Taking your written exam for your private pilot license may seem a bit daunting but it doesn’t have to be. In this article we’ll share some key points to help with your FAA written test prep.

What is the FAA Written Exam?

With every pilot certificate or rating, there is an associated FAA written test that must be taken. Keep in mind that you must meet the minimum age requirements for your specific test.

You will usually have 2-3 hours to take your exam. These exams typically have between 40-100 questions and, in most cases, you must have a score of 70% or higher to pass.

How To Study for the FAA Exam

This may sound silly, but you need to actually study. So many people think they can meet with their instructor, listen to them talk, and then pass the written exam.

It just doesn’t work like that. You’ll need to spend time on your own prepping. We recommend taking practice tests repeatedly. If you can take three practice tests consecutively and score over 85%, you’re probably ready.

To help you find these practice tests we’ve compiled a list of resources that you can utilize.

The following is a list of FAA written test prep programs available:

*Sheppard Air does not offer test prep for the private exam.

What to Bring to the FAA Written Exam

The written test must be taken at a designated FAA Testing Center like the one here at Thrust Flight.

Before your exam, make sure you have all your necessary forms of legal identification and an endorsement from your instructor.

Forms of ID

Acceptable forms of identifications must be valid and current and include the following:

  • Photo
  • Date of Birth
  • Signature
  • Physical,residential address

If your ID does not state your current physical address you can still use that ID so long as you also have a form of address verification.

If you’re under 18 your legal guardian can present an acceptable form of ID and verify your identity.

For more information regarding acceptable forms of ID and Address Verification visit the FAA’s website.

Don’t forget to bring any necessary endorsements or authorizations for your FAA Exam.

Prohibited and Allowed Items

Once you’ve been checked in by your proctor you will be required to leave behind any personal items such as:

  • Cellphones
  • Smartwatches
  • Advanced Calculators (anything above 4 function)
  • Supplements
  • Paper/Pens/Pencils

Be sure to leave these items in your vehicle or, if the testing center has them, in a locked container. Each facility is different so ask beforehand.

Your proctor or yourself may provide the following for your exam:

  • A manual or electronic ESB6
  • Plotter
  • Pencils
  • scratch paper
  • Ear Plugs

After the Exam

After finishing the test, all materials such as scrap paper, pens/pencils, and other exam materials will be collected.

Do not leave the facility until you verify that your information matches your ID and pilot certificate.

Your proctor will print out and emboss your score sheet.

After you leave you cannot come back to the facility to make changes to your information. Make sure you hold onto your score report since you’ll need to present this to the examiner when you take your checkride.

Taking an exam can be stressful but by following these tips and being well prepared, it doesn’t have to be.

If you study your materials and follow this procedure, you’ll be more than ready for your FAA Written Exam!

Not sure what the next step is after your FAA written exam? Check out our complete guide to becoming a pilot.

As a new pilot there are two methods of flight training you can pursue; Part 141 and Part 61. There are pros and cons to each method so to help you decide which type of training is right for you we put together this quick guide.

But before we dive in, let’s take a look at what Part 141 vs. Part 61 even mean.

Both training methods are actually a reference to the regulations that govern them a.k.a. the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).

FARs govern everything in the world of aviation, from the type of training you receive to when maintenance is required on airplanes.

As you pursue various licenses and ratings you’ll come to know the FARs quite well.

Part 61 outlines exactly what you need for pilot certification while Part 141 governs training from flight schools.

An easy way to look at it is a solo certified flight instructor could train you under Part 61 but if they are not part of an approved Part 141 school, they could not train you under those regulation.

Only FAA approved flight schools that have met all requirements are able to train under Part 141.

To figure out which is best for you watch the video below or continue reading.

What is the Difference Between Part 141 and Part 61 Flight Training?

The primary difference between the two is the minimum number of hours you have to fly to become a pilot and the standardized curriculum you’ll be taught.

You’ll learn the same material as you go through both training methods but at a Part 141 school you’ll typically move more quickly.

Both methods require you to meet the same standard of performance to obtain a pilot certificate, and you earn the same exact pilot certificate regardless of which regulations you train under.

Neither system is better than the other; there are pros and cons of both, but ultimately it’s a matter of personal choice. It all depend on your specific needs and goals.

Flight Hours for Part 141 vs. Part 61

Under Part 61 someone pursuing their private pilot needs to fly a minimum of 40 hours. Under Part 141 you only need to fly a minimum of 35.

While this may sound like a huge perk it’s important to note that the national average for obtaining a private pilots license is between 65-70 hours regardless of the type of training.

Where the FAA minimum requirements really matter is if you are going for your commercial certificate.

Under Part 61, you’ll need to log 250 total flight hours. But you can do so in any way you want. Go visit family, take friends flying, go to a fly-in, and have fun with it!

Under Part 141, you’ll only need to log 190 flight hours, but only if all the hours are flown in the schools approved aircraft, all ratings are attained in the minimum hours, and every flight follows a pre-approved syllabus.

Curriculum for Part 141 vs. Part 61

Part 141 schools offer a very structured training environment.

This can be great for those of you who thrive in more strictly organized settings, but for others – especially those not interested in pursuing a career in aviation – it may be too rigid.

Many Part 141 schools may not allow you to choose your instructor, however most good ones will allow you to be reassigned to another instructor in cases of incompatibility.

Just getting started with your flight training?

Check out our article on the best flight bags for student pilots to help you start collecting the gear you’ll need for training.

In order to train students under Part 141 regulations, a flight school must go through a strict FAA approval process, meet certain FAA requirements, and have each curriculum reviewed and approved by the FAA.

In addition, Part 141 schools are subject to regular surveillance audits by the FAA and must meet minimum pass rates on the practical exams.

Part 61 instruction on the other hand isn’t generally as strict in organization of the material.

While you’ll learn the same material as part 141, you’re instructor doesn’t’ need to follow a specific order and can teach in whatever order they choose.

In general, Part 61 instruction moves at a slower pace.

The main advantage of Part 61 flight training is the added flexibility. Since you aren’t following a strict training plan you can bounce around a bit more in your training.

