Copyright © 2010-2014, Sportsman's Market, Inc.
Learning to fly will unlock a world of possibilities and give you unparalleled freedom to see the world. It is a truly unique experience.
Some people start flying to make a career out of it, eventually working as a corporate or airline pilot. For others, flying is a convenient and cost-effective method of personal or business travel. But most fly for pure enjoyment, taking local flights on nice days to see new and interesting places.
Whether you want to fly for a living or just for fun, general aviation offers a safe, rewarding and surprisingly affordable way to get around.
The length of time it takes to earn a pilot's certificate varies widely, and depends on how spread out your training schedule is. A major milestone in your training is your first solo. This is when you fly the plane without your instructor. Most students reach this point after 15-20 hours of flight instruction.
From there, you will train for the Sport, Recreational or Private Pilot Certificate. Federal Aviation Regulations require a minimum of 20 hours of training for the Sport and Recreational Pilot Certificate, and most students complete this certificate in about 40 hours of flying experience. For the Private, most students take 60-80 hours. Note that these figures represent only flight time, and do not include time spent on ground school or personal study.
The biggest factor in determining how long training will take is how often you fly. If you fly only once a week, you will spend half of each lesson "relearning" concepts that you have forgotten. This approach will take longer, so it's is best to try to fly at least twice a week. In that case, you could earn your certificate in only a few months.
There are a lot of quality flight instructors available to help you achieve your goal. A good place to begin is with an established, reputable flight school. Some of the services an established school may offer include:
Just as your flight instructor will have lesson plans to guide your training, you should have a plan for guiding your choice of a training provider.
While the list can of things a pilot can buy seems endless, we recommend the following as the basics to get going:Home Training Materials
Everything you need for home study is included in the Sporty’s Complete Pilot Training Course you receive as a participant in the EAA Young Eagles Next Step Program. Sporty’s Course provides exciting in-flight video with all the information required to become a licensed pilot. The course also provides FAA written test prep, an animated pilot maneuvers guide and is cross-referenced to the entire FAA Practical Test Standards.Preflight
No one wants to pay too much for a product or service, and it's certainly no different with learning to fly. Learning to fly involves some expense, but it's important to examine this expense as an investment that will provide a lifetime of return. The extent and depth of the training you will receive for your money makes learning to fly one of the all-time great bargains compared to many other recreational or business pursuits. For a few thousand dollars you will acquire the basic skills needed to safely enjoy an extraordinary and unique activity for years to come.
As with many things, in the long run value turns out to be more important than the bottom-line cost of your flight training. You should be concerned with what you are getting for your money, not just how much you'll spend. Value is measured by the quality of the training, and the relationship that develops between you and your instructor or flight school. The cheapest isn't usually the best.
When researching cost, be sure to ask about all the expenses associated with training: instructor time, including preflight and post-flight briefings, aircraft rental, ground school, the written test, the oral exam and check ride, and the necessary supplies.
Some schools, and most ab initio career-training academies, charge an all-inclusive price covering flight and ground training for all certificates and ratings in the program. Look carefully at these deals. A seemingly low package price may cover only the minimum instructional flight hours required in the regulations. Since most people take longer, you could end up spending considerably more. Also check on the school's financial stability and refund policy in the event you must withdraw for whatever reason and always be cautious of paying large sums of money up front.
If cost is a critical concern, make it a priority on your school shopping list, but don't lose sight of the importance of value.
When you start flying, you may be presented the choice of pursuing your Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot or Private Pilot certificate. Understanding the differences between them will help you to choose the right one for you.
The Sport Pilot certificate is a new development that allows you to earn your pilot's license in as little as 20 hours of training, and does not require a medical certificate. You are, however, limited to flying Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs), defined as a maximum of 1320 lbs. maximum weight and 120 knots maximum speed.
Another great option for new pilots is the Recreational Pilot Certificate. Federal Aviation Regulation Part 61 requires a minimum of 30 hours of flight training for the Recreational. This certificate will allow you to carry up to 1 passenger, during the day, and in aircraft with a maximum of 4 seats and a 180 horsepower engine (a new Cessna 172, for example). This is perfect for local flights with family or friends, and will get you into the air quickly. You can also transition to the Private Pilot certificate when you're ready-you'll just do some additional training on cross country and night flying.
