the private pilot license

Basic Requirements


Here are just a few of the basics requirements for the Private Pilot License. Weíll discuss whatís entailed in each of these requirements later in this section.

  • You must be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English Language

  • You must be able to obtain at least a 3rd class FAA medical certificate

  • You must be 16 years old to get your student pilot license

  • You must to be 17 years old to get your private pilot license

  • You have to acquire 40 hours total flying time

  • 10 hours of the 40 hours must be solo (alone) flight time

  • 5 hours of the 10 solo must be cross- country (flying from one airport to another)

  • You must pass the FAA Private Pilot written exam

  • You must pass the Private Pilot Oral and Practical Exam

The Student Pilot License  & Medical Certificates


Your can get your student pilot license at the same time you apply for a medical certificate. They are combined into one certificate for student pilots and they share a common application. Your flight instructor can give you a list of FAA certified medical examiners in your area, and they take care of all the necessary paper work after the exam. At the end of the exam the doctor removes a portion of the form you filed out and this serves as both your student pilot license and medical certificate.


As we mentioned earlier you need to be 16 years of age to get your student pilot license. This is because you have to be 16 years of age to solo, and you instructor must sign off or verify that you are safe to fly solo on your student pilot license. You can start flying at any age but itís a good idea not to start much earlier than 16 because you canít solo until that age and you canít get your private license until your 17. Starting earlier makes your training process longer and more expensive.  However donít let it stop you from taking and introductory flight. That way you canít decide if flying is something you really want to do.




The first few lessons of your flight training are primarily familiarization to the aircraft you will be conducting your training in. Youíre not worrying about learning rules or procedures you learn the basics of manoeuvring the aircraft under visual flight rules or VFR. VFR encompasses flying the aircraft by looking outside and using visual cues for aircraft control and navigation.


After the your first few flights your training focuses on getting you ready for your first solo flight. You learn about the airport traffic pattern and radio communication with air traffic control or ATC. Once you can fly the traffic pattern and talk on the radio unassisted, its time for your instructor to turn you lose for your first solo. This usually consists of a few take-off and landings in the airport traffic pattern. After your initial solo you will be let lose to practice aerial manoeuvres on your own within close proximity to the airport you are learning to fly.


After your solo you move on to cross country navigation. You learn various elements of flight planning, navigation via reference to checkpoints on the ground, and fuel management. You usually go on several cross countries with your instructor to put everything youíve learned to practice. Once you can find your way without assistance from the instructor, he or she will then sign you off for solo cross country flight. Then you do a few solo cross-country flights to build your solo and cross country time in addition to your confidence.


After cross-countries there isnít much left until your practical test or check ride as itís more commonly known. Your instructor brushes you up on your aerial manoeuvres such as stalls, steep turns, and slow flight. There is also a requirement for flight at night; night cross-country and a few hours practice at flying by sole reference to your flight instruments. Also important are your emergency procedures like dealing with engine failures, loss of radio communications and inadvertent flight into poor weather or clouds.


After you meet all the hour requirements and your instructor is confident in your abilities you receive another sign off in your logbook saying you meet the requirements for the private pilot and your instructor feels you are ready to take the private pilot check ride. You are then sent to a FAA examiner for the oral and practical test.




So what are all these tests and check rides about? Well theyíre not all that bad, they can be a challenge, but the reward is well worth it. There are three main tests you must pass in order to obtain your private license. They are the FAA Written, a computer test of aeronautical knowledge, the Oral Exam which is a one on one verbal questioning by the FAA examiner and the Practical Exam which is the actual flight test were you demonstrate your flying and navigation skills to the FAA examiner. Below is a little about each of the Tests.


The FAA Written


In addition to your flight training you will receive many hours of ground instruction either from your flight instructor or most flight schools have an organized ground school class that meets on a regular basis. Either way you learn about the many aeronautical knowledge areas that are covered on the FAA written exam. These areas include, aerodynamics, Federal Aviation Regulations (FARís), airspace, navigation, cross-country planning, weather, (very important for the VFR pilot) and performance calculations such as take-off and landing distances and weight and center of gravity calculations. There are many training aides to assist you in your studies including videos, computer programs, review books and hopefully this website.


The FAA Oral Exam


During the oral exam the FAA examiner assesses your level of aeronautical knowledge through verbal questioning. The examiner usually has you plan a cross-country from the airport where you are taking the check ride to some other airport of their choice. They use your planning to ask questions to see if you know what is required to be a safe pilot. They might ask you questions about the airspace you will be flying through on your trip, how long the flight will take and how did you come up with computed numbers on your flight plan. Once the examiner is satisfied at your level of knowledge you will then proceed to the practical portion of the check ride


The FAA Practical Exam


The practical exam is where it all comes together. You finally get the chance to show the examiner that you have the skills to be a private pilot. The flight usually starts out on the flight planned for the oral exam. You will usually fly to the first few checkpoints to demonstrate your cross-country navigation skills. Satisfied with the navigation the examiner will then have you demonstrate the required aerial maneuvers such as stalls, steep turns, flight a slow speeds. Somewhere along the way the examiners will pull the throttle back to simulate and engine failure to see you know your procedures for making and emergency landing. Once that is accomplished successfully you will then head back to the airport and practice some landings.

Assuming all goes well at the end of the flight the examiner fills out your temporary license (a permanent one comes in the mail) and you are now a private pilot. You are officially licensed as a Private Pilot free to fly on your own. Some say you are now licensed to learn




All this stuff sounds like fun huh? Well whatís it gonna cost me? Well that depends on a lot of things. For one the minimum amount of flying required to get your private is 40 hours, but most people usually do an average of about 60 hours. So, 40 is the minimum but I would plan on about 60 hours. Aircraft rental for single engine airplanes can range from 50 to $100 and hour plus when you are flying dual (with and instructor) you have to pay the instructor fee which can range anywhere from 20 to $40 an hour and up. So lets look at an example of how much is costs

  • 60hrs aircraft rental  @ $75hr =$4500

  • 40hrs of instruction  @ $25=$1000

Total Price=$5500 (This figure is only an example)


This figure can be more or less depending on how many hours of training it takes you, (every person will be different) and how much your rental and instructor rates are. Not included also are the cost of training supplies such as books, maps, headsets, log books, etc. Also your instructor charges a certain amount for ground instruction or if you elect to take a ground school that also has a fees associated with it. Your local flight school will be able to give you more exact numbers on the costs in your area.