Part 61 training is particularly well suited for pilots who aren’t planning on working professionally.

So if you’re planning on learning on a part time basis, Part 61 is probably for you.

Still not sure which one is right for you? Nathan, our head of sales is an expert at helping future pilots find the best training to meet their needs. Give him a call or send us a message here.

Almost every pilot who pursues a career in aviation spends at least a little time as a flight instructor. Achieving that title however means you have to pass the ominous CFI checkride. In order to prepare for your CFI checkride you’ll need to attend a CFI academy.

In another article, we covered the basics of what a CFI academy is and how to become a flight instructor and what you can expect when attending one.

In this article, we’re going to share three simple tips you should follow to help you prepare for, and pass your CFI checkride.

Prepare Your Own Lesson Plans

After witnessing many, many students pass through our program we’ve come to find a distinct difference between the students who purchase lesson plans and those who write their own.

Students who write their own, frequently understand the material better and are able to more easily recall info as they teach.

Study Tips for the FAA Knowledge Test

While the upfront labor to write your own can be intense, the payoff is huge. Nothing prepares you better for your checkride then taking the time to write your own thorough lesson plans.

And not just a few either. If you will go through and write out every single lesson plan in your own language you’ll be amazed at how well this prepares you to teach and to pass your checkride.

Buying Lesson Plans

Now, if you aren’t quite ready to dive into writing your own lesson plans from scratch, you could go ahead and purchase some.

But you should then go through them and make them your own, by adding notes, references, and diagrams or images you want to include.

The last thing you should do is purchase lesson plans and just read through them in an attempt to memorize them.

While the short term goal is to help you pass the checkride, what we really want is to create effective flight instructors who know the material backwards and forwards.

We’ve found that writing your own lesson plans is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that goal.

Practice with Everyone

As you’re writing your lesson plans, practice them repeatedly. Teach your dog, your brother, your parents, your roommate, fellow CFI academy students, even current CFIs.

Anyone that will give you some time to listen can help you prepare.

During your CFI academy it’s a great idea to find one or two people to partner up so you can teach one another your lesson plans.

Preparing lesson plans and then hearing them taught over and over again by your partners will really help solidify the info in your head and make it easier to recall during your CFI checkride.

If possible, you should also try to practice at least one or two lessons with an experienced CFI. Since they’ve actually worked with multiple students they can help you identify any holes in your lesson plans and help you improve them overall.

During your CFI academy you’ll work with an instructor who you will help you practice teaching but it can be a good idea to get a second opinion from yet another CFI.

Understand How People Learn

One aspect of the CFI academy is learning about how people learn. Much of this material is covered during your CFI checkride but it can be easy to overlook while focusing on your own flying and making sure you’ve prepared & practiced your lesson plans.

During the academy take the time to really understand the material. Don’t merely memorize acronyms and facts. Truly understand what it means and how you can tailor your teaching to different types of students.

While this may not help as much with passing the checkride, this will help you become an excellent teacher and that’s the true goal of a good CFI academy.

As you come to understand how people learn you’ll begin to pick up on what techniques work with each student. You’ll be able to modify your lesson plans effectively and you’ll see your students begin to progress more rapidly.

Understanding these principles of learning, won’t just take place during your CFI academy. As you work with more and more people, your level of experience will increase and absolutely help you become a more effective teacher, but only if you work at it.

If your searching for a good CFI academy to get you ready for your CFI checkride give us a call today and we can tell you more about our program and why you should join us in Addison, TX!

After a sizable investment of both time and money you’ve finally become a pilot and obtained your commercial rating and are ready to earn some income as a pilot.

Unfortunately, the number of jobs available to low hour pilots is rather small.

One of the most common however, is that of flight instructor. When I first learned that most flight instructors were rather new pilots themselves I was rather shocked.

Shouldn’t someone with a few thousand hours of flight time be the one to teach me to fly?

But when you step back for a moment, it makes quite a bit of sense. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” I’ve found this is absolutely true.

else, it becomes solidified in our own mind. (This has been dubbed the “protege effect,” – students who teach, score higher on tests than students learning only for their own sake)

But becoming a certified flight instructor is no easy task. It takes considerable effort and there’s a few requirements you’ll need to meet before you can become one.

In this article we’ll walk you through the requirements you’ll need to meet along with some tips on working through a certified flight instructor academy and passing your checkride.

Certified Flight Instructor Requirements

Before you pursue your CFI rating make sure you’ve met these requirements:

  • Have logged at least 250 hours (or 190 hours Part 141) total time.
  • Hold a Commercial Pilot Certificate or ATP (ASEL or AMEL) with Instrument Rating.
  • Hold a valid FAA 3rd Class Medical Certificate (or higher).

If you’re pursuing a CFI Sport these are the requirements:

  • 100 hours of flight time as PIC of a powered aircraft
  • 50 hours of flight time in airplane category
  • 25 hours of cross-country flight time
  • 10 hours of cross-country flight time in airplane category
  • 15 hours of flight time as PIC in airplane category that is Light-Sport aircraft

With these requirements met, you’ll need to then attend a CFI academy. Many flight schools offer these academies on a monthly or bi monthly basis. A good CFI academy will teach you how to teach students and give you a strong teaching foundation for you to build on.

The academy will also prepare you for the FAA checkride.

Now, before we dig into an academy we should note, a CFI academy isn’t required. You can do instruction one-on-one with an instructor but it typically takes longer and costs more because you aren’t splitting the cost of ground instruction with an entire class.

Choosing a CFI Academy

If the school where you’ve done most of your training offers a CFI academy you may want to consider going there, however, it doesn’t hurt to shop around. The best thing to do is talk to different flight instructors.

See where they went and find out if they recommend it. You can also jump on the local aviation Facebook group to see if anyone there has any recommendations.

To help you prepare to become an instructor, look for a reputable school who is know for turning out proficient and effective flight instructors.

Do They Hire Instructors from Their Academies

If you’re going to be looking for a job once your done, you may want to find out if the school hires instructors from the pool of graduating students. If they do, you may be able to land a job as soon as you finish.

As you evaluate CFI academies don’t be afraid to ask to see a syllabus. You may also be able to audit a class for an hour one day to see how you like it.

