How To Become A Pilot [Step By Step]

how to become a pilot

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a pilot? The excitement of seeing the world from high above is a desire shared by many.

However, pursuing a career as a pilot requires more than just a dream. It demands an investment in time, finances, and dedication to make that dream a reality.

Whether you aim to become a professional pilot or just fly for leisure, you may be wondering where to start.

In this article, we will answer the most frequently asked questions from aspiring pilots and guide you through the fundamental steps necessary to embark on your journey to the skies.

So read to the end as we take you through the step-by-step process to become a pilot and give you a deeper insight into everything you need to know before becoming a pilot.

How Long It Takes To Become A Pilot

The duration it takes to become a pilot depends on several factors, such as the type of pilot’s license you intend to acquire, the country where you’re training, and your commitment and eagerness to learn the essential skills and materials.

However, to calculate the time required, you have to factor in both the ground and air training.

Generally, to obtain a private pilot’s license, which permits you to fly small planes for personal use, you will require a minimum of 40–60 hours of flight time.

On the other hand, to become a commercial pilot who can fly for compensation, you will need a minimum of 250 hours of flight time in addition to more advanced training.

In addition to flight training, you will need to finish particular ground school courses. These seminars include essential subjects for a pilot, such as aircraft systems, aviation rules, navigation, and meteorology.

These courses may be completed online, in a classroom, or in a hybrid program.

Overall, depending on the sort of certification desired and your circumstances, the process of becoming a pilot might take several months to several years.

Some flying schools provide accelerated programs that enable students to complete training in less time than is typical.

Qualifications Needed To Become A Pilot

To become a pilot, particular standards must be met, which vary based on the kind of pilot’s license and the country of instruction. To pursue this job, you must achieve the following requirements:

In addition, the following is the minimum age requirement:

1. Attain The Minimum Age Requirement

attain the minimum age requirement how to become a pilot

The minimum age to become a pilot varies by nation and depends on the kind of aircraft you wish to fly. Therefore, it is essential to do an advanced study on local aviation rules and regulations.

2. Attain The Minimum Level Of Education Required.

The educational prerequisites vary depending on the pilot training program you choose.

Some programs require at least a high school diploma or equivalent, while others enable students to begin training while still in high school.

Some institutions also have aviation programs through which students may get a pilot’s license as well as a four-year degree.

3. Medical Examination

how to become a pilot medical examination

To guarantee that they are physically and psychologically ready to fly, all pilots must pass a medical check.

To get a medical certificate in the United States, pilots must be examined and approved by an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).

A physical exam, eye and hearing tests, and a medical history review are all part of the medical evaluation. Before beginning flight training, the FAA recommends that you get your medical

The certification course you take should be determined by your job objectives.

Private pilots and students must have a third-class certificate, whereas commercial pilots must hold a second-class certificate, and airline transport pilots must hold a first-class certificate.

4. Language Proficiency Requirements

Because English is the worldwide language of aviation, pilots must be fluent in both speaking and comprehending it. Additional language competence requirements for pilots may exist in certain nations.

What Is the Best Age To Become A Pilot?

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There is no set age at which one should begin training to become a pilot.

A student pilot certificate may be obtained at the age of 16, a private pilot certificate at the age of 17, and a commercial pilot certificate at the age of 18.

However, these are just minimal criteria, not age restrictions. It is fairly rare for people to learn to fly later in life, even when they are in their 70s or 80s.

A person may receive a pilot’s certificate if they pass an FAA medical check. Anyone of any age should be able to pursue their lifetime ambition of flying!

How Hard Is It To Become A Pilot?

Becoming a pilot requires extensive flying training as well as passing various knowledge examinations.

An oral exam and a practical test will also be required to show your aeronautical knowledge and flying abilities to an examiner.

Aside from technical skills, you will need physical coordination, mental attention, and the ability to deal with stress and make rapid judgments.

Pilots must carry out their tasks successfully and efficiently since they are accountable for the safety of their passengers and crew.

Despite the difficulties, being a pilot is a rewarding experience. While flight training may be difficult, students have access to a variety of materials to help them along the way. Student pilots work with a Certified Flight Instructor who helps them one-on-one.

After finishing flight school, the feeling of success and the opportunity to pursue a rewarding job make it all worthwhile.

Basic Steps On How To Become a Pilot

how to become a pilot basic steps on how to become a pilot

Here are the ten basic steps to becoming a pilot

1. Education: Earning An FAA-Approved Four-Year Degree

The first step in becoming a pilot is to complete a four-year degree program authorized by the FAA.

