How to Become A Pilot – See 17 Frequently Asked Questions

About Private Pilot License

Here are the most frequently asked questions on how to become a pilot. The first step towards becoming an airline pilot is earning your Private Pilot Certificate. The Private Pilot Certificate is where we all start our aviation journey. By earning a private pilot license, you can legally fly an aircraft. Private pilots are trained to navigate small aircraft by themselves. Flight training includes aircraft maneuvers, navigation, emergency procedures, and cross-country flight planning. While people may seek the license for hobby or Sports reasons, a private pilot certificate is the first major milestone on the road to becoming an airline pilot.

What Can I Do with a Private Pilot License?

Since the private pilot certificate allows you to fly in and out of all civil airports, a licensed pilot may partake in activities ranging from flying to a nearby airport for lunch to traveling across the country or even around the world without ever stepping foot on an airliner. A private pilot can take friends and family for rides, practice maneuvers, or become involved in many of the wonderful programs that introduce people to flying.

What Kind of Aircraft Can I Fly with a Private Pilot License?

Private pilots are allowed to fly any aircraft for which they are appropriately rated. Appropriately rated refers to the successful training in a specific category and class rating of aircraft. An example of category would be airplane or helicopter while an example of class rating would be single-engine land meaning the aircraft has one engine and is limited to operations on land rather than on the water.

So, upon completion of your Private Pilot Certificate rated for airplane, single-engine land although you may have trained in a Cessna 172 you are allowed to act as pilot-in-command (PIC) in any aircraft that is a single-engine land airplane, a Piper Archer for example. Some aircraft may require additional authorization to act as PIC, known as receiving an endorsement, such as tailwheel or high-performance aircraft.

Can I Get Paid to Fly with a Private Pilot Certificate?

No, you may not act as pilot-in-command of an airplane for compensation or hire, nor an aircraft carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire. However, you may act as PIC of an aircraft and receive a pro-rata share, or an equal portion, of the operating expenses (fuel, oil, airport expenditures, and rental fees only) from others onboard the aircraft, if you do not pay less than the pro-rata share.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Private Pilot License?

The amount of time required to earn a private pilot certificate varies and largely depends on weather, availability, finances, and how often a student is available to fly. In a fast-paced program, a pilot certificate can be earned in approximately two months. For other students who are only able to fly occasionally, a pilot certificate could take a couple of years.

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About Instrument Rating

After getting your Private Pilot License, the next step is getting Instrument Rating. In this phase, you’ll discover that it’s much nicer flying above those clouds where the air is calm, and the visibility is endless. It will all start feeling like being a true professional pilot. For many new pilots, the training provided in the instrument rating is the first glimpse at how the National Airspace System, radar, and air traffic control works.

All important concepts as you will now be qualified to fly in the same airspace that the turbine airplanes. For others, it is usually the first time they’ve been allowed to enter the clouds or fly on a dark and stormy night, known as flying in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan.

What Is an Instrument Rating?

An Instrument Rating (IR) is a pilot rating earned through intensive training focused on flying solely by reference to instruments. It is arguably one of the most valuable ratings you can add to your pilot certificate and is a fun and challenging discipline of flight training.

Why Should I Get My Instrument Rating?

There are several reasons why a pilot might want to earn an instrument rating on their pilot certificate, including:

  1. The first is safety. Even if a pilot never intends to fly in the clouds or conditions outside of visual flight rules (VFR), the instrument rating provides an extra layer of safety just in case things do not go as planned during a flight. Not only will the pilot understand more about the weather and what to expect, if the situation became dire and their only solution was to fly through the clouds, but they could also safely do so in an aircraft with IFR capabilities.
  2. A pilot may also opt to get an instrument rating if they want to become a flight instructor.
  3. Fly as a commercial airline pilot. While it is possible to earn a commercial certificate without obtaining an instrument rating, doing so limits the types of jobs and flying you can do with your commercial certificate.

What Does IFR Mean?

IFR stands for Instrument Flight Rules and without an instrument rating, pilots may not operate under IFR. Instrument Flight Rules essentially means:

  • You can file an instrument flight (evaluate weather conditions)
  • You can efficiently move through areas of differing airspace
  • You do not have to adhere to any specific weather requirements

For pilots that fly longer distances, this is a great tool, as it generally results in a significantly more efficient flight while likely receiving assistance from air traffic control along the way as an additional set of eyes on the air traffic and weather around you. Even if a pilot never intends to fly in actual Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), flying on an instrument flight plan will generally shorten flight times and increase safety.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Instrument Rating?

The timeframe for a full-time student pilot with no experience to earn their Private Pilot Certificate is two months. Adding on an Instrument Rating will take an additional seven weeks.

