Complete guide to getting your pilot's license

1. Take a demo flight

Find someone, or reach out to a flight school, to take you up in the air. This is a great way to see what it feels like to pilot an aircraft. Many of EAA863‘s members have taken someone up for their first flight at the controls.

This is an exciting time, be sure to take plenty of pictures.

2. Find a flight school

Interview the school and it’s instructors. After all, they are going to be working for you. Find someone you are comfortable with as you are going to be spending a lot of time with this person in an aircraft.

Ask questions like this is an interview. Do not be afraid to clarify areas of confusion and make sure you feel comfortable with your chosen instructor.

3. Get your medical exam

To pilot an aircraft, you will need to get your medical exam from a designated AME (Aeromedical Examiner). You need to have your medical exam approved before you solo, but it is a good idea to do it early. You do not want any surprises that would prevent you from becoming a pilot, to come up after you have spent money on flight lessons.

Medical exams come in three classes:
1. First class medical – good for anyone pursuing a career in aviation, especially if commercial aviation is in your future.

2. Second class medical – Commercial pilots with some limitations

3. Third class medical – do not let the name fool you. This is the most common medical certificate chosen for general aviation pilots.

Just starting out? Get a third class medical; you can always upgrade later.

Thinking about pursuing a career in aviation? Choose a first class medical. It is better to go ahead and ensure you can obtain it and hold it now rather than later.

Learn more about medical exams by visiting the AOPA’s website on airman medical certification

Ready for your medical? Signup with the FAA’s MedXPress to find your nearest AME and schedule an appointment

4. Apply for a student pilot certificate

You will want your instructor’s assistance on the application. Don’t worry; it’s easy!

Like the medical exam, it is best to do this early. You need this before your solo and it can take a few weeks to come back.

To apply for your student pilot license, go to IACRA (Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application) website.

5. Pass your Private Pilot Knowledge Test

Also, known as “Ground School”; this is your written test that you will complete as a private pilot. It is never a bad idea to start on this early. Some even do this first, before anything else! Some instructors say completing the ground school first makes a student learn faster in the air. Whatever you decide, it’s okay, just begin studying. Your instructor may additional input.

There are several options for ground school. Search online, ask around, and read reviews to find the one that best fits you and your learning style.

6. Begin regular flight training

The emphasis here is on regular flight training. Training 3 days a week is often the minimum. Anything less than that, and you will have to re-learn previous lesson’s material. This is both time consuming and costly!

Avoid this mistake and find a training regimen that works for you and your instructor.

7. Solo

After completion of basic maneuvers your flight instructor will decide when it is best for you to complete your first solo! This is large milestone in your training. Your instructor will know when the time is right, regardless of many, or little, hours it takes you to get here.

After completion of your first solo, a small traditional celebration will occur with the instructor cutting the “tail” off of your shirt. This is longstanding in aviation history and stems from the days when the instructor would sit behind the student and tug at the bottom of their shirt when the instructor wanted to get the student’s attention.

Congratulations! You are well on your way to getting your pilot’s license.

8. Cross Country, Night, and Towered Solo

You and your instructor will continue to build time and hours towards your pilot’s license. There are additional goals that you will have to meet such as cross country flying, night flying, and towered airport solo operations.

This is where you and your instructor will tie it all together.

You are well on your way to becoming a licensed private pilot!

9. Check-ride Prep

This is an in-depth review between you and your instructor of everything you have learned. Think of it as a culmination of both mind and physical skill – all coming together to pilot an aircraft. You and your instructor will review everything, such as oral exam prep, takeoffs and landings, maneuvers, and a simulated check-ride.

Don’t worry, your instructor will make sure you are ready before the actual check-ride.

10. Private Pilot Check-ride

Schedule, and pass your private pilot check-ride.

Congratulations! You are now a certificated private pilot.

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