While this may not seem important to you, I also like academies that are taught by multiple people. Since CFI academies last for 2-4 weeks typically, listening to the same person that entire time can get a little dull.

What to Expect in Your CFI Academy

Most CFI academies are structured such that you spend a portion of the day in class and a portion of the day flying. Depending on the size of the school and the class, you may not fly every day.

On days when you don’t fly you should spend the extra time writing and practicing your lesson plans.

In your CFI academy you’ll learn how to teach various materials, review FAA guidelines, and practice instructing. One thing many CFI students aren’t prepared for, is how much time you spend talking about how people learn.

Consider the academy a crash course in a teaching degree. While this may seem odd, it’s important as a flight instructor to understand how your students learn and how to cater your teaching style to each student.

How to Do Well In Your CFI Academy

Here at Thrust Flight we’ve seen many students pass through our academy. In each class, there’s a clear distinction between those who perform well and those who struggle.

The most successful students start the class prepared. They’ve studied the material and are ready to teach it. Successful students also make the time to create their own lesson plans.

It’s easy to buy pre-made lesson plans, however, if you truly want to succeed as a flight instructor you need to create your own lesson plans. Remember the Senaca quote above?

As you prepare lesson plans to teach a principle, you will gain a stronger understanding of it. This greater understanding will help you become a safer, more capable pilot and instructor.

Study Every Day During the Academy

In addition to creating your own lesson plans, you should also make time to study every single day you are in the academy. We have seen so many students who think they can simply sit through the class and somehow be ready for their checkride without preparing. Don’t be one of those people.

Practice with a Partner

Another great tip for doing will in your CFI academy is to find a partner to practice with. Teach one another from your own lesson plans again and again. Then critique one another and help each other improve and grow.

Few people will do this but the best instructors we have seen do so with great effect.

The FAA Checkride

At the end of your CFI academy you should be ready for the FAA checkride. During this checkride expect the DPE to ask you quite a few questions about learning.

Again, you need to have a strong understanding of these learning principles so that you can effectively communicate them to the DPE and so you can best train your future students.

For a large portion of the checkride you should expect to play the role of teacher with the DPE as your student. They will probably give you a large variety of scenarios which you must then adapt your teaching to fit.

How to Prepare for the CFI Checkride

To prepare for your checkride, you should role play in this manner with your fellow CFI academy students and, if possible, with current instructors. As you practice your teaching on other students and current instructors they can help you identify holes in your teaching.

The only way your teaching will ever improve is if you do it again and again, so get in as much practice as you can before your checkride.

Once you’ve obtained your CFI rating your ready to start instructing and earning those 1,500 hours needed to become an airline pilot. If you’re in the process of choosing a CFI academy right now consider Thrust Flight.

Our CFI academies have become quite famous with students coming from across the country to attend our 15 day program. Contact us to find out when our next academy will launch and to get signed up.

Every student training for their private pilot license will have to complete a cross-country flight. As part of planning that flight, you’ll need to learn how to obtain a weather briefing.

How to Obtain a Weather Briefing

The two main ways to obtain weather briefings is to call a flight service station and take notes on an oral briefing, or connect online to find weather briefing sites like, the Aviation Weather Center and 1800WXbrief.

Types of Weather Briefings

There are three types of weather briefings you can request: A Standard, Outlook or Abbreviated Briefing.

A standard briefing is requested for flights that are due to depart within six hours, and requires the following information:

  • Type of flight (VFR or IFR).
  • Aircraft identification.
  • Aircraft type
  • Cruising true airspeed.
  • Departure airport.
  • Proposed departure time.
  • Proposed cruising altitude.
  • Route of flight.
  • Destination.
  • Estimated time en route.
  • Remarks
  • Fuel on board
  • Alternate airport.

An Outlook briefing is requested if your proposed departure time is six hours or more in the future.

And an abbreviated briefing is requested to update an earlier briefing.

Each of these briefings will give you current weather information for airports along your route, forecasts and winds aloft.

What is No-Go Weather

No-go weather is when weather conditions are too bad to fly. What constitutes as no-go weather can be determined by your local flight environment and skill level, but here are some general no-go weather conditions:

  • Visibility less than 3 miles
  • Ceilings below 1000 feet
  • Crosswinds over 20 knots
  • Severe turbulence

Weather is a big factor in having a safe and successful flight, so make sure you take the time to get accurate weather briefings before each flight.

Whether you’re just learning how to become a pilot or your gearing up to become an airline pilot, knowing how to obtain a good weather briefing is an essential skill every pilot should master.

Whether you’re just learning how to become a pilot or your gearing up for a career in aviation knowing how to obtain a weather briefing is an essential skill every pilot should master.

My engine quit on upwind… what now?

Do I land straight ahead or do I turn around? The impossible turn. We’ve all heard the stories, the advice, and mostly the warnings.

The turn is so seductive in the moment, as I can personally attest.

Generally, the consensus is that you shouldn’t turn unless you’re above 1000 feet AGL.

If you need a one size fits all approach that may be a good one, but we all have different size feet. You must decide what’s right for you. As an instructor, I’m a firm believer in personal minimums. I help all my students develop good personal minimums, as most do. This includes personal minimums as they relate to the impossible turn.

Cover Engine Failure in Your Pre-Takeoff Briefing

For the instructors reading this, consider accessing the individual student to determine if a turn is advisable. If it is, under what conditions? Some people are better off pulling the parachute if the aircraft is so equipped or simply crashing strait ahead. The statistics say these are the more survivable options.

You or your student must be ready to pull the trigger: turn around or land strait ahead. It takes the average pilot seven seconds to respond in an emergency situation.

That doesn’t sound like much… right? Lets perform an exercise, count with me: one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand, six one-thousand, seven one-thousand.

Now just imagine that entire time your engine was not running and you did nothing to respond. It’s an eternity. You must be ready. A good pre-takeoff briefing helps insure that those seven seconds are more like two or three.

Should You Turn Around?

So what should you consider when deciding at what minimum altitude you should turn around? The list is long.

