pilot in the cockpit

Thinking About Getting a Pilot’s License? Here’s What You Need to Know

Getting a Pilot’s License in the USA

You always hear people telling you to reach for the sky, and some people take this to heart, literally.

Many people dream of having a career where they can soar among the clouds. There are many careers that allow people the opportunity to do this; pilots are one such job where individuals take command of various aircraft.

Fortunately, getting your pilot’s license in the U.S. so that you can fly aircraft and start your career as a pilot is easier than you think.

How Do You Learn the Basics?

The first thing you need to do is decide which aircraft you want to fly. Training programs usually cover gyroplanes, airplanes, helicopters, gliders, balloons and/or airships.

You can actually start getting air time rather quickly, just be aware you’ll be under supervision for a while before the other requirements are met.

You first need to seek out a flight instructor and register for introductory lessons. There you will learn how to perform basic maneuvers like takeoffs and landings.

There is no set number of classes you need to attend before you can fly alone and pursue a license, but you need to know the basics; these are taught in introductory classes in order to obtain a student pilot’s certificate.

How Do You Get Medical Clearance?

This certificate isn’t the only paperwork you need to fly alone and practice. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that you get medical clearance. To obtain the medical certification, you must first start the paperwork on MedXPress.

You will then need to visit an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) for an official examination. If they deem you healthy enough to fly, they will complete the rest of the paperwork and issue you the official certificate. To be a private pilot, you will need a third-class certificate.

Note that this is not yet enough to be hired to work as a pilot. Your instruction is far from over.

How to Get a Private Pilot’s License in the USA

You will then need to enroll beyond introductory lessons, which will require you to enroll in a Private Pilot Ground School. There are many options available; if you don’t know where to start, you can try online or at your local airport.

You will need to pass a written exam. Depending on the school you go to, this may need to be done before you can practice flying. Once you have passed this round of examination, you can start to focus on the practical side of flying.

Even at this point, you probably won’t be flying solo for a while. Normally students can expect they’ll need about ten hours of supervised flying before it’s safe enough for them to do it themselves.

You’ll need to learn more than just the basics. This would include additional things such as radio communication and emergency procedures. When you feel comfortable enough, you can undergo the check-ride; this is the final part of the examination process.

In order to qualify to take the exam, you need to log at least 40 hours of flight time (a minimum of 20 instructed hours and 10 solo hours). These hours should be comprised of a variety of different scenarios including: certain procedures, cross-country flying and night flying.

The final exam is comprised of both a verbal and practical exam. Before you can fly, an FFA examiner will administer the verbal exam. If you pass, the examiner will lead you to an aircraft to conduct the flight portion.
There is a lot of variety on this exam and, depending on your examiner, this can take anywhere from two to six hours.

If you pass — you will have your private pilot license! They will help you fill out the online paperwork and issue you a temporary license while you wait for the official one to be delivered to your home.

How Long Does It Take?

The process of obtaining a private pilot’s license in the USA takes only about three months. Note that this alone still isn’t enough to become a commercial pilot.
For that, you will need to continue logging a specific amount of flight hours. This process can take a few years, normally a little over two.

How Much Does It Cost?

This is going to vary greatly depending on the school you go to and how long it takes you to train. You can estimate that at the very least it will cost around $10,000 for the training itself. The entire process can easily cost upwards of $20K though.

Luckily, there are scholarships available. However, it is important to note that this is an expensive endeavor. Like any other schooling, you are going to be shelling out money for a while before you start making any profit off the training.

If you are interested in a job in aviation but have your reservations about becoming a pilot, the FAA Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) has lots of important positions that may interest you (and these don’t require flying an aircraft).