This degree might be in aviation or a related subject like aerospace engineering or aviation management. Aerodynamics, aviation legislation, navigation, and aircraft systems are among the subjects covered in the curriculum.

2. Use Your Degree To Help You Obtain A Private Pilot’s License

use your degree to help you obtain a private pilot's license how to become a pilot

Use your four-year degree to apply for a private pilot’s license once you have finished school.

You may fly for pleasure with a private pilot’s license, which also serves as the starting point for more advanced instruction.

A minimum of 40 flight hours, including 10 hours of solo flying and 20 hours of flight training, are required to get a private pilot’s license.

A written examination and a practical flying test are also requirements.

3. Take To The Sky! Gain Experience And Flight Hours

After acquiring a private pilot license, you must acquire experience and record flying hours. To be eligible for a commercial pilot license, you must have logged at least 250 flying hours, including 100 hours as a pilot-in-command.

Flying with an instructor, renting an aircraft and flying alone, or joining a flying club are all ways to acquire experience.

4. Instrument Ratings Are Required

how to become a pilot instrument ratings are required

An instrument rating is required to become a commercial pilot. An instrument rating permits you to fly in limited visibility conditions and navigate using instruments.

A minimum of 50 hours of cross-country flying experience is required, including 40 hours of instrument flight time and 15 hours of instrument flight training. A written exam and a practical flying test are also required.

5. Consider Getting A Commercial Pilot License

To fly for pay or employment, you must first earn a commercial pilot license. Then, you must pass a written exam, a practical flying test and complete the required number of flight hours.

You may work as a flight instructor, charter pilot, or aerial photographer with a commercial pilot license.

6. Interview For Openings As A Commercial Airline Pilot

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You must get an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license to serve as an airline’s commercial pilot.

For positions as a commercial airline pilot, you must additionally attend interviews. Airlines seek experienced pilots who can function effectively in a team environment.

7. If You Enjoy Flying, Get A Flight Instructor Certificate

A flight instructor certificate is available if you love teaching and assisting others in learning to fly.

To become a flight instructor, you must complete the required number of flying hours, pass a written exam, and pass a practical flight test. In addition, you may earn more flying hours by teaching people to fly with a flight instructor certificate.

8. Other Options Include Adding On A Multi-Engine Rating

how to become a pilot other options include adding on a multi-engine rating

As a pilot, broadening your horizons may include acquiring a multi-engine rating, which enables you to operate planes containing multiple engines.

Securing a multi-engine rating requires the fulfillment of further flight training and the meeting of minimum hour requirements.

9. Airline Transport Pilot Certifications Can Make You Additional Money

Obtaining additional certificates, such as Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII), may boost your marketability as a pilot and your earning potential.

10. Interview For A Position As An Airline Pilot

interview for a position as an airline pilot how to become a pilot

You must attend an interview to be considered for a job as an airline pilot. Airlines seek pilots with previous experience, effective teamwork abilities, and strong communication skills.

A panel interview and a simulator test may be part of the interview procedure.

What Certifications Do You Need To Become A Pilot?

You need a pilot certificate and the appropriate training, which varies depending on the kind of flying you want to undertake and the aircraft you want to fly to become a pilot.

The FAA issues all pilot certifications and ratings in the United States, including:

Instrument Rating Certificate

how to become a pilot instrument rating certificate

An instrument rating certifies that you can fly only using the instruments of your aircraft. It is one of the most useful ratings you can get, and it adds a fun and difficult element to your flying training.

With an Instrument Rating, you may fly in a wider variety of meteorological circumstances. To get this rating, you must first complete 15 hours of instrument flight instruction from an approved instructor in the aircraft category for which you are seeking the rating, followed by 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument experience.

Private Pilot Certificate

Getting your Private Pilot Certificate is the first step toward getting a commercial pilot’s license. You will learn to fly a single-engine aircraft while attending ground school at the Florida Flight Academy’s Academic Building.

Throughout this program, you will study fundamental aviation skills, navigation, aircraft movements, flight planning, and emergency procedures.

After finishing this phase, you will get your Private Pilot License (PPL), making it permissible for you to operate a single-engine aircraft for non-commercial reasons.

Commercial Pilot Single-Engine Certificate

commercial pilot single-engine certificate how to become a pilot

This course will teach you the skills and information you will need to get your commercial pilot’s license for single-engine aircraft.

You will learn about pre-flight preparation and procedures during the ground school phase. At the same time, the flight training component will cover critical FAA requirements like radio communications, aviation traffic control, and commercial operations.

This rigorous training is required for anybody wishing to work as a commercial pilot.

FAA Student Pilot Certificate

The FAA issues a Student Pilot Certificate to individuals who want to learn how to fly an aircraft.

