Learn To Fly
You probably have a driver’s license issued by
your state government, which permits driving privileges. Similarly, the Federal
Government governs pilot privileges and requires specific experience, written
tests and flight tests to earn a pilot’s license (called a certificate). The
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is an agency under the U.S. Department of
transportation. Flying an airplane is somewhat more complex than driving a car
because you are controlling altitude (up and down) in addition to left and
right. It is also more exhilarating because you have the freedom of three
dimensional movement, greater speed and unbelievable panoramas. Flight training
is a pursuable goal that will provide life long satisfaction and pride.
What is a private pilot certificate?
A private pilot certificate is much like an
ordinary driver’s license. A private pilot certificate allows you to fly an
airplane and carry passengers and baggage, although not for compensation or
hire. However, operating expenses may be shared with other travelers in the
airplane. The certificate, which is a piece of paper similar to a driver’s
license, is sent to you by the FAA upon satisfactory completion of your training
program, a written exam and a flight test.
Requirements to obtain a private pilot
1. Obtain an FAA Medical Certificate
a. You must undergo a routine medical examination which may only be administered
by FAA designated doctors called FAA Medical Examiners.
b. To obtain this medical certificate, the applicant must be at least 16 years
of age and be able to read, speak and understand the English language. To obtain
your Private Pilot Certificate you must be at least 17 years of age.
c. The medical certificate necessary for a Private Pilot Certificate is called a
“Third Class Medical”. It is valid for 60 calendar months if obtained prior to
your fortieth birthday or 24 calendar months if obtained after your fortieth
2. The medical certificate will function as your student pilot certificate.
a. Note that your flight instructor prior to solo flight must endorse the back
of the student pilot certificate.
b. The only substantial difference between a regular medical certificate and a
medical/student pilot certificate is that the latter provides for flight
3. Pass a written exam consisting of multiple choice questions with a score of
70% or better. The test is administered at FAA approved testing facilities. All
tests are computerized allowing for instant results. The test consists of 100
multiple-choice questions selected from the airplane-related questions in the
FAA Private Pilot Question Book. The questions test on the following topics.
a. Introduction to Airplanes and Aerodynamics.
b. Airplane performance.
c. Airplane Instruments, Engines and Systems
d. Airports and Air Traffic Control
e. Weight and Balance
g. Federal Aviation Regulations
i. Navigation Charts
j. Other Navigation Publications
k. Flight Computers
l. Flight Physiology
m. Cross-Country Flight
4. Obtain a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, including:
a. 20 hours of flight instruction from an
authorized flight instructor, including at least:
1. Three hours of cross-country flight training (flying to other airports
50 nautical miles away)
2. Three hours of night flight including 10 takeoffs and landings and one
cross-country flight of over 100nm total distance for applicants seeking night
3. Three hours of flight training on the control and maneuvering of an
airplane solely by reference to instruments.
4. Three hours of flight instruction specifically in preparation for the
Private Pilot flight-test within 60 days prior to that test.
b. 20 hours of solo flight time including at least:
1. 10 hours of flight in airplanes
2. Five hours of solo cross-country flights to an airport more than 50
nautical miles away from departure point. One cross-country flight of at least
150 nautical miles total distance with full stop landings at three points with
one segment consisting of a 50nm leg.
3. Three solo takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport with
an operating control tower.
5. Successfully complete a flight test, which will be given as a “final exam” by
Inspector or designated examiner.
a. FAA inspectors are FAA employees and do not charge for their services.
b. FAA designated examiners are proficient, experienced flight instructors and
pilots authorized by the FAA to conduct flight tests. They do charge a fee.
c. The FAA issues “Practical Test Standards” for all flight tests. The Private
Pilot flight test has 46 tasks and maneuvers that are required to be covered on
each flight test.
Costs to obtain your private pilot
The price of instruction varies across the country. Fuel, maintenance, insurance
and airplane cost play a major role in determining airplane rental rates. Just
as with any sizable purchase you should “shop around” to make sure you are
buying what you want at a fair price. Generally the total cost, including taxes,
books and minimal flight time will run around $7,500.00. Keep in mind that this
figure is purely based on 40 hours of flight time and only 20 hours of
instruction time. The average student will require at least 60 hours based on
the national average.
Some flight schools use FAA approved and regulated programs which use a
structured syllabus. The advantage to the operator is a mass production
potential. Usually both the ground and flight training are based on the building
block method. That is, each new concept or maneuver builds and relies on the
previous concept or maneuver. Student pilots do not progress to the next lesson
until the previous one has been successfully mastered. The advantage to the
student pilot is that only 35 hours of flight are required for completion of the
program. The general consensus, however, is that few persons complete the
program is less than 40 hours.
Time required to obtain your private pilot certificate
While only 40 hours of flight time is required, the total process usually takes
several months and hours due to commuting, ground instruction, aircraft
preflight, cancelled lessons due to bad weather, aircraft maintenance, etc…
A typical chronological order of the 40 hours of flight training follows. The
right hand column does not add to 40 hours because more than minimum is usually
required for at least a few of the stages of the program.
10 to 15 hours pre-solo instruction
4 to 5 hours solo practice
3 to 4 hours pre cross-country dual instruction
10 to 12 hours solo cross-country
3 to 5 hours dual preparation for the flight-test
2 to 5 hours solo preparation for the flight test
2 to 3 hours flight test
Private Pilot Certificates can be obtained in as little time as a couple of
months with full time effort. A more realistic relaxed and efficient time is six
to nine months.
In addition to flight instruction, you must also prepare to take the FAA written
exam, which consists of 60 multiple choice questions (the time limit is 4
hours). Most flight schools (especially in conjunction with flight instruction)
offer ground schools, which teach the material. A typical instruction course
would be one three week, for six to eight weeks. Also, several audiovisual
instruction programs are available through the flight school. These are
primarily Jeppesen, King or Cessna, tailored to both Cessna and Piper aircraft.
Oxford Flight Training offers both the ground instruction as providing a large
assortment of videotapes for your convenience.
How to begin your aviation training
1. Talk to the flight school operators, owners
and flight instructors about flying lessons. Tell them that you are interested
in taking lessons and want to choose a flight instructor that you feel
comfortable with. Plan on speaking with several instructors. Some questions to
ask a prospective instructor include:
a. How long have they been instructing? There is no preferable level of
experience. Experienced instructors may be the most competent of merely
complacent. New instructors may be the most enthusiastic, thorough, diligent,
b. Do they instruct full or part time?
c. How long does their average student take to solo? Note that the flight
instructor who solos his/her students in the least amount of time may not be the
best instructor. The objective of these questions is to gain insight into the
flight instructor’s personality.
d. How many total hours of solo and dual flight time do their typical students
e. What percent of their students require more than 40 total hours? How much
more? (Keep in mind that the average student requires at least 65 hours.)
f. What is the rental cost for training aircraft, solo and dual?
g. Where will they recommend you take your flight test and what is the estimated
h. Where will they recommend that you take your medical examination?
i. Does the instructors schedule and the aircraft schedule fit your schedule?
j. Do they offer introductory lessons?
2. Once you have made a preliminary choice of the school and instructor, you
need to sit down with your flight instructor and map out a schedule.
a. When and how often will you fly?
b. When will you take the FAA written test?
c. When should you plan to have your Private Pilot Certificate?
d. When and how are payments made?
3. Schedule and take your physical to receive your medical certificate.
4. Pass the written and flight test.
The instructors at Oxford Flight Training along with the office staff will always have
the time and knowledge to spend with their students and customers. If any
questions should ever arise, please feel free to discuss them with us. We are
here to have you enjoy flying – safely!