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Private Pilot FAQs

How long will it take to earn my private pilot’s license?

How much will it cost to earn a private license?

How old do I need to be to get a pilot’s license?

What can I do once I have my license?

Once I get my license, what do I have to do to keep it current?

What will my training involve?

I want to be a commercial airline pilot- is this how I get started?

So how do I start? Is there any commitment if I take a lesson, but do not wish to continue?

Is the instructor with whom I take my intro flight the one I must stick with throughout my training?


How long will it take to earn my private pilot’s license?

The length of the training process depends upon several factors. We have had students fly an average of approximately three times a week and earn their licenses in about four months.  We have also had students, who could only fly on select weekends, and who took long breaks from training- for some of them, the training process took about three years, but they nonetheless remained committed and earned their licenses.  Outside circumstances aside, it is important to keep in mind that, regardless of the frequency of your flights, everyone responds to the airplane differently, and while nearly anyone can learn to fly, some will pick up on things more quickly than others.  A good estimate for a dedicated student, with weather cooperating, would probably be about five months of training.

At a minimum, the FAA requires you to have at least 40 hours of flight time, including 20 hours of flight training and 10 hours of solo flight.  The average number of hours at which students earn their licenses is between 60 and 70.

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How much will it cost to earn a private license?

Obviously, the cost depends upon how quickly you progress.  Those who fly more often usually earn their licenses in fewer hours, and therefore spend a little bit less on training. 

A typical student can expect to pay between $6,000 and $9,000 for the flight lessons, books and training supplies.  Flight fees can be paid on an individual lesson basis so there is not a large amount of money to invest initially.  Contrary to what many people might think, becoming a pilot is not at all a hobby exclusive to the wealthy.  Some of our flight students have been working college students, simultaneously funding their college education and flight training.  Many others are moms and dads with families to support.  With an open mind, and a little budgeting, even an individual with an average income can afford to learn to fly.

People often overlook the fact that financial assistance is available for flight training.  Scholarships can also be of great help, and are available to men and women through such groups as The 99’s, The Aero Club of New England, and others.  Check the advertisements in the back of Flight Training and AOPA Pilot magazines for specific details.

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How old do I need to be to get a pilot’s license?

You can begin flight training at any age; however, to fly solo in the aircraft you need to be at least 16 years old.  To be eligible for a private pilot certificate, you must be at least 17 years old.  There is no upper age limit to beginning your flight training.

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What can I do once I have my license?

Basically, with your Private, you will be a “fair-weather” pilot.  In your training, you’ll learn about the specific weather conditions that will legally prohibit you from flying, as well as the conditions with which you, personally, are uncomfortable, and in which you might opt not to fly.

You will be able to fly single-engine aircraft, with engines of 200hp or less, including Piper Cherokees, Warriors, and Archers, and Cessna- 152s, -172s, and 182s.  You will not be limited to these specific models- these are just some of the more common ones flown by private pilots.  With a little additional training, and an endorsement from an instructor, you can also learn to fly “high-performance” aircraft, (with engines of over 200hp) and “complex” aircraft (with controllable-pitch propellers, flaps and retractable landing gear). 

At Robinson, we train students in Piper Warriors, which are four-seat, low-wing, 160hp airplanes.  Students or private pilots who wish to transition to Cessna (high-wing) aircraft after learning in Pipers do not need any additional endorsements, but usually require one or two hours of instruction to feel comfortable in the different aircraft.  Private pilots can carry passengers, but they cannot be paid or compensated in any way for doing so.

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Once I get my license, what do I have to do to keep it current?

The specifics for currency can be found in the FAR/AIM, (basically the Bible for pilots) but generally you will need a “biennial flight review” (aka “BFR”) every two years, which consists of a brief oral exam and check-ride with a flight instructor. (BFRs are conducted with flight instructors, not with the FAA examiners with whom you take your initial check-ride for your license)

In order to carry passengers, the pilot must have made three take-offs and landings in the same type of aircraft during the preceding 90 days.  To carry passengers at night, the pilot must have made three takeoffs and landings during the preceding 90 days during the period of one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.