This certificate is required before beginning flight training and serves as evidence that the person has met the necessary requirements to start learning how to fly.

To be eligible for a Student Pilot Certificate, an individual must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Must be at least 16 years of age (14 years for glider or balloon operations).
  • Should be able to read, write, speak, and comprehend English.
  • Must pass a medical examination from an FAA-designated medical examiner or a physician familiar with aviation medical standards.
  • Must pass a knowledge test that covers subjects such as airspace, weather, navigation, and aircraft systems.
  • Must complete a flight training course with an FAA-certified flight instructor.

After fulfilling these requirements, an individual can apply for a Student Pilot Certificate through the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system. The application process requires personal information such as name, address, social security number, medical examination documentation, and knowledge test results.

Medical Certificate

how to become a pilot medical certificate

A medical certificate proves that a person is fit medically to engage in a particular activity, like flying an airplane. The FAA requires this certificate before a pilot may serve as a required crew member or as pilot-in-charge.

First-class, second-class, and third-class medical certificates are the three different categories. In addition, an individual must pass a medical examination administered by an FAA-designated aviation medical examiner in order to get one.

The certificate’s duration varies depending on the kind of certificate and the person’s age. The medical certificate is essential for guaranteeing aircraft safety.

Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate

After obtaining your Certified Flight Instructor Certificate, you can start accumulating the 1500 flight hours necessary to earn your Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

This certification enables you to work as a commercial airline pilot, and it is the highest licensing issued by the FAA, typically representing the last major step before launching your career as an airline pilot.

With an ATP certificate, you can fly for regional airlines and major airlines, serving as a First Officer or Captain. It is worth exploring the various career paths available once you have completed your commercial airline pilot training.

To earn an ATP certificate, you must complete an ATP CTP program, which entails 30 hours of ground school learning, 10 hours of SIM training in Fixed Training Devices (FTD), and Full Flight Simulators (FFS).

After finishing the program, you will be eligible to take your ATP Knowledge Test.

Certified Flight Instructor Certificate

certified flight instructor certificate how to become a pilot

To become a pilot for a passenger airline in the United States, a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time is required.

To help our students meet this requirement, we include the Certified Flight Instructor Certification as part of our Professional Pilot Program.

Our graduates are also offered an opportunity to interview for a Flight Instructor position, as teaching others is an effective way to reinforce your own learning and accumulate valuable flight hours on the path to becoming a commercial pilot.

Our AAPT program goes further by offering the Flight Instructor Certificate with Instrument Rating (CFI-I), which guarantees a job interview with L3 Harris in Sanford upon graduation. Alternatively, L3Harris offers the following Flight Instructor courses:

  • Flight Instructor Single-Engine Certification: This allows you to teach cadets on a single-engine aircraft.
  • Flight Instructor Instrument Rating: This will enable you to train cadets under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).
  • Flight Instructor Multi-Engine Certification: This allows you to teach cadets on multi-engine aircraft.

Pilot Endorsements

Pilots have the opportunity to earn endorsements in addition to ratings to further their flying careers.

An endorsement is a confirmation from a certified flight instructor that the pilot has completed the necessary training for a specific task. Some of the endorsements pilots can receive include:

High Altitude Endorsement

how to become a pilot high altitude endorsement

Pilots flying at high altitudes must be knowledgeable about oxygen requirements, oxygen systems, rapid decompression procedures, and pilot health problems like hypoxia.

As these topics are not taught in-depth during private pilot training, pilots must receive an endorsement from a certified flight instructor stating that they have received additional training.

Understanding pilot certificates, ratings, and endorsements should no longer be confusing.

A certificate is the primary pilot license that allows you to fly a specific category and class of aircraft. Ratings and endorsements offer additional privileges to use with your certification.

Complex Endorsement

Pilots need a complex endorsement to fly aircraft with retractable landing gear, movable flaps, and a controllable-pitch propeller.

Since the systems and procedures for complex planes differ from those for non-complex ones, pilots need extra training from a certified flight instructor.

Tailwheel Endorsement

tailwheel endorsement how to become a pilot

For aircraft with a tailwheel configuration, pilots require extra training because the landing and steering characteristics are different from those of tricycle-gear planes.

Although there is no minimum requirement for hours, most pilots obtain this endorsement with just a few hours of landing practice.

Pilot Ratings

Below are different types of pilot ratings and endorsements that can be added to a certificate:

Seaplane Rating

how to become a pilot seaplane rating

Private pilot certificate holders can add a seaplane rating to their certificate.

