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Joe Echo-Hawk CFII, MEI, AGI, IGI

Getting Started With Your Flight Training

Private Pilot


So you've decided to finally take the plunge and learn how to fly. You know it's possible, you just don't know where to get started and what to do first. Here's a few tips to consider for helping you start your flying journey.

When you first start out in your quest to become a pilot, just finding a flight school or flight instructor is a bit of a chore. Lets assume you've taken a few trips to a few airports to check out the various flight schools in the area. Flight schools all have their own specific feel and environment to them and finding one that fits you may be important. You've asked to look around the facilities and inside the airplanes to see the overall quality that the airplanes are kept in. You've found the staff to be friendly and knowledgeable. You've done enough checking around that you are comfortable with your choice offering competitive and reasonable rates for the area where you are learning to fly. Now what?

Have you budgeted financially for your flight training? With the research that you have done, and price shopping from school to school, you should have a fair idea of what to expect on the cost. There is some initial cost for books and various items up front, but much of your flight training can be pay as you go. Do you have that money set aside or budgeted in to be able to prevent you from taking a break on your training? Flight training is more economical when it is conducted consistently as opposed to being done in spurts. Having the funding available without having to take breaks in your flying schedule will be a major asset to you.

Have you budgeted the time in your schedule for flying lessons and studying? For every hour spent in the air, I would estimate there is approximately 3 hours of time needed to study the books, charts, and various materials to prepare you for your piloting goals. It is not uncommon for people to want to fly once a week when they are learning to fly because that is all they time they have for it in their schedule. While it is possible to get a license this way, it is not what I would recommend. Flying once a week will cause each lesson to need excessive time spent reviewing what was covered in the previous lesson before new topics can be introduced. The end result of once-a-week flying is that the cost of the license is significantly increased. What happens when the weather or illness prevents that one lesson for the week from happening? Now you may end up going a few weeks without having flown and in need of even more review. I recommend that people fly twice a week as the minimum goal with 3 times being even more desirable if they are able to keep up with the book work that goes along with flying. Certain individuals on a fast track to flying may even want to fly more than 3 times per week in an effort to accelerate the flight training. While this is certainly possible to accomplish, it does require a large time commitment to do it properly. For folks with a family, full-time jobs, or other substantial commitments, flying more than 3 times per week may be difficult to accomplish properly.

Assuming you have figured out the time and money requirements to your satisfaction, what now?

Something I encourage aviators in training to accomplish is to obtain their airman medical certificate sooner rather than later. I have seen instances where students have procrastinated until just before their time to solo was drawing near only to find out that they were initially denied a medical due to asthma or other various ailments that they did not consider to be much of a factor. If you are committed to the idea of flight training, I strongly encourage you to schedule your medical exam early. While many common health problems do not deny you entirely from getting your medical, they may require extra paperwork or processing that takes substantial time. Starting the process early is in your favor. If you are taking any kinds of prescription medication on a regular basis I would recommend you do some research before your exam to find out if the FAA is ok with it. Asthma, color blindness, migraines, sleep apnea, GI conditions, and many other common health occurrences may raise red flags with the FAA. Consult an Aviation Medical Examiner ahead of time if you have any concerns about your medical. The AOPA medical website also has a lot of valuable information available. A medical license is also often combined with a student pilot certificate when they are first issued. These certificates will be enable you to proceed on with your flight training aspirations.

If you have found a flight school or flight instructor that you are satisfied with, proper funding, enough time to pursue your dream, and the medical and student pilot certificates are in your pocket, you are well on your way.

Additional Resources:

Search for an AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) (AOPA Members Only)

Medical Certificate Information (AOPA Members Only)

AOPA (Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association) - Highly recommended. There is much information available through this website and their various publications. I would venture to say it is well worth the membership dues.

Search for an AME (Free FAA Database Search)


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