Taking Flight: A Beginner’s Guide to Launching Your Career as a Private Pilot

Do you dream of becoming a pilot? Can you imagine yourself soaring up in the clouds? Have you wondered what it would be like to take people all over the world, helping them live out their dreams? If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider getting a private pilot certificate.

Most active pilots have this certificate. It allows them to fly any aircraft, as long as they aren’t doing so for commercial purposes. This certificate lets them carry multiple people and fly after dark. In addition, a person with this certificate can travel in more types of airspace and they won’t be restricted in terms of how far they can go. It all begins with private pilot flight lessons.

Why Get a Private Pilot License?

Some men and women want to get a private pilot license to travel the world. Other people wish to pick up a new hobby and think piloting a plane is something they would enjoy. This certificate is also an excellent way to launch an aviation career.


Before signing up for private lessons, confirm you meet the basic requirements. Students must be 14 years or older to operate a glider and 16 to get a private pilot license certificate for gliders. Sixteen is the minimum age to solo as a student pilot, but you cannot get the private pilot certificate until you are 17. All candidates for a pilot license certificate must be able to read, write, and speak English proficiently. You must also pass a physical exam and get an FAA medical certificate.

The FAA Medical Certificate

Any person wishing to fly an aircraft must have a Third-Class FAA-Approved Medical Certificate. To get this certificate, you must undergo a routine physical check-up with extra attention paid to your vision and hearing. During this check-up, the doctor also focuses on your mental and neurological health. This certificate remains valid for five years if you are under 40. Once you hit 40, you must have the certificate renewed every other year.

Before scheduling this appointment, make sure you know what will be checked. If your medical certificate is denied, you might find it hard to pursue a pilot license. Appealing this denial is often costly and complicated, so speak with those in the industry to know what to expect and how certain health conditions or medications could affect your application for the medical certificate.

Schooling Options

Some students find they do best when taking part in a formal flight school. However, you may want more one-on-one instruction through an independent flight instructor. Talk with local aviation organizations to see what is available in your area. They can direct you to resources that might otherwise be overlooked. Regardless of which option you choose, work with an instructor you feel comfortable with and have complete confidence in. In addition, you must have an FAA student pilot certificate before the individual instructor or school can take you on as a student.

Practice Makes Perfect

Flying an airplane takes practice. You won’t fly solo for quite some time, as there is studying you must do. Much of the learning will be done in the air as you watch your instructor operate the aircraft. However, a significant amount of the coursework is done while your feet are planted firmly on the ground. If you get your training through a school, there may be classes you take. When working with a private instructor, you will need to study on your own. Certain online courses are offered that may be of help to you.

Many topics will be found on the written exam. You must understand the theoretical concepts of aviation and flying. In addition, you will need to know the federal aviation regulations and radio communication protocols. There will also be questions on aerodynamics and other aviation concepts. When you feel you have mastered the material, it’s time to schedule your written exam. Before you can do so, you must have an endorsement from a private instructor or course provider.

Flight Training

You will also need to take part in flight training. During this training, you learn how to prepare for a flight, what must be done while you are in the air, and how to land the aircraft, among other things. The training will cover navigation, emergency protocols, cross-country flying, and other topics. Expect to spend time on flight preparations, take-off and landing procedures, emergency procedures, and more.

Most schools require eight to ten hours of instruction before you can go solo. You are still considered a student pilot and the solo flights are designed to test what you have learned. Most schools require you to complete three takeoffs and landings as the instructor monitors you from the ground. You will also take part in additional training before moving on to the next step of the licensing process.

This additional training will give you more time at the controls. A student must have at least 35 hours of flying time before moving forward with the certification process if working with a formal flight school. Those who work with a private instructor must have at least 40 hours. However, most students need 60 to 80 hours of flying time before taking the practical exam.

The Practical Exam

Once you successfully complete the written exam and flight training, the practical exam comes next. This exam begins before you step foot on the plane. An FAA-approved examiner will give you an oral exam covering various topics including aviation rules and regulations and aircraft systems. This exam takes 1.5 hours to complete and will also cover engine components, charts, and maps. When you pass that portion, you move on to the hands-on section.

The examiner will have you cover different maneuvers. They will also ask you to demonstrate how to respond to different emergencies. These two tests are known as a checkride.

Upon successful completion of both portions of the checkride, you earn your private pilot license. Now you have the freedom to go wherever you choose. You’ll find the decision to purchase this certificate is one of the most rewarding things you will do during your lifetime.

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