Seaplanes, also known as floatplanes, require only a few extra hours of training for a pilot to become proficient, provided the pilot already has a private pilot certificate.

Instrument Rating

An instrument rating enables a pilot to fly solely by referring to the instruments in the cockpit without relying on the ground outside.

This rating can be added to a private pilot or commercial pilot certificate.

Helicopter Rating

helicopter rating how to become a pilot

A helicopter rating can be obtained as an add-on to the Private Pilot Single-Engine Land certificate, much like a seaplane rating.

It is a quick and easy add-on for private pilot certificate holders.

For those without a private pilot certificate, helicopter training would also involve private pilot training.

Multi-Engine Rating

A multi-engine rating is an additional rating to the private pilot certificate, necessary for advanced training schools and individuals interested in pursuing a career as airline pilots.

For others, it is an optional rating. With this rating, pilots can fly twin-engine aircraft. (Aircraft with more than two engines require a type rating specific to that aircraft.)

Is It Expensive To Become A Pilot?

how to become a pilot is it expensive to become a pilot

Becoming a pilot can be a costly endeavor due to the extensive flight time, training, and certification required.

The overall cost of pilot training can vary based on several factors, such as the type of license pursued, the location and duration of the training, and the aircraft used for training.

The cost of pilot training ranges from a few thousand dollars for a private pilot’s license to tens of thousands of dollars for advanced certifications and ratings.

Flight time, ground school seminars, test fees, and other training charges are all included in the pricing.

A thorough investigation into the cost of pilot training is critical since it necessitates a significant financial investment.

Scholarships or grants may be available to some individuals to help offset training costs, while others may choose to save up and pay for training out of pocket.

Trainees often utilize loans and other financing options, so it is important to explore all available options regardless of financial circumstances.

How To Pick A Flight School

Choosing a flight school may be a difficult undertaking, but it is an important choice that will significantly influence your career as a pilot.

It is recommended that you visit the flying school to examine the aircraft and meet the instructors to confirm that it is a good match for you.

Furthermore, many flight schools provide a Discovery Flight, which allows you to fly with a Certified Flight Instructor for the first time in a small training aircraft.

The Discovery Flight is a wonderful tool for determining if becoming a pilot is the correct choice for you.

Another thing to consider while selecting a flying school is the school’s location. Aside from the ease of choosing a nearby school, you may want to consider the local weather conditions since they may have an influence on your training.

Schools in lower-cost-of-living locations may also be more cost-effective overall. You may chat with current students and instructors to get a sense of their training experience at that specific location.

Tips To Be Successful

tips to be successful how to become a pilot

1. Set Specific And Attainable Goals

Define your goals in terms that are explicit, quantifiable, reachable, relevant, and time-bound.

2. Seek Information And Skills

how to become a pilot seek information and skills

Learn and develop yourself on a regular basis. Attend seminars, read books, enroll in classes, and seek out mentors.

3. Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone And Take Calculated Chances

Taking calculated risks may help you improve and capture opportunities.

4. Create A Support Network

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Create a supportive network of friends, mentors, and coworkers who can provide advice, comments, and encouragement.

5. Maintain A Cheerful And Optimistic Mindset

Develop a positive attitude and an optimistic view of life. Believe in yourself and your potential to succeed, especially during difficult circumstances.

6. Cultivate Discipline And Consistency

how to become a pilot cultivate discipline and consistency

Cultivate discipline and consistency by developing and sticking to beneficial habits. Success requires consistent and deliberate activity toward your objectives.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is The Duration Of Flight Training Programs?

The duration of flight training programs depends on the type of training and the student’s pace. It can take several months to several years to complete flight training.

What Is The Average Salary For Pilots?

The salaries of pilots differ depending on factors such as the airline, experience, and aircraft they fly. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for airline and commercial pilots is approximately $130,000.

Is Having a 20/20 Vision Necessary To Become A Pilot?

No, pilots are not required to have 20/20 vision, but they should possess good visual acuity and color vision. Corrective lenses or refractive surgery can aid those who do not meet the minimum requirements.

Is A Degree Necessary To Become A Commercial Pilot?

No, a degree is not mandatory to become a commercial pilot. However, some airlines prefer or require their pilots to have a college degree, especially for management or administrative positions.

Is There A Height Restriction For Pilots?

No, there is no specific height limit for pilots. Nonetheless, pilots should be able to access all the controls in the cockpit and fulfill other physical criteria.

What Are The Average Working Hours Of Pilots?

Pilot working hours vary depending on the airline and type of flying. Generally, pilots work around 75–80 hours per month for domestic flights and up to 100 hours per month for international flights. Pilots also have rest periods and time off between flights.