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How to Become an Aircraft Pilot

written by: pauldb28•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 5/23/2011

Want to learn how to become an aircraft pilot? This article is for you. Learn about what a private pilots licenses is and what the path is to obtaining it.

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    Become a Pilot

    Would you like to learn to fly airplanes? This article is intended to discuss the finer points of obtaining a Federal Aviation Administration Certified Private Pilot Single Engine Land Certificate. To obtain this certificate, there is a lot of hard work, time, dedication and passion involved. The ideal candidate is someone with a lot of energy around becoming a pilot, is passionate, healthy and a good decision maker. The author can not stress the importance of passion enough. To become a pilot you really have to have the love of aviation in your blood. There may be many obstacles that get in your way, but if you truly love aviation you can get through it.

    There are other certificates you can obtain from the FAA other than the Certified Private Pilot Single Engine Land Certificate. These include the recreation pilot and sport pilot certificate. These two ratings limit the amount of passengers, weight limits and distances the aircrafts can fly. The Private Pilots license is almost non-restrictive.

    A Federal Aviation Administration Certified Private Pilot Single Engine Land Certificate is your ticket to flight. This certificate or license as some refer to it allows a pilot to fly any single engine aircraft that will take off and land on the ground. The license also allows for more “freedom of flight” , than a lower rating such as the Student Pilot’s License, Recreational Pilots License or the new Sport Pilot License.

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    The basic requirements to obtaining a Private Pilots License are stated in the Federal Aviation Regulations 61.103 and are as follows:

    • Must be at least 17 years of age
    • Read, write, speak and understand English
    • Pass an FAA Medical Exam
    • Pass an FAA Written Knowledge Test with at lest a 70
    • 40 Hours of Flight Training (The Average is closer to 60-80)
    • Pass an FAA Check Ride / Oral Exam
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    The normal path to becoming a pilot is to…

    Get an FAA Medical Exam

    This is basically nothing more than a physical that requires certain health requirements to obtain. It will also serve as your Student Pilot’s License during training.


    Make sure you have the funding to follow through the training. Average costs can range between $5,000 to $10,000 and up depending on the flight school, aircraft being flown, and gas prices.

    Pick a School

    Find a good flight school for your training. There are two categories of schools you can go to, part 61 and part 141. Part 61 schools refer to schools you will find at your local airport and have easier schedules for training and requires a more flight training hours to receive your license. A part 141 school is an actual school accredited by the FAA to train and follows FAA approved training aids and have to meet performance standards.

    Pick the Plane

    Pick the plane you would like to fly - there are many types but most pilots end up training in Cessna’s.

    Start Training

    Start your training, read your books, and learn everything you can while studying for your first test.

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    Written Test

    Once you're ready and have a few flights under your belt and have studied, its time to take the FAA Written Aeronautical Knowledge Test. You must make a 70 or higher to pass.


    Your solo flight is your right of passage into the world of being a pilot. When you’re ready, around 12-20 hours of training, your instructor will sign you off to complete your first solo. This is your first real test to know if you’re ready to move forward with your training. During the solo you will be given the aircraft, climb in, and fly it alone. To complete this test all you have to do is make three full stop landings and you completed the test. It’s a great confidence builder.

    Cross Country Flight

    The next step is to do your cross country flight. Using all the information you have learned and experience you have gained you will test your skills being a pilot. This consists of piloting the aircraft alone to three different points far away from home and also your instructor.

    At this point you should have the minimum required 40 hours and be ready to be checked off by your instructor to be recommended to take the Practical / Oral exam. During this exam you will be drilled orally on everything you learned. You will then need to prove your skills with in certain prescribed limited by the FAA. If all goes well you will be a FAA Certified Private Pilot when it’s over!