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How to Learn to Fly – The Basics of Flight Training

Every airline pilot had to start somewhere. In learning to fly the first step is to schedule an introductory flight, which is usually a 30 minute flight and costs about $50.

If you are excited about your introductory flight and want to continue, the next step is to see an aviation medical examiner who is a doctor in your area approved by the aviation authorities (FAA) to issue a medical certificate to pilots. Class 1 is for airline pilots, class 2 is for commercial pilots (paid to fly), and class 3 is for recreational pilots. If your goal is to one day become a commercial pilot, it is good advice you to go for the class 1 or class 2 certificate to make sure you qualify.

The private pilot license, commonly called the PPL, is the first license to obtain as a pilot. You cannot fly for pay or hire using your private pilot license. You can fly all by yourself the same way a driver’s license lets you drive a car by yourself.

Training for a PPL in the US will cost you about $4000-5000 through a flight school but the cost would be spread over your course of flight training. As flight training is normally charged per hour of flight and you will pay as your training progresses.

There is one thing you should take into consideration; you need to have the time and money to learn to fly at least one-to-two lessons per week (a typical lesson is one-to-one and a half hours long).

You will have to pass a theoretical flight school exam, a 60 question multiple-choice test with three alternatives.

The average part-time flight school student will complete his/her private pilot license in 3-6 months. The flight exam (check ride) is conducted through an authorized examiner and consists of an oral quizzing (typically 1-2hours), and a flight test (typically 1 and a half hours).

Commercial pilot students need to obtain an instrument rating through which you will learn to fly solely by reference to the aircraft’s instruments. This is a rating added to the certificate you will already hold. Before starting the instrument rating course you have to complete at least 50 hours of cross-country flying (flying from one airport to another airport at least 50 nautical miles away). The course itself is a minimum of 40 flying hours in actual or simulated instrument conditions.

Part-time flight training students can normally complete the course in 4-6 months. A full-time student learning to fly can complete the course in 2-3 months and it will cost approximately $5000-6000 to complete in both cases. The 50 hours of cross-country flight training is not included in this flight training price estimate. The instrument rating too has a theoretical exam of 60 multiple-choice questions. The flight test (check ride) is conducted by an authorized examiner and consists of an oral quizzing (typically 1-2 hours) and a flight test (typically 1 and a half hours). Most airlines and other aviation companies conduct flight training / airline training tests and simulator checks together with interviews. The typical career path in the US is to go from student pilot to flight instructor to regional airline (or minor cargo) to major airline pilot (or major cargo operations like FedEx and UPS).

Commercial Pilot License and Multi Engine Rating. To get a commercial pilot license (CPL), you have to be at least 18 years of age. There is no upper age restriction other than the ability to pass a class 2 medical exam. You must have logged a minimum of 250 hours of flight time in your logbook. The CPL flight training course can be included in these 250 hours. You also have to complete at least 10 hours of training in a complex aircraft (an aircraft with retractable landing gear, flaps and variable pitch propeller). There is also a 100 question, multiple-choice, theoretical exam.

In the learning to fly process, a flight training examination (check ride) must be passed comprising of an oral quizzing (typically one-to-two hours) and a flight test. The flight training test is often broken into two flights; one flight in your regular training aircraft to demonstrate your general flying skills, and one in a complex aircraft. After getting your commercial pilot license many students add the multi engine rating to their certificate. The typical flight training aircraft is a small, two engine, aircraft. The multi engine flight training course student learning to fly takes approximately 10 hours. The flight examination (check ride) consists of an oral quizzing and a flight test by an authorized examiner.

Becoming a flight instructor. There is a large gap between the experience level obtained as a newly examined commercial pilot and the experience level required to be an airline pilot. Most aspiring professional pilots fill this gap by becoming a flight instructor. The idea here is you learn best by teaching others.

There is one more certificate you can obtain after your commercial license (CPL) – the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). This is required for any captain to pilot any aircraft with more than one pilot (all airlines and many commercial operations). Almost everyone can learn to fly and become a pilot. It is mostly a question of motivation, determination and discipline. But before you do anything – do like all great pilots do – do your research and proper planning. Your first step should be to visit your local flight school, aviation school, aviation college, etc., talk with pilots, shop around for the flight school or aviation college you think suits you. Hope this helps and Best of Luck to you on learning to fly!

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