore, flying is widely considered to be among the safest means of transportation that exist in the world!

Types of Pilot Licenses

1. Private Pilot

This is the most common type of pilot license and probably the best choice for individuals that would like to learn to fly for pleasure or personal business reasons.  A private pilot license allows individuals to fly any aircraft for any non-commercial purposes.  In addition, passengers may be carried as long as they are not being charged for travel.  In the United States, there are over 200,000 certified private pilots that have undergone appropriate training and passed the necessary exams.

2. Student Pilot

A student pilot certificate will enable an individual to operate an aircraft with certain limitations.  First, the pilot will only be authorized to operate a specific type of aircraft.  Second, the pilot will not be allowed to carry passengers or fly for any type of compensation.  Finally, the pilot will not be able to operate the aircraft outside of the various endorsements provided by the instructor.

3. Sport Pilot

A sport pilot certificate is given to individuals that only wish to operate vehicles within the category of “Light Sport Aircraft,” which includes smaller, lower-powered aircrafts.  In addition, these certificates offer limited privileges and are mainly only used for recreational purposes.  It is the only aircraft certificate that an individual can obtain without a valid medical certificate.

4. Commercial Pilot

A commercial pilot certificate offers the same privileges as a private pilot certificate with extra benefits.  These pilots are authorized to be compensated for flying.  As a result, training to become a commercial pilot is much more extensive and focuses on a better understanding of aircraft systems.

5. Airline Transport Pilot

This type of license is given to individuals that have passed the greatest levels of certification.  This certificate is the prerequisite for acting as a pilot-in-command for scheduled airline operations and requires the most extensive levels of training.

How do I get a Private Pilot’s License?

If you are like most people interested in learning to fly, you probably will want to get a private pilot’s license.  In order to qualify to get a private pilot’s license you must be at least 17 years old and be able to read, speak, and understand English, which is the official language of aviation.  In addition, you must obtain a medical certificate from an Aviation Medical Examiner prior to taking a course.  If you are not in good health, you will probably not pass this examination.  Once you have met these requirements, you are ready to being training.

1. Find an Aviation School and Sign Up

The best way to find a school that will teach you how to fly is to visit your local aviation airport and ask them for some recommendations.  They may even have an aviation school of their own.  Once you have chosen a school, sign up and familiarize yourself with the instructor.  Instructors will typically charge around $20 per hour for ground lessons and $25 per hour for flying lessons.  You will probably also be responsible for renting a plane which can cost up to $75 per hour.  Expect the entire training and licensing process to cost at least $5,000 and keep in mind that it can cost as much as $9,000.

2. Take the Ground School Course

Ground school training generally takes between three to five weeks and is intended to educate students about flying essentials such as regulations, aerodynamics, radio communications, aircraft systems, and weather theory.  It is important to study hard because you will be required to take a written exam on this material and must pass to move on with your training.  The test consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and can be taken at any FAA testing center.

3. Take Flying Lessons

Once you have passed the FAA written exam, you are ready to take flying lessons.  Over the course of your training, you will fly anywhere between 30 and 40 hours with your instructor.  There is no mandatory set number of hours of flying practice.  Your instructor will make sure you are proficient in all aspects of flying before you fly solo.  You must learn how to make safe takeoffs and landings and maintain good control of the aircraft while in the air.  Most students will complete around 70 hours of training before they finish the program.  The entire process generally takes around five months.

4. Take the Written Test

The FAA requires another written exam to determine how much you remember from ground aviation school.  You will get two and a half hours to answer 60 multiple-choice questions and have to get at least 70% of them correct to pass the test.

5. Take the Flight Test

The final step of the process is to take the fight test.  You will meet an actual FAA examiner and he will test your abilities in the air.  If you do a good job, you will have passed all requirements and be issued an official pilot’s license that verifies your ability to operate an aircraft.