  • How proficient are you in the aircraft?
  • What type of aircraft is it?
  • When was the last time you practiced the turn? (More about this later.)
  • What is the head wind component (or tail wind when you turn around)?
  • What is the terrain?
  • How long is the runway?
  • How heavy is the aircraft?
  •  What is the density altitude?
  • How is the gear actuated if retractable (engine driven, hydraulic pump?)
  • Can I feather or coarsen the pitch on my propeller to decrease drag?

There are many other factors as well. This is why the decision is so hard. It is also why we must have a plan prior to taking off rather than making a hasty decision in the moment.

Practicing Engine Failures in Training

What is the first thing you were taught to do when you were practicing engine failures in training? Pitch for best glide… right? WRONG! If you have made the decision to turn around than you must do so without wasting any precious time or real estate.

I recommend testing this procedure. The next time you’re at altitude try this maneuver: Pick a heading and make a 180-degree turn trying to loose as little altitude as possible.

The best procedure for this is not pitching for best glide and making a shallow bank. Try pitching down 5-10 degrees (or more) and rolling into a 60-degree bank with the engine at idle.

If done properly and without hesitation you can loose as little as 150 feet. This all depends on the aircraft type and the speed at which the engine failed.

It beats the shallow turn every time.

Try changing the propeller blade angle to a courser pitch if your aircraft is equipped. Remember, if this happens for real you will loose more altitude more quickly as an idling propeller makes much less drag than a wind-milling one.

I know what you’re thinking: You’re recommending I make a 60-degree banked turn close to the ground? Not necessarily.

This maneuver is not for everyone and must be practiced and adapted for different airframes, configurations, weights and mostly proficiency. I am saying, that if you choose to turn around, this is your best chance for survival if properly performed.

Airspeed and coordination is key. Your stall speed goes up considerably when in a steep bank which is why it is necessary to insure you have a low enough pitch attitude and a high enough airspeed to keep the wing flying.

I have personally experienced a catastrophic engine failure on takeoff. I used the procedure described above and made it back in one piece. I also personally know many others that were not as fortunate.

I would never encourage anyone to make or not make the turn. I do, however, urge everyone to have a plan before each and every takeoff based on his or her personal minimums.

You’ve wanted to be an airline pilot ever since you first laid eyes on an airliner. The sound of a jet engine gets your blood pumping. You’ve watched every video you can find and are maybe even subscribed to a few magazines.

But where in the world do you begin?
The internet is full of advice:
“Go to a 4 year school- but no wait that’s a waste of money! Just get to 1500 hours!”

“This flight school gets you to the best airlines- but this school has the most comprehensive program! But this other school is the fastest…”

You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to figure it all out.

The truth is there is no one-size-fits-all method for getting into the coveted left seat. Everyone’s situation is different and what may have worked for some pilot on a forum may not work for you.

What is your financial situation?

The first hurdle everyone encounters when considering flight training is of course… money. Flight training can cost anywhere from $75,000 at a flight school to over $200,000 at a four-year institution.

Not a trivial sum.

If you don’t have this kind of money in your piggy bank, you’re going to need to finance your education.

If your goal is to get to the airlines at the lowest dollar amount possible, then an accelerated course is the best path.

The more frequently you fly, the faster you will learn. The faster you learn, the less you spend.

For this route, some schools offer packages that get you to the airlines at a set price (see Zero Time to Airline.)

These programs push you through in around two years. You spend the first few months getting rated through CFI, then spend around a year teaching others to fly.

The end goal is to obtain the 1500 flight hours required by the FAA to fly at the airlines.

While this is the cheapest path, you are required to commit all of your time to these programs, so working another job is not an option (although you do get paid as an instructor when you begin collecting hours.)

If you can’t afford not to work for 6-8 months, consider finding a flight school that will tailor a program to fit your schedule.

This takes considerably more time and will cost more in the long run. It also gets more difficult as you get more ratings to find a flight school that has the time or resources to instruct higher-than-private students.

One advantage of this path is, you are not committing to a single flight school.

You can get your private certificate during your free time, and should you decide you aren’t happy, or if you move to another city, you can get your instrument rating somewhere else.

Finances can also play into the 4-year degree vs 2-year flight school discussion. It’s no secret that the days of pilots needing traditional 4-year degrees are behind us.

More and more airline pilots are forgoing their degree and completing their training in 2 years. Doing this would save you a substantial amount of money.

However, if money is less of a concern for you, and especially if you think you might eventually want to do something other than fly for a living, having a 4-year degree is obviously never a bad thing.

Of course the biggest drawback to a 4 year degree is that word you’ve probably seen floating around in your research- “Seniority”. Seniority is EVERYTHING.

Starting in the right seat 6 months earlier could be the difference of $1 million in your 401k. So the 4-6 years that degree is costing you could eventually add up to BIG dollars. Getting in earlier is always better.

Which brings us to our next question.

What is your timeline?

Yeah, I know – you want to be called “Captain” as soon as possible, but there are often other considerations.

For example, a 19-year-old high school graduate has more time than a 55-year-old career-changer.

With the current 65-year retirement age, a 55-year-old would only have around eight years of flying for the airlines before he/she would have to retire.

This affects more than just how quickly you want to train- you also want to make sure your flight school has access to airline partners to get you hired as soon as you get your hours. That might mean moving to be near a school with great partnerships.

If an airline partner is impressed enough with a school’s students, they may even offer conditional employment as early as receiving your commercial pilot certificate.

This is a HUGE advantage (remember that magic word- “Seniority”?)

Airline partners should always be something you ask about when comparing different flight schools- it not only tells you that the program is sanctioned by the airlines, but provides you an avenue to a job through the partnership.

On the other side of this, If you are the 19-year-old, getting an airline job immediately may not be as important as say, staying close to family or finding a school with an atmosphere you enjoy.

What other obligations do you have in your life right now?

Whether you are doing a two-year accelerated program or simply training in your free time, flight training is a serious commitment. Other parts of your life are going to determine what you can and can’t do.

For example, if you are married and live in Denver, where your spouse works, then you probably shouldn’t move to Texas for 8+ months to flight train.

