Can I really become a pilot? YES!
How difficult is it?
How difficult is it?
As with any other skill you master, flying is learned step-by-step. It's a fascinating experience that's not particularly difficult. Flying can be learned by practically anyone who is willing to invest the right amount of time and effort.
Pilot training has two aspects: ground training and flight training. Learning the basics of flying while on the ground - either in a classroom or through a home-study course - is typically called "ground school." It covers flight rules and regulations, flight planning, navigation, radio procedures, and weather. There are also a variety of DVDs and videos available to help you understand the material covered in ground school.
In the next phase, flight training, a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) will be with you in an airplane and teach you how to fly it. First, you'll learn about the instruments, how to prepare your airplane for a flight and how to taxi. With your flight instructor, you will learn how to take off, land, and fly cross-country (from your home airport to another airport and then back again). Your plane will have dual controls so your instructor can always take control if necessary. Millions of people have learned to fly this way.
By the time you're ready for your private pilot certificate, you'll be secure in the knowledge that you're a safe and competent pilot.
What kind of tests will I take?
A test is not required for a student pilot certificate. But before a private pilot certificate (license) is issued, you must pass two tests. One is an FAA "written" examination on flying rules and regulations that you'll take on a computer. You'll also have to work out the details of a hypothetical flight. But don't worry; you schedule the timing of this test for when you feel prepared. Besides, you will have done it all before in planning the cross-country flights you made as part of your training program.
Following this FAA written exam is a practical examination of your flying ability in the air. This is like the road test you took when you got your driver's license. Here you take a designated FAA examiner for a flight (a "checkride") to demonstrate your ability to maneuver the airplane safely and confidently. You will have practiced the maneuvers many times before, and your flight instructor will have prepared you thoroughly.
How much does it cost?
Flight training costs vary. Fuel prices, maintenance and insurance costs are but a few of the variables. Some regions of the country are just more expensive than others. You can expect to pay between $10,000 and $17,000 for a good private-pilot flight-training program. Most schools offer a "pay as you go" program so you do not have to have the full amount of money on hand when you begin.
Becoming a licensed private pilot is a good value. Prorated over a lifetime, it's probably one of the best bargains you'll ever find. The cost of becoming a pilot is a solid investment in your future. And once you've earned your pilot's license, it's good for the rest of your life.
Where do I start?
To arrange for a flight, contact a local flight school. Ask about taking an introductory flight. Some schools call this a discovery flight. The flight won't be free, of course, but most flight schools price them at a very reasonable rate in order to introduce more people to the joys of flying.
Making the decision to learn to fly is obviously the first step and often the most difficult one. Before you decide, however, you may want to experience flying in a small airplane. Once you've had a bird's-eye-view of your hometown and felt the sensation of flight, you'll know whether flying is for you.