How to Become a Pilot: Your Ultimate Guide

The growth of the global air transport industry has resulted in a booming demand for pilots.

Over the next 20 years, airlines will need over 600,000 new pilots to keep up with demand. This requires training one new pilot every 15 minutes.

If your dream is to fly all over the world, this is great news. But earning your FAA pilot’s license requires extensive education, training, and practice.

Keep reading for a quick rundown of the steps you need to take to become a pilot!

Obtain a Student Pilot Certificate and Medical Certificate

Before flying a plane on your own, you need a student FAA pilot certificate and an FAA medical certificate. Many flight schools require you to have them before you can start any training for future pilots.

There are only two eligibility requirements for a student pilot certification:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Speak, read, and understand English

You’ll receive a document after you pass your exam at an Aviation Medical Examiner’s office. This will serve as both your student pilot certificate and medical certificate.

Apply to Flight School

After you have your certificates, it’s time to learn how to fly. But deciding on the right pilot school can be tough.

Keep in mind that there are two types of flight training programs: Part 61 and Part 141.

Part 141 programs are more demanding, but you can finish faster. On the other hand, Part 61 programs are not as structured, so you can learn at your own pace.

Smaller pilot schools tend to offer Part 61 training programs. But many larger schools, including some universities, offer Part 141 programs.

Pass the FAA Private Pilot Written Test

If you want to become a pilot, you need to take the FAA knowledge test, which consists of 60 multiple choice questions. You get an hour and a half to complete the test. You must answer at least 42 answers correctly in order to pass.

If you fail, you can apply for a retest after receiving training from your instructor.

You have two years to take the practical exam after passing the written test. If you miss the deadline, you’ll have to retake the written test before attempting the practical exam.

Pass the FAA Practical Exam

Once you build up 40 flight hours, including 10 hours of solo flying, the next step is to take the FAA practical exam, also known as the check ride. This exam includes an oral portion and a flight test.

You typically begin with the oral part of the exam, which can last anywhere from half an hour to several hours. Next, you go flying for a couple of hours with the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE).

If you pass the practical exam, you’re officially a pilot, ready to travel the world. The examiner will present you with a temporary certificate. However, your official FAA private pilot license will arrive in the mail a few months later.

Final Thoughts on How to Become a Pilot

If you want to become an airline pilot, you’ll need to continue to build up your flight hours after you obtain your FAA private pilot license. Getting a CFI certificate can help you rack up experience. But you’ll eventually need to obtain a commercial pilot certificate as well.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of jobs available for pilots. Other career options include forestry pilot, photographer pilot, and cargo pilot, just to name a few.

Feel free to check out our education blog for more guides like this one!