If you have a close relative with severe health issues, this might not be the time to begin a two-year, 50+ hours-per-week commitment.

Bottom line is do not commit to 2 years and $75k+ unless you KNOW you can do it. Accelerated flight training is a blast, the most fun you’ve ever had, but it requires dedication. If you aren’t in a place in your life where you can really dedicate yourself for two years, either hold off or train part time.

So What’s the Right Option?

The point is there are a LOT of different options. Asking these questions may not leave you with one glaringly-obvious flight school, but hopefully, it can eliminate a few.

Use these questions to help you with your research. Shop around for schools, check out their reviews online, and don’t rule out moving out-of-state for a short period.

Many schools offer housing options for their students near their training facility. This could save you time and money in the long run.

airline in the air - choosing a flight school

Most importantly, be honest with yourself about how you answered the questions above.

If you have any reservations, talk to some flight schools, instructors and anyone else who’s currently working in the industry.

If there is any doubt about when you can start, or if you’re facing an extremely compressed timetable, postpone to a time when you can concentrate.

Better to wait than to commit a bunch of time and money to a program you may not complete. One of the best qualities of a pilot is knowing their limits and being able to make responsible decisions based on those limits.

The best person to decide what’s right for your future is you.

If you are considering a 2 year accelerated program, Thrust Flight’s Zero Time to Airline program offers financing and an extremely competitive price. Our accelerated training can get you through your CFI rating in as little as 7 months.

We partner with the leading regional airlines that have great feeder programs to the majors.

We would love to answer any questions you might have about our program.

Call our Flight Director any time during the week at 469.480.2211. Even if you don’t think you’ll be flying with us, we’d love to answer any questions you have about flight training in general.

At the end of the day, it’s all about sharing our passion for aviation by making more pilots.

Becoming a pilot can be an incredibly rewarding and joyful experience. But when you’re first starting out on the journey it can feel a bit overwhelming.

This article is here to teach you how to become a pilot and give you a more complete understanding of everything you’ll need to do to become a pilot.

Whether you’re looking to become an airline captain one day or you simply want to fulfill your dream of earning your pilots certificate this guide will help you get started.

First and foremost you need to decide what type of pilot you’d like to be. Training varies based on the type of aircraft you plan on flying as well as the types of certificates you may need.

If you’re pursuing your pilots certificate purely for recreational purposes you may only need to obtain your private pilot certificate and instrument rating.

If you plan on flying commercially, you’ll have to work your way through a few more ratings. There is also special licensing for gyroplanes, helicopters, gliders, balloons, and airships.

In this article we’ll focus on the steps necessary to become an airplane pilot specifically.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot?

The amount of time it takes to become a pilot will vary from person to person. If your goal is to get a private pilot rating and stop there you could likely complete all your training in a month.

If you are trying to become an airline pilot it will typically take about 2 years assuming you are training full time.

If you do your training part time expect that process to take much longer.

How to Pick a Flight School

Choosing a flight school can be a challenging task. If you’re going to stay in your local area, you’re limited to the few flight schools close by.

If this is what you’ll be doing, consider visiting the flight school and talking with the chief or assistant chief instructor to learn more about the school and what it offers.

There are also a lot of aviation Facebook groups for different areas across the U.S. You may want to join one in your area and ask people for recommendations.

If you’re willing to relocate for your flight training, whether for long term or for a popular accelerated training program, there are many more options. Arizona, Texas, and Florida are states with some of the biggest flight schools since they all offer fantastic year-round flying.

When learning how to become a pilot, one of the biggest things to consider when choosing a flight school is deciding if you need a Part 141 or Part 61 program.

Part 141 and Part 61 are two different regulations under which flight instruction can be completed. Any flight instructor can train under Part 61, whether or not they are associated with a flight school.

Training under Part 141 regulations on the other hand can only be completed at schools approved by the FAA.

The requirements to earn your pilot’s certificate are the same regardless of which training you fall under.

Part 141 schools, however, must have each part of their curriculum approved by the FAA and they are subject to audits.

Ultimately, look for a school you feel comfortable with and which is willing to work with you on your timeline.

Take A Discovery Flight

Once you have found a flight school you want to work with you’ll need to take a “discovery flight.”

This is a basic introductory flight where a certified flight instructor will talk with you about the basics of the plane and then take you up for a short flight.

In many cases, once you’re up in the air, they’ll let you take the controls for a few minutes to see what it’s like to fly.

Airplane cockpit interior

If you’ve never flown in a small airplane this will be a new experience and will help you decide fairly quickly if it’s something you want to pursue (spoiler, you’ll probably fall in love).

During your discovery flight, make sure you ask plenty of questions to fully explore if this is something you want to pursue.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Pilot?

When Learning how to become a pilot, it’s important to know what all of the requirements are to obtain your private pilot certificate.

The most basic requirements to earn your pilot’s certificate are first, you must be able to read, write, speak, and understand English.

You must also be at least 17 years old, and log a minimum of 40 hours during your flight training with a certain portion of that being solo time. You also have to pass a knowledge test and your practical exam.

Medical Certificate

The medical requirements are perhaps the first hurdle every pilot must pass.

While technically you don’t need the medical clearance until you’re going to fly solo, it’s best to get it done before you begin flight training so you know whether or not there are any health issues that will disqualify you altogether.

You can see the list of conditions that FAA considers disqualifying here.

Please note, however, that these aren’t automatic disqualifications. In many cases, if the issue is adequately controlled you may still obtain a medical clearance but there may be specific limitations.

The exam must be performed by an FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner.

There are approximately 6,000 of them across the country so it shouldn’t be too challenging to find one in your area.

There are three different classes of medical certificates.

  • First Class is for airline transport pilots
  • Second Class is for commercial pilots
  • Third Class is for private pilots

FAA Student Pilot Certificate

Another document you’ll need to obtain before your first solo flight is your student pilot certificate.

You’ll apply for this certificate through the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA).

You don’t need this to start your flight training so once you begin, your flight school will help you with this.

The Private Pilot Knowledge Test

The first official test you’ll need to pass is your knowledge test. Your flight instructor will help you prepare for this written test but you’ll also need to do a fair amount of studying on your own time.

