(but just in case you don’t see your question answered here, give us a call or come see us in person to get the information you need!)
How do I become a pilot?
The very first step to becoming a pilot is experiencing flying for yourself! Try taking a Discovery Flight with us to get a feel for what flying in a small aircraft is like.
To earn your Private Pilot Certificate, you will be required to pass three different tests:
A 60-question written exam that can be taken at any time during your training
The practical test, often called a checkride, consists of two portions that are meant to be done in the same day:
The ground portion - an oral exam on the ground covering topics such as Federal Aviation Regulations, weather, airspace, human factors, aerodynamics, and more
The flight portion - a test in the aircraft itself, covering cross-country navigation, flight maneuvers, emergency procedures, and takeoffs and landings
For the written and oral exams, we recommend purchasing a home-study curriculum such as those from King Schools, Sporty’s, Gleim, and others. These courses will allow you to satisfy the minimum of 35 hours of ground instruction on topics required by the FAA, and such courses often include sample questions and practice exams for the written test. Additional preparation for the oral exam can be done through ground training with an instructor.
For the flight portion of the practical test, you will fly with an instructor to build proficiency in the aircraft and practice each required maneuver. Once your instructor is satisfied that you meet the flight time, ground training time, and level of proficiency required for the checkride, they will endorse your logbook to allow you to take the practical test.
After passing all three tests, the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) conducting your checkride will present you with a temporary certificate allowing you to begin exercising your privileges as a private pilot (you should receive your permanent certificate in the mail after a few weeks).
How long does it take to become a pilot?
The minimum amount of flight time required to be eligible for a private pilot certificate is 40 hours. That said, the national average for completing the certificate and passing the checkride is around 70 hours.
Some students take only a few months to finish the private pilot course, while others may take years to do so. The best way to complete your training in a shorter amount of time is by coming to the airport more often. Students that train for 2-3 sessions each week will almost always finish the course far sooner than those that can only come in once a week.
How much will it cost?
Click here for our current aircraft and instructor rates, and click here for a list of our course cost estimates. These estimates are based on the absolute minimum time required to complete each course, so keep in mind that it will likely take longer and be more expensive than the listed estimates.
The best way to reduce your overall cost of training is by coming fully prepared to each lesson. This is where the home study courses become invaluable: by reading ahead and being familiar with the information you’ll need for your next activity, you won’t spend time having your instructor explain things that you could have learned on your own.
What airplanes can I fly as a Private Pilot?
The types of aircraft you may fly as a private pilot depend on the training you receive. Most students earn their Private Pilot - Airplane Single Engine Land (PPL - ASEL) certificate first, meaning that you are able to act as the Pilot in Command (PIC) of nearly any single-engine, land-based piston aircraft with some exceptions.
Of the aircraft in our fleet, a PPL ASEL holder will be able to fly the Cessna 152 and the Cessna 172 with a checkout for each aircraft as appropriate.
Some types of aircraft require additional training and an endorsement from an authorized instructor:
Complex (aircraft with retractable landing gear, flaps, and a constant-speed propeller, such as our Cessna 182RG)
High Performance (aircraft with piston engines producing greater than 200 horsepower, such as our two Cessna 182s)
Tailwheel (aircraft with conventional landing gear, such as our Piper Cub and Super Cub)
To begin flying different categories of aircraft such as multi-engine aircraft or seaplanes, you will be required to undergo additional training and another practical test. Larger aircraft that weigh more than 12,500 pounds or that have turbojet engines require a type rating, which usually consists of an in-depth, aircraft-specific training course and a checkride.
Where can I go as a Private Pilot?
Many new pilots are surprised to learn just how many airports there are in the United States. As a private pilot, you gain access to over 5,000 public use airports!
The kinds of airports you can fly into range from small, private strips to large airports that handle high levels of airline traffic, and nearly everything in between. While non-pilots are stuck flying into only airports with airline service, you will be able to fly into those smaller airports located right next to your destination.
Flying yourself to your destination will likely be faster than driving there, and it will definitely be more fun and convenient than paying for an airline ticket.
What materials will I need to buy?
