It is not as hard as it seems to join the elite group of individuals who hold a license to fly – become a private pilot. There are several airmen certifications of which the PPL (private pilot license) is the most sought after.
Here are some reasons why you might want to get a flying license:
For a hobby or sport
Convenience of aircraft travel for holidays and family visits
As a mode of transportation for business
As a first step toward becoming a commercial pilot.
The FAA (Federal Aviation Authority – www.faa.gov) has created a training program for individuals seeking a private pilot license giving them the training required to navigate a small aircraft around the nation’s airspace individually.
These are some of the topics covered during the training:
Cross-country flight training
It is worth noting that private pilot training is more intense than sport or recreation pilot training, but not as intense as commercial pilot training.
Let’s list the steps required:
The first and foremost step is the see if you qualify. To see if you meet the eligibility requirements check the FAR 61.103 for detailed information.
An aspiring private pilot applicant needs to be at least 17 years old, be able to read, speak, and understand English. She needs to complete the flight training requirements successfully, and pass the knowledge exam. Finally, each applicant needs to pass an oral exam and a flight test, called “check ride.”
2. Medical Certification
The next step is to obtain a medical certificate. Some people suggest getting a student license first. However, before spending time and money, it is better to see if your health qualifies you for flying. Technically, the medical certificate is not required until you are ready for your first solo flight.
To exercise the private pilot flying privilege, an individual needs to possess a current 3rd Class FAA — issued medical certificate. (Note that if you have held a FAA medical certificate with the past 10 years before July 15, 2016, then you may qualify for the new BasicMed. You can get more information from www.aopa.org)
As mentioned earlier, the student license certificate is needed next. There are three ways to obtain it. (If you already have a student, recreational, or “sport” certificate, then you can skip this step) First option: When you successfully get the aviation medical certificate, it will double as a medical certificate and a student license certificate. That is the document your medical examiner gives you.
The second option is to go to an FSDO (FAA Flight Standards District Office) and apply for the student pilot certificate.
The third option, which is not common, is to submit an application for the student pilot license to a FAA examiner.
3. Finding an Instructor
Once you have your medical and student pilot license, the next logical thing to do is find an instructor. If you don’t already have a flight school or a flight instructor lined up, check at your local airport. There is a good chance that the airport has an FBO (Fixed Base Operator). You can check with them. If there is no FBO, ask around, do some research on the internet, and you will find an eager instructor in the neighborhood willing to help you get in the air!
4. Passing the Written Exam
The FAA written exam is something that many aspiring pilots put off until the last minute. It is best to clear it as soon as possible. Some schools require their students to pass the exam before they can sit on the plane. There are others which let you fly as much as you like while you self-study for the exam. The exam is required for your check ride, and it is better to tackle it as early as possible. The more knowledge you have, the better pilot you will become.
5. Building Flight Hours
Now you are ready to fly! You will start gaining flight hours. You will learn basic maneuvers, like takeoff, landing, turns, climbs, and descents. The minimum required time to solo for a student pilot are 10 hours. However, it is a rare pilot who will solo at this time frame, so don’t get dejected if you have built up a lot more hours before your first solo. Takeoffs and landings have their challenges, but you will also have to master emergency procedures and communicating on the radios, etc.
Once you have completed your first solo, you will work on cross-country solo flights. You will learn more advanced maneuvers and other navigation techniques. Once you start getting proficient, your training and piloting skills will be tuned for the check ride — the final exam!
6. Preparing for the Check Ride
To be eligible for the private pilot check ride you will require at least 40 hours of flight time (as mentioned earlier, very few, if any pilots get their private pilot license with only 40 hours), of which 20 is from an instructor and 10 hours are solo. You will need 3 hours of cross-country flight training with your instructor. That includes 3 hours of night flying, one cross-country over 100 nautical miles, 10 takeoffs and landings, and 3 hours of instrument training. You are also required to have 10 hours of solo flying, with 5 hours of a cross-country solo and one cross-country solo that is over 150 nautical miles with landings at three different airports.
Once you have completed all the requirements, your instructor will prepare you for the check ride. A designated FAA examiner will conduct the check ride in two parts. The first will be an oral exam and followed by the flight exam. The total exam time is anywhere between a couple of hours to six hours, depending on the examiner’s style and your knowledge. The exam begins with the ground portion lasting from 30 minutes to a few hours. Once you have cleared the ground portion, you will fly with the examiner for the flight test, typically lasting for an hour or two.
7. Getting your License
When you have successfully completed both the verbal and the flight test, the FAA examiner will assist you in filling out the required paperwork online. The examiner will charge a fee for the test. (The fee varies — check with the examiner beforehand). You will get a temporary private pilot certificate to use until you receive your official FAA license in the mail.