You’ll need to present a certificate when you take the test indicating you have taken the necessary ground instruction.

If you fail the test for any reason you’ll be able to find out what areas you need to work on so you may focus on those areas before you retake the exam.

If you pass, you’ll still be able to find out what areas you didn’t perform as well in so you can go back and review those things with your instructor.

The Private Pilot Practical Exam

The practical exam is your big final test before you obtain your private pilot certificate. This is an oral exam on the ground with an FAA certified examiner along with some time in the air testing your skills and abilities.

You’ll present the examiner with a variety of documents before the exam begins to show you’ve completed all of the necessary training.

During this exam the examiner will ask questions about aerodynamics, engine components, charts, maps, etc.

After you finish the ground portion of the exam you’ll preflight your airplane and take off. You’ll demonstrate different maneuvers and show the examiner you know how to respond in the event of different emergencies.

If you satisfy all of the examiner’s questions you’ll pass the test and officially become a private pilot.

As you progress through various ratings, they all work in a similar manner. You work with a flight instructor to achieve different requirements.

Once you’ve completed those to a satisfactory level, your flight instructor will sign you off and you’ll take the test with an FAA examiner.

Types of Pilot Certificates, Ratings and Endorsements

There are a number of ratings and endorsements one can pursue depending on your ultimate goals as a pilot. We’ll briefly touch on each one to give you a preview of what each will allow you to do.

Types of Pilot Certificates

Sport Pilot Certificate

sport pilot certificate allows you to fly small two-seater sport planes during daylight hours.

You can carry one passenger with you on these flights. A sport certificate restricts you to specific types of planes.

This certificate is ideal if you just want to fly occasionally for fun but aren’t looking to go on long trips or fly as a commercial pilot. It has the lowest minimum required flight time at 20 hours.

What is a Private Pilot Certificate?

private pilot certificate allows you to fly a small plane with a few passengers with you. As noted above, a private pilot certificate requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time.

With a private pilot certificate you can fly according to visual flight rules (VFR) meaning you can’t fly in the clouds. Once you have a private pilot certificate you can pursue all of the ratings below.

Commercial Pilot Certificate

If you plan to make money as a pilot, a commercial certificate is required. This certificate requires you to have a second class medical and 250 hours of flight time.

However if you are doing part 141 training that could be less.

What is a Certified Flight Instructor Certificate?

Becoming a flight instructor is often the first way many pilots begin to earn money as a pilot.

A CFI certificate allows you to train new pilots for their private pilot certificate or existing pilots for their commercial and even CFI certificates.

Becoming a flight instructor is often the first way many pilots begin to earn money as a pilot.

A CFI certificate allows you to train new pilots for their private pilot certificate or existing pilots for their commercial and even CFI certificates.

To become a CFI you’ll need to have your commercial rating, a class 3 medical, pass the Fundamentals of Instructing and the Flight Instructor FAA knowledge tests, and the Practical exam.

In order to reach the minimums required to become an airline pilot many pilots work as flight instructors.

Depending on where you work this can be a great way to rapidly build hours towards your 1,500 hour minimum.

making the impossible turn

Pilot Ratings

Ratings are an add-on to your certificate and can allow you to fly in clouds and expand the types of airplanes you are able to fly.

What is an Instrument Rating?

While pursuing an instrument rating you’ll learn how to fly according to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

This means you’ll now be able to fly in the clouds or in poor visibility conditions. It’s quite common for most recreational pilots to pursue an instrument rating once they’ve obtained their private certificate.

An instrument rating requires 20 additional hours of training with an instructor.

Multi-Engine Rating

multi-engine rating is another add-on to a private pilot certificate. As the name implies this allows you to fly airplanes with more than one engine.

If you’re pursuing a career as a pilot this is something you’ll definitely need to obtain.

Seaplane Rating

If you plan on flying a seaplane or floatplane this is a mandatory rating. The only prerequisite for the rating is your private pilot certificate.

It actually doesn’t require many hours of training so this can be added on fairly quickly.

Helicopter Rating

A helicopter rating can be added on after you’ve obtained your private pilot certificate.

While it does require a fair amount of time and training, it is slightly faster then just earning a helicopter pilot certificate as an initial rating since you’ve already gained some knowledge on air traffic and many of the FAA regulations regarding air traffic and safety, for example.

Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument

Once you have your CFI certificate the next step will be to get your CFII.

CFI instrument rating allows you to train pilots to earn their instrument rating.

To earn a CFII you’ll also need to have an instrument rating for your private pilot certificate.

To obtain this rating a CFI must pass the instrument flight instructor knowledge test and the practical exam with an FAA examiner.

You’ll also need at least 15 hours pilot in command time in the plane you’ll be testing in.

Multi Engine Instructor

As an MEI you’ll be able to provide instruction to students who want to earn their multi-engine rating.

To earn your MEI you’ll need time spent on ground training to ensure you know how to teach pilots pursuing the multi-engine rating.

You’ll also spend time flying in the right seat with an instructor practicing your in-flight teaching abilities.

You must have a commercial pilot certificate and you’ll need to pass a Practical test with an approved FAA Designated Pilot Examiner or an FAA Inspector.

Pilot Endorsements

An endorsement is another way to expand the types of airplanes you can fly.

It is essentially a sign-off showing that you’ve received the training to fly airplanes with specific features. Most of these can be completed quickly.

Tailwheel Endorsement

Flying an airplane with a tailwheel requires a slightly different handling than the conventional tricycle setup most planes use.

During training you’ll learn how to properly handle the plane through those differences.

It typically only takes a few hours of training to get this down but there is a minimum of 5 hours.

What is a Complex Endorsement?

A complex airplane is one that has retractable landing gear, movable flaps, or a controllable-pitch propeller.

With a complex endorsement you’ll be prepared to fly any planes with these attributes. These planes require a different set of procedures when flying which you’ll learn as you work with a certified flight instructor.

High Performance Endorsement

A high performance airplane is simply one that has over 200 horsepower.

Most airplanes in which pilots receive their initial training will have less than this, but if you plan on working as a commercial pilot you’ll likely need this endorsement as well.

