Learning to fly is such a common human desire that songs have been written about it. This hunger to soar through the clouds pushed the Wright brothers to invent the airplane, so that finally humans can fly just like the birds. Before you pilot your own plane however, you need to be trained, certified and licensed.
There are many different types of pilots, just like there are many different types of planes. Since this is an overview, the information will focus on a small engine plane license, often called a recreational pilot’s license, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has similar requirements whatever type of license you are interested in, and if one of the more complicated licenses is your goal, getting a recreational license can be a good first step toward that goal.
Medical Certificate The first step is to schedule an appointment with a FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner. The FAA keeps a data base on its website where you can search by county, city, or zip code. When you find one convenient to you, call and ask for an FAA medical certificate appointment. The cost for this appointment should be around $115. If you are asked what class of certificate you need, get a third-class. That is the class intended for students.
Pilot School Next, you need someone knowledgeable to teach you. The FAA keeps a data base of pilot schools organized by city and state. If the first search doesn’t bring up a school, try a nearby city or just find the ones in your state and pick the closest. Nothing in your town just means you don’t live near an airport. Pilot schools must to be near an airport to do student flights. Costs vary from school to school, and how long the course will take depends on your schedule. While the FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours of flying to earn a private pilot’s certificate, the average flight time for students in the U.S. is 65 hours prior to licensing. These hours of instruction can be scheduled anytime that works in your schedule. If you are in a hurry, tend to learn things quickly and have an open schedule, an immersion course can qualify you for a license in a short six weeks. Instructors charge by the hour and average $40 per hour. Make sure you like the instructor and her/his teaching style is something you’re comfortable with, and look at how many hours of teaching they have. Anything over 3,000 hours means they enjoy teaching and are good at it.
With the right teacher, and a bit of work on your part, sooner than you thought possible you’ll be up there in the wild blue yonder, soaring with the birds as a licensed pilot.