7 Steps to becoming a Private Pilot
Research flight schools
This is a big step! Find the flight school that best fits you and suits your needs. Reading the reviews from previous students is a good start.
Get your medical certificate
All private pilot students must pass an FAA third-class medical exam with an Aeromedical Examiner (AME). If you plan to become a commercial pilot, you’ll need a class 1 medical certificate.
Begin Ground School classes
Private pilot ground school provides the practical knowledge you’ll need to know for flight planning and flying.
Begin flight lessons
While in ground school, you’ll begin training in simulators and airplanes alongside a certified flight instructor (CFI). This lets you turn your knowledge into skills as you continue your pilot training.
Pass the “written”
The FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test, known as the “written” to student pilots, assesses your knowledge of aviation in areas such aerodynamics, weather, flight instruments, weather, etc.
Pass the check ride
The FAA Private Pilot Practical Exam, also known as the check ride, assesses your flying skills and knowledge of practical applications in the cockpit. Passing this is the final step. Congratulations, you’re a private pilot! This entire process takes approximately 3 months.
5 Steps to becoming a Commercial Pilot
Learn the Eligibility Requirements
Commercial pilot applicants must be at least 18 years old, be able to read, speak, write, and understand English, and hold at least a private pilot certificate. The most common reason people can’t begin their commercial training is that of lack of experience. A pilot needs at least 250 hours to earn a commercial pilot license.
Get a 2nd Class Medical Certificate
Since you must have a private pilot certificate to begin commercial training, the chances are good that you already hold an aviation medical certificate. If it’s a 3rd Class medical, you may want to get a 2nd Class medical certificate; you’ll need at least a 2nd Class medical certificate to utilize your commercial pilot privileges, and there’s nothing worse than finding out you can’t pass a 2nd Class medical exam once you’ve completed your commercial training.
Take the FAA Written Exam
Just like with the private pilot certificate, you’ll want to get the written exam out of the way early in your commercial pilot training. That way, you’ll have the extra knowledge in your head already, and it will also serve as a refresher if you’ve taken some time off. Once your written exam is complete, you can focus on flying.
A commercial pilot applicant needs to demonstrate proficiency, but also needs to have some experience. To obtain a commercial pilot certificate under CFR Part 61, you’ll need at least 250 flight hours, including 100 hours of pilot-in-command time and 50 hours of cross-country flying. Also, you’ll need to get at least 10 hours of instrument training and 10 hours in a complex aircraft.
During your commercial pilot training, you’ll learn new maneuvers, and you’ll have to be more consistent and precise than during private pilot training. You’ll also learn to fly longer cross-country flights, including at least one cross-country flight that is at least 300 nautical miles total and includes a single leg of at least 250 miles.
Take the Checkride
Once you’ve mastered the commercial flight maneuvers to the new standards and learned all about the privileges and limitations of the commercial pilot certificate, your instructor will sign you off for the checkride. Since you’ve taken checkrides before, you know what to expect: a couple of hours of groundwork for the verbal portion of the exam and a quick flight is all it takes.
Remember, the examiner is testing to see what kind of commercial pilot you’ll be, so act very professional at all times. Don’t skimp on the seatbelt briefing, and remember that precision is crucial, don’t do anything sloppy.