More About The Private Pilot License

Basic Requirements

Here are just a few of the basics requirements for the Private Pilot License. We'll discuss more about each of these requirements later in this section.

You must be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English Language
You must be able to obtain at least a 3rd class FAA medical certificate
You must be 16 years old to obtain your student pilot license
You must to be 17 years old to obtain your private pilot license
You have to acquire 40 hours total flying time
10 hours of the 40 hours must be solo (alone) flight time
5 hours of the 10 solo must be cross-country (flying from one airport to another)
You must pass the FAA Private Pilot written exam
You must pass the Private Pilot Oral and Practical Exam

The Student Pilot License & Medical Certificates

Before you are a private pilot and while you are learning to fly you are a student pilot. You obtain your student pilot license at the same time that you apply for your medical certificate. There are 3 classes of the medical certificates. Each one has more stringent medical criteria that must be met before being issued. A private pilot license only requires a 3rd class, the least restrictive of the medical certificates. Your flight instructor can give you a list of FAA certified medical examiners in your area were you could have your exam done. At the end of the exam the doctor removes a portion of the form you fill out and this serves as both your student pilot license and medical certificate.

Special Note: If you are interested in becoming an airline or corporate pilot you might want to get a 1st class medical done before starting your training. The class of medical certificate for an airline or corporate pilot is higher. Some medical conditions would prohibit the issuance of a 1st class medical certificate, which is a requirement to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot license or ATP. The ATP license or the ability to obtain one is a requirement to work for an airline or corporate flight department. It would be bad to spend thousands of dollars on training for a job you are not medically qualified to obtain.

As we mentioned earlier you need to be 16 years of age to obtain your student pilot license. You can start flying at any age but you can't do solo fight (which is a requirement for the private pilot license) until age 16. You need to be age 17 to obtain your private pilot license. Starting earlier might make your training process longer and more expensive. However don't let it stop you from taking a few introductory lessons. That way you can't decide if flying is something you really want to do.


Your first few lessons will help familiarize you with the aircraft you are training in. You won't be worrying about learning rules or procedures, just the basics of maneuvering the aircraft under visual flight rules or VFR. VFR encompasses flying by looking outside and using visual cues for aircraft control and navigation.

After your first few flights training focuses on prep for your first solo flight. You learn about the airport traffic pattern and radio communications with ATC or air traffic control. Once you can fly the traffic pattern and talk on the radio unassisted, its time for your instructor to turn you loose for your first solo flight. This usually consists of a few take-off and landings in the airport traffic pattern. After your initial solo you will be let loose to practice aerial maneuvers on your own within close proximity to the airport where you are training.

After your first few solo flights training moves on to cross-country navigation. You learn various elements of flight planning and navigation by reference to checkpoints on the ground. You and your instructor will go on several cross-country flights to help hone these skills. Once you can find your way without assistance from the instructor, he or she will then "sign off" your student pilot certificate for solo cross country flight. You then have a few solo cross-country flights to build time as well as confidence in your abilities.

After cross-countries there is not much left until your practical test or check ride. Your instructor brushes up your skills on aerial maneuvers such as stalls, steep turns, and slow flight. There is also a requirement for flight at night; night cross-country and a few hours flying by sole reference to your instruments. You will also practice your emergency procedures like engine failures, loss of radio communications and inadvertent flight into poor weather or clouds.

After you have met all the hour requirements and your instructor is confident in your abilities they will "sign off" your logbook, which means you meet all the requirements for the private pilot license and your instructor feels you are ready to take the private pilot check ride. You are then sent to a FAA examiner for the oral and practical test.

After you have met all the hour requirements and your instructor is confident in your abilities they will "sign off" your logbook, which means you meet all the requirements for the private pilot license and your instructor feels you are ready to take the private pilot check ride. You are then sent to a FAA examiner for the oral and practical test.


So what are all these tests and check rides? There are three main tests you must pass in order to obtain your private license. They are the FAA Written, a computer test of aeronautical knowledge, the Oral Exam which is a one on one verbal questioning by the FAA examiner and the Practical Exam which is the actual flight test were you demonstrate your flying and navigation skills to the FAA examiner. Below is a little about each of the Tests.

The FAA Written

In addition to your flight training you will receive many hours of ground instruction either from your flight instructor or a ground school instructor. Many flight schools have an organized ground school class that meets on a regular basis. Either way you choose you learn about the aeronautical knowledge that is covered on the FAA written exam. These areas include, aerodynamics, Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's), airspace, navigation, cross-country planning, weather, and aircraft performance calculations. There are many training aides to assist you in your studies including videos, computer programs, review books, and hopefully this website.

The FAA Oral Exam

During the oral exam the FAA examiner will assess your level of aeronautical knowledge through verbal questioning. The examiner usually has you plan a cross-country from the airport where you are taking the check ride to another airport of their choice. They use your planning to see if you know what is required to be a safe pilot. They might ask you questions about the airspace you will be flying through on your trip, how long the flight will take and how did you come up with computed numbers on your flight plan. Once the examiner is satisfied at your level of knowledge you will then proceed to the practical portion of the check ride.

The FAA Practical Exam

The practical exam is where it all comes together. You finally get a chance to show the examiner that you have the skills to be a private pilot. You will fly to the first few checkpoints to demonstrate your cross-country navigation skills. Once the examiner is satisfied with your navigation he or she will have you demonstrate the required aerial maneuvers such as stalls, steep turns, and flight a slow speeds. Somewhere along the way the examiner will pull back the throttle to simulate an engine failure. They want to see your ability to handle an emergency and the set up for an emergency landing. After the in-flight procedures you head back to the airport and demonstrate some landings. Assuming all goes well at the end of the flight the examiner fills out your temporary license (a permanent one comes in the mail) and you are now a private pilot. You are officially licensed to fly on your own. Some say you are now licensed to learn.


All this stuff sounds like fun right? Well what's it going to cost me? Well that depends on a lot of things. For one the minimum amount of flying required to get your private is 40 hours, but the national average is about 60 hours. Aircraft rental for single engine airplanes can range from $50 to $100 per hour, but when you are flying dual (with an instructor) you have to pay the instructor fee which can range anywhere from $20 to $40per hour. So lets look at an example of how much is costs.

60hrs aircraft rental @ $75hr=$4500

40hrs of instruction @ $25=$1000

Total Price=$5500 (This figure is only an example)

This figure can be more or less depending on how many hours of training it takes, (every person will be different) and how much your rental and instructor rates are. Not included are the cost of training supplies such as books, maps, headsets, log books, etc. Instructors will also charge for ground instruction or if you elect to take a ground school that will also has a fee associated with it. Your local flight school or FBO will be able to give you more information on the costs in your area.

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