The Private Pilot certificate has been around the longest, and is often what people mean when they say they "got their license." There are fewer restrictions on the type of airplane you can fly and the places you can fly to, and there are plenty of options for add-on privileges, like Instrument and Multi-Engine ratings. The minimum training time is 40 hours--20 with an instructor and 20 solo--but most students take 60-80 hours. These figures are for flight time only, and do not include time spent on ground school or personal study.
For all three of these certificates, there is a written exam and a flight test. Also remember that you can change your mind as you train. For example, Sport Pilot training time can go towards a Recreational or Private license.
When your child comes to you and says, "I want to learn to fly," some parents will be thrilled, knowing that their child is carrying on a family tradition, like his mother or father, grandfather or cousin. Many new pilots, especially young ones, come to flying because a family member or close friend is a pilot.
But for some parents, whose only experience with flying is on an airliner, with no one close to the family, being a pilot may seem like a far-fetched goal. After the initial reaction of "Say what?" you may have difficulty imagining the kid who can't get up on time for school actually at the controls of an airplane.
We understand your concerns. We're parents too. So whether what you're feeling is confusion, disbelief or even fear, we want to assure you that becoming a pilot is one of the wisest choices a teenager could make. Why?
Being a pilot teaches discipline. Being a pilot requires study. Being a pilot enhances a teen's knowledge of math and science. Being a pilot gives your teen a credential that will make them stand out from the crowd - his or her whole life through - whether in a college application or a job application.
Being a pilot opens a world to your teen of places he or she may never see otherwise. Being a pilot brings your teen in contact with other like-minded individuals - experienced pilots and teenagers alike who are living purposeful, successful lives. Last but not least, being a pilot is fun.
So what happens next? No doubt your child has taken a Young Eagles flight that has piqued this interest. In order to qualify to be a pilot, an individual must pass three tests: a written test, an oral test and a flight test (similar to a road test to get a driver's license.)
Sporty's has developed a course of online study to help your teen prepare for learning to fly. Normally, access to this course costs $99, but Sporty's believes in helping grow the ranks of pilots so the course is offered to Young Eagles participants at no charge.There are no strings, no hidden fees, no registration fees, no course materials to buy. To access this preparatory course, all your child needs to have done is to take a Young Eagles flight (also free).
We've decided to divide the course into two parts, so your teen will have been given a username and password to sign up. Upon completion of the first half, we'll give access to the second half. Then your teen takes an online test (this is not the written test, but a pre-test). If the student passes the test, we'll issue what's called an endorsement - sort of like an official permission slip to take the real test.
You can take the written test all over - hundreds of sites throughout the country. Your best bet is to search an online directory such as the one found at www.LearnToFlyHere.com and find one near you. Have your teenager ask the flight school if they are an official testing site. You should have no trouble finding a place to take the test.
So, as your teen is studying, what can you do?
If you are paying for all or some of the cost of flight training, remember that learning to fly is a pay-as-you-go proposition. You don't have to pay for all of it upfront. Bear in mind, too, that pilots take pride in having paid their own way.
Being a pilot is a lifelong accomplishment. Unlike a driver's license, a pilot's license never expires. Think of the pride you'll feel if you can look up at an airplane overhead and say, "My daughter (or my son) is flying that airplane."
About your Flight Experience Voucher:
1. Visit sportys.com/flight to locate and select a flight school. You will also find important information on this web site about what to look for in a flight school and what to expect from your first flight lesson.
2. Call or email the flight school to schedule your flight lesson. Mention you have a Flight Experience Voucher for your flight. They may ask for the contact information from the bottom of the voucher to verify how to process it.
3. On the back of the voucher is a message to the flight school. Only the school should validate the voucher.
4. If the flight school does not participate in this program, you may be charged additional fees. Verify the flight school you choose accepts your voucher.
5. Remember…HAVE FUN!
How do I find a flight school?
From sportys.com/flight, click on the Flight School Database link. Flight schools are sorted by state and listed according to zip code. You can also use Google to search for flight schools in your area.
Who do I contact if I have lost my voucher certificate?
Contact Sporty's at firstname.lastname@example.org
The school I contacted said they are not familiar with the program.
Please ask the flight school to visit sportys.com/redeem for a complete description of the program and information on how they can participate.
What can I expect from my flight?
Click Here to view a video of a typical Introductory Flight.
Can I give my voucher certificate to someone else?
Yes, the voucher is transferrable.
What should I do after my flight?
You are encouraged to sign up for more flight lessons.