We recommend students purchase the following items for their Private Pilot training:
View-limiting device, such as foggles or a hood
Flashlight with white and red light
Flight computer - manual or electronic (the phone and tablet apps are not allowed to be used for the written exam)
Current FAR/AIM - either the physical book or an electronic copy/app is fine, but you’ll want to make sure you can add bookmarks and highlight information
Current sectional charts (the Memphis and Kansas City charts are the two used most frequently for this area)
Many of the training handbooks and publications are available in electronic format for free on FAA.gov, but you still have the option of purchasing a physical copy. We recommend that students have access to the following:
Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
Airplane Flying Handbook/Helicopter Flying Handbook
What kind of headset should I buy?
There are many, many kinds of headset out there, but which headset to purchase is very much a personal choice that will depend on an individual’s needs.
The best headset for you is one that is comfortable and allows you to communicate successfully with Air Traffic Control and the occupants of the aircraft.
The best overall combination of function and price is a headset with passive noise reduction (without any electronic noise cancellation). Headsets with passive noise reduction are available from companies such as David Clark, Faro, and Sigtronics. In-ear headsets available from companies such as Clarity Aloft and Quiet Technologies may provide enhanced comfort over larger, around-ear headsets.
For those wanting a higher level of comfort and more features out of their headset, electronic Active Noise Reduction (ANR) is the way to go. Headsets from Bose and Lightspeed offer ANR and other options such as Bluetooth phone and music input. Keep in mind that ANR headsets may not be suitable for some open-cockpit airplanes due to the excessive amount of wind noise and airflow interfering with the headset’s ANR microphones.
We offer both the David Clark H10-13S and Lightspeed Zulu 3 headsets in our store, and students can try out each headset before making a purchase.
Do I need a tablet such as an iPad for flight training?
While it is absolutely not required to purchase a tablet for flight training, many students find a tablet with an electronic flight bag (EFB) application to be an invaluable tool. EFBs offer many desirable features on a single device, including:
Charts that are updated regularly and automatically, without the need to order new ones every month
Organization and storage of FAA handbooks and publications, training materials, and aircraft documents
Airport and facility information including runways, frequencies, procedures, and FBO information
Weather products and weather briefings
Filing, opening, and closing flight plans electronically rather than on the radio or over the phone
As a student pilot you will still be learning how to plan flights using the classic paper charts, a plotter, and a flight computer, but you will be allowed to use a tablet for your checkride. Regardless of whether you purchase a tablet as a student pilot, we highly recommend getting one once you begin flying as a private pilot.
I want to fly as a career. Where do I start?
Flying for a living can be a dream come true for many pilots, but the first thing to know about flying professionally is that you will need to make a huge investment of time and money to reach your goals. It is a long and challenging process to train for and earn the qualifications you will need to be hired, but it will be well worth it in the end!
The second thing to know about flying professionally is that being an airline pilot is not your only option! There are many, many opportunities available for being paid to fly both airplanes and helicopters. Try researching each to see what might appeal to you:
Search and Rescue
Power Line Patrol
Aircraft Demo/Sales Pilot
and many more!
The normal progression of certificates and ratings for those wishing to fly professionally is as follows:
Private Pilot Certificate
Commercial Pilot Certificate - Airplane Single and/or Multiengine Land
From here there are many paths available. There may be opportunities for pilots with fewer than 500 hours in fields such as air tours, banner towing, pipeline patrol, and skydiving, and many pilots choose to become flight instructors to build time.
Those wishing to become airline pilots will need to continue building flight experience, currently a minimum of 1500 hours for the Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Airline pilot applicants are almost always required to hold a Commercial Certificate for both single-engine and multiengine airplanes.
Becoming a flight instructor is an excellent way to build time, increase your level of experience and flying skill, begin earning money to fly, and help others on their paths to becoming pilots. There are multiple types of instructor certificates that can be attained:
Basic/Advanced/Instrument Ground Instructor (AGI/IGI) Can provide ground instruction toward certificates/ratings and endorsements for written tests
Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) Can provide ground and flight instruction for the Student, Private, and Commercial certificates
Certificated Flight Instructor - Instrument (CFII) Can provide ground and flight instruction for the Instrument rating
Multi Engine Instructor (MEI) Can provide ground and flight training for Private/Commercial - Multiengine certificates