Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Learn To Fly: Fun Things You Can Do With Your Certificate

Flying an airplane is an unmatched experience, and you can do some amazing things once you earn your certificate

learn to flyAh, if only you knew how to fly! You could escape the shackles of your humdrum life and soar above its stresses. You could wake up in Nebraska, eat a cheeseburger for lunch in Colorado and settle in for the night on a crystal lake in Idaho. You could fly biplanes or jets or spiffy little yellow Cubs with smiling bears painted on their tails. But how much will it cost, how long will it take and how safe is it? What can you do with a pilot’s license?
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As a private pilot, you’ll be able to introduce your family and friends to flying. One of the greatest rewards in aviation is seeing the sparkle in a person’s eyes (especially a child) when they discover flying for the first time while you’re in the pilot’s seat. As you gain flying hours, you’ll discover more opportunities for sharing aviation through such programs as Young Eagles (exposing youth to flying), Angel Flight (flying medical patients and their families) and the Civil Air Patrol (search-and-rescue missions). There are hundreds of ways to use flying to benefit others.

The things you can do with a pilot certificate are limited only by your imagination. Whether you’re seeking a personal pursuit or are working toward an aviation career, the first step is to make the decision to fly. See our sidebars for information on finding flight schools and instructors. Call and ask about taking an introductory flight. We guarantee you’ll never look back.

Flight-Training Basics: What You Need To Know
Taking the first step toward getting your private pilot certificate can be daunting. We try to answer the most common questions people ask about beginning their flight training.
What’s Involved?
You’ll start by finding a flight school. This can be at any airport that’s convenient for you. You’ll then receive flight training in sessions of about one hour in the air and 30 to 60 minutes on the ground. You’ll also have to study to pass an intensive FAA written exam. When the instructor feels you’re ready, you’ll solo (fly the airplane alone). You’ll then continue to train until you’re ready for the checkride. Then, an FAA-designated pilot examiner will conduct an oral interview and a flight test. If you pass the oral portion, the flight test and the written exam, then you’ll earn your private pilot certificate!

What Are The Requirements?
1) Be at least 17 years of age to earn your private certificate in an airplane.
2) Read, speak and understand the English language.
3) Pass a basic medical examination administered by an FAA-designated aviation doctor.

There are many misconceptions about what’s required to pass the medical exam. Wearing glasses, for example, is fine. Disabilities won’t necessarily disqualify you. There are thousands of pilots who fly with monocular vision (vision in only one eye), prosthetic limbs and other limitations. You can find and talk to a qualified FAA medical examiner through the online directory at

How Much Will It Cost?
Learning to fly isn’t like taking a photography class at the local college; flying requires a variety of physical skills and aeronautical knowledge. You’ll be paying an hourly rate for both the airplane and the instructor. Add in the cost of training materials and miscellaneous gear you’ll need.

Plan on spending between $8,000 and $10,000 to get your private certificate. Variations in price will depend on several factors:

1) The airplane you train in. An older, two-seat Cessna 152 will be less expensive than a newer, fuel-injected, four-seat Cessna 172. Navigation equipment also determines price.
2) Geographical location. Flight training in busy metropolitan areas is a bit more expensive than in rural areas. You can also decide whether to train from an airport with or without a control tower.
3) How quickly you learn. Everybody learns in a different way and at a different pace. Age is a factor because we learn more slowly as we age. Flying is based on physical coordination, and individual abilities will determine how long it takes to develop these abilities.
4) How often you train. If you fly four times per week, you’ll earn your certificate faster than if you fly once per week. Train as often as you can.

How Long Will It Take?

FAA regulations require a minimum of 40 hours of flight time to earn your private pilot certificate. This is broken into 20 hours of dual (with your instructor) and 10 hours of solo. Those regulations were created when our airspace was less complex. Today, the national average time to earn your private certificate runs around 55+ hours. If you train four times per week, you can do it in about three months

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