High Altitude Endorsement

Another endorsement you’ll likely need if you plan on working as an airline pilot is a high altitude endorsement, which prepares you for flying with oxygen and pressurization systems.

You’ll learn the basics of wearing oxygen while flying, oxygen systems used in most aircraft, rapid decompression procedures, and other issues connected to flying at a high altitude.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?

Pursuing your pilot’s license and other certificates and ratings can be an expensive endeavor.

With prices varying across the U.S., we’ll give you our best approximate cost estimates.

Most instructor fees will vary from $50 per hour up to $90+ depending on what type of plane you using for your initial training. For our estimates we’ll assume an instructor average of about $65 per hour.

Assuming you are completing your initial training in a Cessna 172, your average hourly rental rate is probably between $120 and $170 depending on it’s age and location.

For your private pilot certificate you’ll want to plan on spending between $11,000 and $14,000.

Then for your instrument rating you’ll probably need an additional $10,000 to $13,000 since it requires about the same number of hours to complete.

If you want to then get your commercial certificate, plan on spending between $3,000 and $5,000.

However, there is a big caveat here. To get your commercial certificate you’ll need 250 total hours.

If after completing your private and instrument training you have 100 hours of flight time, you’ll need to build up another 150 hours which can be a costly endeavor when you are renting a plane.

Finally, to earn your multi rating, budget between $2,000 and $4,000.

While learning to fly can be expensive, talk to just about any pilot and they’ll tell you how much they love it.

When to Start Flight School

The decision of when to start flight training largely depends on your aviation goals. If the your goal is the airlines, you’ll want to start as quickly as possible.

The sooner you get through your training the sooner you get to the airlines and start earning money as a pilot.

If your looking to become a pilot and join the general aviation community, how quickly you jump into training may not be as critical.


While I tried to answer your most common questions, you probably have many more. To get the answers you need, send us a message or even give us a call and we’ll take care of you.

Our team is filled with passionate pilots and aviation enthusiasts who love to bring new people into the family.

Oh and don’t forget the flight gear you’ll need like charts or an iPad, a headset, books/study materials, and other items all stuffed into your flight bag.

Do you dream of taking to the skies as a qualified airline pilot?

Whether you’re looking for a career change or pursuing a lifelong dream, in this guide we’ll walk you through all of the requirements you’ll need to fulfill to become a commercial airline pilot.

Use the navigation to skip down to navigate to any specific section you’d like to learn about first.

The Pilot Shortage

Right now is perhaps one of the best times to become an airline pilot.

Currently, there is a massive shortage of qualified pilots, and airlines all over the world are looking to hire talent. In most cases, the companies are desperate for you to join their flight team.

The demand for pilots is largely being driven by the ever growing demand for air travel.

According to research by Boeingthe industry will need more than 804,000 new pilots by 2037. Airbus also shows an analysis that states it requires over 450,000 new airline pilots by 2035.

Every airline is feeling the pilot pinch.

According to 2017 data from the FAA, there were 609,000 active pilots in the industry. That number slipped from 827,000 pilots taking to the skies in 1987, for a 30-percent reduction in active pilots.

Retirements and tightening industry regulations are to blame for the current pilot crisis.

However, it means that there’s plenty of opportunities if you want to become an airline pilot. And you won’t struggle to find work once you’ve met all the requirements.

The current pilot shortage stretches around the globe. Markets in the Middle-East and the Asia-Pacific region in particular present enormous opportunities for airline pilots. Almost every company offers competitive and attractive packages for pilots that are willing to join their team.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Commercial Airline Pilot?

It may surprise you to learn that it only takes 2-3 months for you to obtain your private pilot certificate. After that it usually takes about 2-years to gain the flight time you need to qualify to become a commercial airline pilot.

During those two years of flying you’ll gain more certificates (detailed below) and slowly build up your hours.

Every pilot in the USA must have 1,500-hours of flight time in their logbooks before they get the chance to become an airline pilot.

What are the Medical Requirements to Become an Airline Pilot?

Before you take the necessary steps to become an airline pilot, you’ll need to ensure you’re medically fit to take on the responsibility. Here is a list of the qualifying medical criteria you’ll need to meet.

FAA Medical Ratings

The Federal Aviation Authority awards first, second, and third-class medical certificates to pilots.

The first-class certification is the highest rating.

Qualifications for a First-Class FAA Medical Certificate

  • Pilots must pass a voice test requiring them to hear an average conversation from a distance of 6-feet.
  • Prospective pilots must have 20/20 vision, or eyesight corrected to 20/20 with glasses or contacts.
  • Pilots must meet medical standards for cardiovascular and neurological health.
  • Pilots also can’t be colorblind
View out an airline window

FAA Qualification Disqualifying Conditions

The FAA has a list of 15-disqualifying criteria for a medical certificate. Prospective pilots with a history of heart attack, other heart issues such as a valve replacement, and any history of drug abuse disqualify you from certification.

If you have more than 3-DUIs on your driving record, then you void your chances of receiving certification.

Is a College Degree Required to become an Airline Pilot?

To become a commercial airline pilot, you do not need a college degree. It’s a bonus that many airlines look favorably upon, and if the job opportunities do decrease, having a college degree may give you a leg up.

Some common degrees pilots pursue include:

  •  Airport Management
  • Aviation Management
  • Aeronautical Engineering
  • Aeronautical Science

If you decide to go to college while also pursuing your pilot credentials, it’s a good idea to join the Air Line Pilots Association International, (ALPA) ACE club. Joining helps you start to build your network, giving you further insight into the industry, while making it easier for you to find a good job after graduation.

How Much Do Airline Pilots Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the average airline pilot earns $115,670 in 2018.

Airline pilots will typically begin their career at a regional airline as a First Officer. After a few years of work experience you can expect to become a Captain at a regional airline. Your salary will increase each year with a larger jump once you become a captain.

If you decide to make the jump from a captain at a regional airline to a first officer at a major airline you can expect to see a small pay cut your first year or two but that will quickly recover.

International airline pilots are the highest paid pilots.

If you want more details on pilot pay check out our pilot salary guide.