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About Commercial Pilot License

A commercial pilot license, or certificate, is a type of pilot license that allows someone to operate an aircraft for compensation. A licensed commercial pilot may act as pilot-in-command of an aircraft for compensation or hire, as well as carry persons or property for compensation or hire. To put it another way, holding a commercial pilot license cost means you are legally allowed to get paid as a pilot.

What Does a Commercial Pilot do?

Commercial pilots are paid to fly as a pilot, transporting cargo and passengers, as well as performing other operations such as aerial surveying and search and rescue. Learn about the commercial pilot salaries.

What is the Difference Between Commercial Pilots and Airline Pilots?

Airline pilots operate regularly scheduled passenger flights. To fly as an airline pilot, you must have an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which is the highest pilot license the FAA issues. However, all pilots must first start by earning their private pilot license and then their commercial pilot license before they can attain an ATP certificate.

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About Multi-Engine Rating

For all candidates, even those that already hold a pilot certificate, the multi-engine aircraft is the first exposure to performing their duties in a complex aircraft. Complex aircraft implies the aircraft has retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller. These systems can present new procedural challenges and understanding of new systems to a candidate, in addition to new concepts such as multi-engine aerodynamics, rules governing certification of multi-engine aircraft, and unique engine failure scenarios, including shutting an engine down in flight.

What Are the Pilot Privileges of a Multi-Engine Rating?

A Multi-Engine Rating is a pilot rating that qualifies you to fly as pilot-in-command (PIC) of any aircraft with more than one engine. It is a necessary pilot certification add-on for any aspiring pilot to advance to the airlines, or to increase their overall marketability in the aviation workforce.

Why Should I Get My Multi-Engine Rating?

There are several reasons why a pilot might want to earn a multi-engine rating:

  • Pilot career advancement — required to fly for most commercial airline jobs
  • You’re qualified to fly bigger, faster aircraft with a greater range
  • Enjoy the inherent safety of having a second engine in the event of an engine failure

How long will it take?

The time duration of obtaining a multi-engine rating depends on the student’s schedule and proficiency. Flying often, studying frequently and efficiently, and being prepared for each flight lesson will ensure that the multi-engine rating is achieved at a lower cost and within a minimal timeframe. The average amount of time to obtain the rating is about two weeks.

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About Certified Flight Instructor

Being a certified flight instructor is a challenging and rewarding career that utilizes all you have learned during your flight training. Flight instructors aim to be role models in the aviation community, sharing knowledge and experience with their students, and for many people, it is the first job in aviation that earns them a paycheck. Our 30-Day CFI Academy is designed to build fundamental knowledge and develop teaching skills. The FAA has already certified that you are a competent commercial and instrument-rated pilot; our job is to ensure that you become a well-prepared aviation instructor to teach those lessons.

Why Should I Become a Certified Flight Instructor?

There are many reasons why pilots choose to become CFI, with the most common reason being to gain experience and build flight time. Most jobs in aviation, especially commercial airline pilot jobs, require a certain amount of flight time to be eligible. Many candidates opt to teach flight training to students due to the fast-paced environment and the opportunity for steady gains in flight time hours. By teaching students how to operate aircraft safely and effectively, flight instructing also reinforces the knowledge you gained during your flight training. Over time, flight instructors become very knowledgeable, skillfully polished pilots that are also privileged to train and endorse other pilots to take FAA practical tests.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a CFI Certificate?

While there is no specific time requirement to become a flight instructor, all flight instructors must obtain at least a commercial pilot license as part of their eligibility requirements. The commercial pilot license requires 250 hours of flight time as a pilot, with several associated sub-requirements. A pilot who plans to become a flight instructor is essentially preparing for the role from the first day they begin flight training, meeting the demands of each rating (essentially a milestone) along the way.

What Are the Different Types of CFI Certifications?

Further milestones may be met within the category of a flight instructor, earning you different types of certifications:

  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI): A flight instructor for single-engine aircraft
  • Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument (CFII): A flight instructor that teaches instrument flying
  • Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI): A flight instructor for multi-engine aircraft

What Is a Certified Flight Instructor’s Salary?

Salary for flight instructors varies from state to state, is dependent on the company for which you work, and can vary widely depending on your qualifications. While some companies pay CFIs a yearly salary, most pay is earned as an hourly wage. Compensation at an hourly rate can also be paid at different rates for the different types of instruction you are providing. For example, one might earn a higher hourly rate for flights and a lower hourly rate for ground and simulator (AATD) instruction.

According to major online recruiting providers, CFI pay ranges from $15 per hour to $50 per hour and anywhere from $28,000 per year to upwards of $65,000 per year. With this type of pay structure, to earn the most as a certified flight instructor, it is important to have advanced sought-after qualifications coupled with a consistent and plentiful pool of students from which to provide instruction.

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