PATH TO FOLLOW
LAND YOUR MEDICAL CERTIFICATE
Before you invest time and money in pursuit of your private, student or recreational pilot certificate, you must pass a basic medical exam. Since you must have your medical certificate before you can solo, it is smart to do this first, so you can discover early whether or not you have health issues that could impact your ability to fly. Students pursuing a sport pilot, balloon, or glider certificate do not need to take the medical exam.
HIT THE BOOKS (OR COMPUTER)
This is where you learn flight and aircraft operation procedures, as well as aeronautical knowledge. It can be done simultaneously during your flight school training. You’ll study subjects such as flight planning, aerodynamics, aircraft systems, weather avoidance, FAA regulations, principles of navigation, aeromedical factors, stall/spin awareness, and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) incident/accident reporting requirements.
You can complete ground school as part of your flight school training or if you are a self-starter, on your own through self-paced, home-study using online programs. Many flight schools now offer hybrid programs that combine self-study with classroom training.
FLY WITH AN INSTRUCTOR
Flight school and ground school often occur concurrently, which enables you to apply your ground school knowledge in the aircraft. This is the flying part of flight school, where you’ll perform takeoffs, landings and performance maneuvers. You will handle radio communications and put your knowledge of airport operations, ground reference and emergency procedures into practice.
Eventually, you will be “set free” and allowed to fly solo without your instructor, practicing takeoffs and landings as well as all your other skills on your own. Eventually, you will be “set free” and allowed to fly solo without your instructor, practicing takeoffs and landings as well as all your other skills on your own. Although every student learns at their own pace, it generally takes about 15-20 hours or so in the aircraft before most students are ready to safely solo.
TAKE YOUR WRITTEN EXAM
Once you’ve completed ground school training, you will take the “written” FAA test, which is actually a computer-based multiple choice exam which assesses your knowledge of the theories covered in ground school.
You will be required to pass this test with a grade of 70 percent or better. You can study at home with the help of books, videos or computer training programs. Many flight schools offer ground school classes to help you learn the principles covered in the test. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your instructor and fellow pilots.
CROSS COUNTRY TRAINING
When your instructor deems you’re ready, you will take cross country trips, including a solo cross country flight, that will test your ability to apply your aviation skills over longer distances with takeoffs and landings at unfamiliar airports. You will put your knowledge of flight planning, weather, navigation and communications to the test.
DO YOUR CHECK RIDE
The checkride is an oral and practical test of your aviation skills that brings together elements from every aspect of your training. Before you can schedule your check ride, you must have a series of endorsements, including:
Solo flights, both on your student pilot certificate (one-time) and in your logbook (every 90 days)
Written knowledge test
Practical test readiness
A designated pilot examiner will ask you questions to evaluate your aviation knowledge and measure your flying skills against FAA requirements and performance parameters known as the Airman Certification Standards (ACS).