How to Become a Pilot


Becoming a pilot is one of the best decisions you’ll make.  Below are some steps (although not exhaustive by any means) you can take toward earning those wings:

1)  Consider the Aircraft Preference

The first step is to consider what you would like to fly.  For example, you can choose between airplanes, gyroplanes, helicopters, gliders, balloons, or airships.

2)  Take a Discovery Flight

A great first step is to locate a flight school near you (ask around, call airports, find pilots in the area) and schedule a 1st flight or discovery flight.  This will help to see if flying is for you and if you like it.  It also gives you the opportunity to try out a flight school, meet some pilots, and give a hand at flying.  If you have a positive experience, go to the next step.

3)  Research Possible Certificates

As a beginning pilot you can certify as a recreational pilot, sport pilot, or private pilot.  The short version:

Recreational pilot – must remain within 50 miles of home airport, fly no greater than 180 HP, can’t fly at night, over clouds, or operate at tower-controlled airports

Sport Pilot – don’t need a medical certificate, fly as far as you like, limited to a light-sport aircraft (weighing under 1320 lbs), can’t fly at night, over clouds, or operate at tower-controlled airports

Private Pilot – No restrictions, fly into any airport, fly any airplane, fly at night, etc.

4)  Enroll in a good Ground School course with Ground School USA

Although formal ground school is not a FAA requirement, most agree it is a really good idea.  The ground school course will highlight what information is important for both the written and practical FAA tests.  In addition you will learn key concepts and terms that will help you succeed as a student pilot.

5)  Find a Good Flight School (Club)

If you are in the Atlanta area, look no further –  Lanier Flight Center is the answer for your flight training and aircraft purchase needs.  Shop around.  Make sure to not just look for price.  You do get what you pay for.  Look for quality and condition of aircraft, excellence in maintenance, experienced flight instructors, and overall professionalism and customer-oriented staff.  Choose wisely here, it really matters.

6)  Begin Flight Training

Count the cost and budget a doable flight lesson schedule that works with your time available and resources.  Ideally, one to two lessons per week works best.  You also need to figure on home study time.

How many hours does it take?

Everyone is different and learns at different rates.  But the national average flight hours is between 70-75 hrs.  The minimum is 40.  A lot depends on your abilities, your training schedule, and how     much effort you put into it.

Below is the FAA regulation on minimum flight hours to receive a private pilot certificate:

A person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight training in the areas of operation listed in Sec. 61.107(b)(1) of this part, and the training must include at least–

(1) 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a single-engine airplane; (a cross-country is a flight more than 50 miles from point of departure)

(2) Except as provided in Sec. 61.110 of this part, 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane that includes–

(i) One cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance; and

(ii) 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.

(3) 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight;

(4) 3 hours of flight training with an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test, which must have been performed within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test; and

(5) 10 hours of solo flight time in a single-engine airplane, consisting of at least–

(i) 5 hours of solo cross-country time;

(ii) One solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations; and

(iii) Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

7)  Get an FAA Medical (unless sport pilot)

Basic medical, vision is correctable to 20/40, but no major medial history.  Color blindness and diabetes are no-gos.

8)  Pass a 60 multiple-choice FAA written exam (we’ll get you there, don’t worry about this one)!

9)  Pass an oral and practical exam with an FAA designated examiner (when you’re instructor says you’re ready)!