To maintain currency with Robinson Aviation, the pilot must have flown one of our aircraft in the preceding 60 days.  If this currency lapses, the pilot will just need to schedule a quick flight with one of our instructors before he/she rents again.

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What will my training involve?

Earning your license involves preparing yourself to take three tests: a written knowledge test, an oral knowledge test, and a practical test in the airplane.  The written exam must be taken first; then the oral test is taken on the same day as the practical test.  This combination of oral and practical tests is known as the “checkride.”

To prepare for the written knowledge test, most students take our Private Pilot Ground School (link above).  At that point, most people find it beneficial to make an appointment to take their written exam right away, while the information is fresh in their minds.  This can be done anytime prior to the FAA Private Pilot Checkride (the written test remains valid for two years).  Written tests are administered at FAA-designated testing centers (link to CATS), such as Robinson Aviation.  

As far as flight training, we usually schedule students in 2-hour blocks, which allows about an hour for the flight, time beforehand for preflight inspection and briefings with the instructor, and time after for debriefing.  The first several lessons should be of this general nature.  Once the student becomes proficient in certain standard procedures, he will begin to prepare for his first solo flight in the airport traffic pattern.  Once the student has soloed, he/she will be able to fly by himself in good weather, practicing landings in the traffic pattern, and maneuvers in the local practice area.  Lessons with the instructor after that point will mostly consist of preparation for the student’s solo “cross-country” flights, which are flights from point A to a point B that is over 50 nautical miles away.  A few of these lessons will obviously be longer than previous flights, and are usually booked in three-hour blocks.  After sufficient training in cross-country procedures, the student will log at least 5 hours of solo cross-country flight.

Additional lessons will cover emergency, night, and instrument flight procedures, as well as brush-up work on maneuvers and landings before the student takes his checkride.

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I want to be a commercial airline pilot- is this how I get started?

Obviously, working toward a career in aviation is a very large commitment, but all pilots (other than those who receive their training through the military) begin with getting their private pilot’s license.  Very briefly, after the private training will follow instrument and commercial training, (instrument training being of roughly the same duration and expense as the private, commercial training of considerably less duration and expense).  With a commercial license, the pilot will then have to accumulate several hundred more hours of flight time (as an instructor, charter pilot, etc.), as well as additional ratings to fly multi-engine aircraft, etc., before applying to a regional airline, or to become a corporate pilot. 

Many people receive their instrument training, and part of their commercial training with us, then attend flight academies or other operators with accelerated training programs to earn their later ratings.

Keep in mind- this is the story in a very small nutshell, but at least it gives an idea of what can follow after the private training, should the pilot choose to pursue a career in aviation.

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So how do I start?  Is there any commitment if I take a lesson, but do not wish to continue?

You can start by calling us to book an “intro” flight, which will be your first official flight lesson, and will count toward the required hours for your license.  Since you will be sitting in the pilot’s seat and flying the plane for much of the time, you will definitely get a feel for what your future lessons might be like, and you can discuss any questions or concerns with your instructor.  If you enjoy it and would like to fly again, great!  Just schedule another lesson.  If you’d rather take a break and think about it, or you choose not to fly again, that’s fine too.  We only ask that if you have a scheduled flight and need to cancel or reschedule, please contact us at least a day in advance.

 

Is the instructor with whom I take my intro flight the one I must stick with throughout my training?

We try to keep you with the same instructor throughout your training for your own benefit, since it allows the instructor to better gauge your progress, and it will prevent you from becoming confused by the slightly different techniques of different pilots.  However, choosing the instructor that is right for you is a very important decision, and there is nothing wrong with trying a flight with each of our instructors in the beginning, so that you may choose the one with whom you feel most comfortable.

 

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