Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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Frequently Asked Questions 
Private Pilot Navigation:  General Info Private Pilot | Why its a good time to become a pilot | Why become a pilot? | What it means to be a pilot | Why Pilots are Amazing People | Getting Started & Training Sequence | FAQs about getting started | How to select a flight instructor | FAQs: Becoming a private pilot | FAA's Student Pilot Guide Advice to new student pilots | How to save money on your flight training | Thinking of an Airline Career? | Pilots are very special people by John KingAbout Checkrides | Private Pilot Ground School | Private Pilot Ground School Syllabus | How to Get the Most From Your Ground School | Private Pilot Rating Requirements | What to do after the Private Pilot Certificate | Flight Training for Veterans | You Get What You Pay For

Q- How much will it cost to get my Private Pilot Certificate?

A- The cost varies depending upon the student. The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours (20-30 dual flight instruction, 10 solo) before granting a check ride. The national average for private pilot students is 65-72 total hours (35 dual instruction, 35 solo).  The C-150/152/Tomahawk used with most Private Pilot students rents for $60-85/hour (wet) and instruction between $40-$50/hour.

Some students learn and pick up things faster than others. Those willing to study at home on their own usually work through the program faster. Required materials (books, etc.) cost about $200.  Costs not related directly to actual flight instruction include a $75 FAA Medical Exam (with an FAA approved physician ), completion of the $90 FAA Private Pilot Written exam administered by an independent agent or the FAA. The checkride is a separate $300 fee paid directly to the designated examiner. 

Q- How long will it take to get my certificate? I'm already at 60 hours.

A- The time varies from student to student.  The total hours needed is discussed above.  It all depends on how much time you have to give to working on getting your certificate.  If you're working full time and flying only a couple of hours each week, it will, of course, take longer than someone who's got more time each week.  Generally, if you keep a steady pace without months in between when you'll "get rusty" or forget things, you will move through the program smoothly.  Why if the minimums are 40 hours does it take 72 hours?  The minimum requirements in the FAR are based on decades-old ideas where the actual time it takes you is based on today's complexity of systems, airspace, weather, and rules.

Q- Is it safe? 

A- You've probably heard that flying is safer than driving. It's true. The real key to safety is doing things the correct way and learning to make good decisions, good planning and practicing your skills. Your instructors are trained in safety procedures and will drill you on each flight until you, too, know the procedures well. 

Are you a safe person?  That is what it comes down to.  Your flight is only as safe as you make it.

Q- Do I have to be in excellent physical condition?  What about my eye sight? 

A- In order to get a pilot license you must get a medical certificate, which is issued by an aviation medical examiner.  You get a medical certificate by a very simple physical, and pay $65-80.  The doctor will check your vision, blood pressure, and urine.  A medical must be renewed every 3 years or every 2 years if over 40.  Your vision must be 20/40 or better, with or without glasses, it doesn't matter.  Some degree of colorblindness is acceptable.  Basically, the FAA wants to know that you have no physical condition that will impair your ability to safely fly the plane.  It's pretty routine for most people: an eye exam, hearing test, check for diabetes, medical history, heart disease, seizures, and migraines, etc. 

Q- What can I do with a pilot certificate? 

A- Explore the third dimension of the world which is rarely seen.  You can rent airplanes, fly with friends and family.  Hundred dollar hamburgers are popular (Fly somewhere, then eat, and come back.  About one hundred dollars for food and airplane costs.) 

Q- What can't I do with a private pilot certificate? 

A- Things you cannot do include getting paid for your services as a pilot, flying near or in the clouds.  You will be limited to fly single engine airplanes, flying multi engine planes requires additional training. 

Q- How come I can't fly in the clouds? 

A- Can you drive in the fog when visibility is zero?  Of course not, because you wouldn't know where you were going.  In airplanes it is even worse because you are not on the ground, where you can just stop and get out if you are having problems.  People who are not trained for low visibility conditions can become disoriented extremely easily.  In situations where you can't see outside, you tend to fly the airplane by what your body senses the airplane is doing (climbing or turning), but your body doesn't do a very good job at telling you which was is up sometimes.  JFK Jr. is the classic example of flight instrument conditions without an instrument rating.   Learn more about an instrument rating. 

Q- Does my private pilot certificate expire? 

A- No.  However, to continue to use it, you must complete a flight review every 2 years.  You can, however, lose your license for medical reasons or for violating FAA regulations. 

Q- What comes after a private pilot certificate? 

A- Some people, depending on their long-term goals with aviation, will get additional training.  An instrument rating is usually the next step.  You may skip the instrument rating and go straight to the commercial, but I wouldn't recommend this. 

Q- How hard is the written exam?

A- The FAA Private Pilot written exam is 50-60 questions, multiple choice which covers Aerodynamics, Meteorology, Aircraft Performance, FAA Regulations, and Physiology. The exam must be taken and passed with a score of 70% before a check ride can be taken. If you fail the exam, you may retake it after getting authorization from your flight instructor. Once passed, your score is good for two years. Once you've been granted your private pilot license, there are no more written exams, only a biannual medical exam and a biannual flight review by a Certificated Flight Instructor to make sure you're keeping current. 

Q- Will I have the same instructor all the way through?

A- Essentially, yes. Sometimes, you may fly with another instructor for stage checks or simulated checkride.  You'll have a primary instructor, but may work with other instructors from time to time. Different perspectives always strengthen your skills.

Q- Can I change instructors if I want?     A- Yes. 

Q- What if I move away? 

A- Your logbook will be signed by your instructor after each flight.  Your new instructor will review your logbook and continue instruction in your new location.  Some instructors will require a review of previously reviewed material.

Q- Can an instructor terminate a student?

A- Yes. If an instructor feels that a student is dangerous, fails to follow FAA guidelines, and/or is reckless in his procedures, then a student can be terminated.

Q- What training materials should I use?

A- The private pilot certificate requires all students to perform the same maneuvers regardless of the training materials used.  Your goal should be to use the training materials suited to your style of learning.  If you are a visual learner, the Jeppesen Private Pilot Kit is a great product and I use it in the ground schools I teach. Gleim puts out a great product as well, but the lack of colorful pictures can be limiting to the visual learner.

You should also determine how you will get your ground training:  are you going to take a ground school or pay $30-45/hr for the same training one-on-one with an instructor?   If you plan to take the path of reasonable cost, you'll be taking a ground school and training materials will be dictated by that course.  Most university/college ground schools (such as mine) use the Jeppesen materials.

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  • To register for Private Pilot Ground School Training, call 813-253-7980

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