Private Pilot

So you want to learn to fly? We can help!

We have created a step by step guide to help guide you through the process of earning your private pilots license.

1. Schedule an Intro Flight

A intro flight is the perfect way to get a feel for what its like to be a pilot. It is also an excellent opportunity for you to meet with a flight instructor who can answer any questions you may have before getting started. One of the most common questions people ask is “how much will it cost?” While it is hard to give an exact dollar amount our cost estimator will help give you a general idea of how much to budget.

2. Apply for a Student Pilot Certificate

Your instructor will help guide you through the application process, don’t worry it’s easy and free. We use a system called IACRA, it’s the same system you’ll use to fill out your application just before your checkride. We like to get this out of the way early because you’ll need it before you solo and they generally take at least several weeks to process.

3. Establish a Training Plan and Begin Lessons

After Your intro flight your instructor will sit down with you and walk you through the syllabus and give you a student pilot guide. You can download a copy here. This is a perfect time to discuss your goals, lesson frequency, and training timeline with your instructor.

4. Start With the Basics

We start by creating a solid foundation from which we will build on in later lessons. Your first few lessons your focus should be primarily outside the aircraft instead of on the instruments. We will teach you how to fly straight and level, make level turns, climbs and descents just by looking outside and using the horizon as a reference. As you progress we will gradually shift more attention on the instruments.

5. Get your Medical Certificate

As a pilot you will have to be able to hold a medical certificate. To get your medical certificate you will need to get a flight physical from a designated AME (Aeromedical Examiner) to view a list of AME’s in your area click here. You will need a medical before you can solo but they are issued on the same day as the exam unlike the student pilot certificates. Medical certificates come in 3 classes 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. We highly recommend anyone interested in a career as a pilot get a 1st class to ensure that you are able to hold one since that is what any airline will require. To learn more about medical certificates click here.

6. Solo!

In American aviation lore, the traditional removal of a new pilot’s shirt tail is a sign of the instructor’s new confidence in his student after successful completion of the first solo flight. In the days of tandem trainers, the student sat in the front seat, with the instructor behind. As there were often no radios in these early days of aviation, the instructor would tug on the student pilot’s shirttail to get his attention, and then yell in his ear. A successful first solo flight is an indication that the student can fly without the instructor, hence there is no longer a need for the shirt tail, and it is cut off by the proud instructor, and sometimes displayed as a trophy.

7. Be Studying for the Private Pilot Knowledge Test

Its never too early to start studying for your private pilot knowledge test. We recommend starting to study for it as soon as possible but no later than your towered solo. There are tons of great resources out there to help you study. We occasionally offer ground schools and test prep courses to help you prepare for the test. However some students prefer to learn at their own pace. We recommend the Gleim test prep packages. You can purchase them directly from us or by clicking the following link.

8. Towered Solo

The towered solo is an important milestone in your training. By the time you complete your towered solo you will be comfortable operating from slightly larger airports, talking to ATC, and handling the aircraft like a pro. From this point everything starts to progress very quickly and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you’re almost there! You can learn more about towered airport operation by clicking the following link:

9. Cross Country and Night Flying

Now its time to put it all together and practice getting from A to B during the daytime as well as at night to airports at least 50nm away. You’ll learn how to navigate using paper charts and nav logs as well as with GPS and ground based navaids. Your instructor will also use a view limiting device at some point during these flights to simulate flight in instrument conditions (using only the instruments for reference, you will focus more on this if you go on to get your instrument rating). You can learn more about cross country flight planning by clicking the following link:

10. Take the Private Pilot Knowledge Test

Hopefully you’ve been studying! its time to take your FAA knowledge test. Upon successful completion of the test your instructor can schedule your checkride. Its best not to wait too long because DPE’s (examiners) are typically booked up at least a month in advance. The sooner you can complete the test the less likely you are to experience long gaps between your checkride prep and your checkride, we like to keep things fresh. You’ll need at least a 70% to pass. Bakers School of Aeronautics is an approved testing center and located right across the street from our building. You can take a free practice exam here to test your knowledge.

11. Solo Cross Country

You’re almost done at this point! by now you should be able fly the aircraft without an instructor from one airport to another. You’ll need to log at least 5 hours of solo cross country time as well as one long solo cross country flight of 150nm total distance, with full- stop landings at three points. After you’ve logged all the required hours and you have demonstrated that you can safely operate the aircraft it is time to move on to checkride prep!

12. Checkride Prep

Time to put it all together and prepare for your big day! This is a good time to go back and review things you learned early on such as ground reference maneuvers, stalls, slow flight, steep turns, and much more. Your instructor will make sure that you are completely prepared for your oral and practical exams by giving you mock checkrides so you can go into the real checkride with confidence!You’ll need at least 3 hours of checkride prep leading up to your checkride. You can use the following checklist to make sure that you’ve met all the requirements and arrive prepared the day of the checkride. The checklist can also be found on the last page of the student guide.

Private Pilot Requirements

  • Valid student pilot certificate and third-class medical (or greater)
  • At least 17 years old
  • Read, speak, write, and understand English
  • 70% or better score on private pilot knowledge test

Minimum Aeronautical Experience

  • 40 hours of flight time, including at least
    • 20 hours of training time (this means dual instruction)
      • 3 hours of cross-country flight training
      • 3 hours night flight training
        • 1 night XC training flight greater than 100nm
        • 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop at an airport
      • 3 hours of simulated instrument time
      • 3 hours of practical test prep flights within the preceding 2 Calendar months with a CFI
    • 10 hours of solo flight time
      • 5 hours of solo cross country time
        • One solo cross-country flight of 150nm total distance, with full- stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight w/ straight-line distance of at least 50nm between takeoff and landing.
        • 3 solo takeoffs and landings to a full stop (each with a flight in the pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.


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