The average American adult can pursue a pilot’s license, either private or commercial, and learn how to fly a variety of aircraft. That said, there are several eligibility requirements a person must meet before they can begin their journey to becoming a pilot. Furthermore, individuals must be prepared to commit hundreds of hours to their flight training, to say nothing of ongoing maintenance of certification. Requirements and training demands are even more stringent for any person interested in a career as a professional pilot.
To start, individuals can use online resources to research pilot schools in their area. Different schools offer different options for training, with key differences including the type of aircraft used and flexibility of the training and testing schedules. At atpflightschool.com, individuals can access a free Pilot Career Guide that can help them decide which flight school’s offerings match their personal or professional interests.
After deciding on a flight school and learning about enrollment, aspiring pilots can start to prepare for their admissions flight. An admissions flight can be viewed as a ride-along, during which students gain firsthand insight into how an aircraft operates from the cockpit and, perhaps more importantly, the style and quality of training at the flight school in question.
Assuming the admissions flight goes well, aspiring pilots should start the process of gaining medical certification with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In most cases, an aeromedical examiner can assist recreational pilots in receiving their first class medical certificate, the FAA Airman Medical Certificate. Basic requirements include passing a physical examination and meeting the same requirements needed to maintain a US driver’s license. However, professional pilots must meet higher standards of health.
Next, amateur pilots can continue their relationship with the FAA by applying for a student pilot certificate through the FAA Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA), which is managed through iacra.faa.gov. While Americans can start flight training without a student pilot certificate, they will need it to embark on solo flights, a key part of late-stage training.
Once an aspiring pilot has received both their medical and student pilot certifications, there is nothing stopping them from embracing a full flight training schedule. Individual flight schools develop their programs independently, but must adhere to specific training criteria. For example, any American pursuing a private pilot certification in an airplane, helicopter, or gyro-plane must log at least 40 hours of flight time. Half of these 40 hours should include direct instruction from a licensed teacher, while 10 hours should involve solo flying.
Additional specifications describe cross-country flights and nighttime flight requirements. It should be noted that while official requirements demand 40 hours of training, the average pilot logs 75 hours prior to sitting for their pilot’s exam.
The FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test is the penultimate step to becoming a pilot in the United States. In addition to meeting all of the above requirements, a person must receive an endorsement of confidence from their flight instructor. Following the knowledge test, individuals must complete the practical exam under the watch of a designated pilot examiner.