Airline at the gate

What are the Steps to becoming an Airline Pilot?

Step 1 – Earn Your Private Pilot Certification

The first step on your path to becoming a professional pilot is to earn your Private Pilot certificate. You’ll start in a single-engine aircraft, and your training focuses on learning the fundamentals. You’ll spend many hours on the ground and in the air with an instructor who will properly train you in becoming a pilot.

You’ll need to earn a minimum of 40 hours of flight time and pass an exam with an FAA examiner. It’s important to note while 40 is the minimum required, most pilots will need to fly more than that to be ready for their checkride.

Step 2 – Add the Instrument Rating Qualification

After earning your private pilot certification, you’ll need to qualify for your instrument rating certification. This qualification permits you to fly under all types of weather, and under the Instrument Flight Rules, (IFR).

You’ll need to achieve an additional 40 hours of flight time on top of the 40 to obtained for your private.

Step 3 – Earn Your Commercial Pilot Certificate

commercial pilot certificate increases your knowledge and experience with handling an aircraft and maintaining flight procedures.

It also allows you to start earning an income as a pilot. There are a number of rules around promoting yourself as a pilot so be sure to study the rules carefully before you decide to break out on your own.

Step 4 – Earn Your Flight Instructor Certificate

After earning a  CFI (certified flight  instructor) certificate, you’re legal to train other pilots. This qualification allows you to make a living from your vocation, while you log flight time to qualify as a commercial airline pilot.

To obtain your CFI you’ll need to attend a CFI academy where you’ll learn how to teach other pilots.

Step 5 – Add the Multi-Engine Rating

As the name suggests, you’ll need a multi-engine rating to fly airplanes with more than one engine. Since airlines all fly jets with more than one engine you’ll need this rating along with a decent number of hours.

Tailwheel airplane

Step 6 – Gain Your Flight-time Experience

All that’s left is for you to log 1,500-hours of flight time, and you’re ready to apply for your first airline pilot job.

What Is an Airline Transport Certificate?

The Airline Transport Pilot Multi-Engine certificate is the holy grail of pilot ratings. You’ll need this certification to fly cargo or passengers, as per the Part 121 and some Part 135 operations requirements.

Pilots who obtain the ATP certification fly at a higher safety standard than other commercial pilots and are in much higher demand by the airlines. You only need this certification to fly Part 121 and 135 operations, but it is now the benchmark for the majority of professional flight departments.

Jet Rating

Before you can begin actually flying with the airlines you’ll also need a type rating in the jet you’re going to fly. These ratings are done in simulators and can cost thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, you won’t actually pursue this rating until you’re hired by an airline and they’ll foot the bill.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an Airline Pilot?

Becoming an airline pilot is not a cheap endeavor. You’ll have to shell out a significant amount of money for your training and certification, with the majority of the expense occurring while you’re collecting ratings and time before you receive your CFI certificate.

Studies suggest that it takes pilots anywhere between eight to ten years to recover the funds they spend on their education, training, and certification, once they start working.

Female airline pilot in the cockpit

Some pilot schools offer programs that take you through every step of the certification and training program.

These schools typically cost anywhere between $70,000 to $80,000. Most of these schools provide you with 250-hours of flight time toward your 1,500-hour goal.

However, by this stage, you’ll be able to operate as a qualified flight instructor. You’ll be able to earn an income while gaining experience, and building hours.

At Thrust Flight we offer a Zero Time to Airline program that gives you a direct path to one of our airline partners.

By jumping in with both feet and training full time you’ll progress quickly through your ratings and the hours you need to be airline ready.

With our program you’ll be able to start your first job at the airlines only two years from the day you begin your journey.

What It’s Like to Be an Airline Pilot

A day in the life of an average airline pilot at a regional airline looks a bit like this:

  1. Show up to flight operations at least an hour before the flight
  2. Meet with the flight crew and begin preflight operations
  3. In preflight you review the planned route and alternate routes prepared by the dispatcher. Also review weather along the route and make any necessary changes.
  4. Then head to the plane and review the airplanes log books.
  5. The first officer will normally preflight the plane and load the route into the flight management computer while the captain conducts a briefing with the crew.
  6. Captain and First Officer will again review the flight plan and everything in the flight management computer. Once that’s complete and passengers are all on board they call for pushback.
  7. Throughout the flight monitor weather along the route and make any necessary adjustments.
  8.  Prepare for arrival by reviewing arrival routing and approach. Review any local rules (landing in other countries) and then land the plane.
  9. If it’s a short route the crew may prepare for the flight back or, for longer flights, they’ll head to their hotel to get some rest.

If you want more details read about a day in the life of an international airline pilot.

Inside of an airline cockpit

While the life of a commercial airline pilot will mean a significant amount of time away from home, you can still expect to get a reasonable amount of downtime each month.

When you reach a senior position with your company, you can expect plenty of flexibility with your schedule. However, as a brand new pilot, you’ll have to put in the hours to progress up the ranks. And you can expect to have to work some weekends and public holidays.

One of the best advantages of working as an airline pilot is traveling to new cities and countries. You get to broaden your world-view and experience the culture and people of new cities and countries.

As an airline pilot, you’ll get to feed your natural wanderlust and spend plenty of time exploring the nightlife and tourist attractions of the locations after touching down.

Regional Airlines Vs. Major Airlines

If your goal is to reach the major airlines, you’ll have to make a stop at the regional airlines first.

Regional airlines typically fly routes between smaller cities that the major airlines don’t service. And they generally fly smaller aircraft. Many regional airlines partner with a major airline. They’ll be painted just as the major airline and customers often don’t even know they’re flying on a regional airline.

As a pilot for a regional airline you’d work for the regional even if you’re flying as a partner for a major.

You’ll become a regional airline pilot first because they have lower hour minimums. After flying for a regional ailrine for a few years many pilots make the jump to the major airlines.

If you’re looking to make money and fly around the world, then working for a major airline is your goal. Regional airlines pay pilots less, but you get more flexibility in your schedule and more downtime.

It’s a personal decision. If you’re willing to put in the hours and don’t have an issue with flying into new time zones where you may experience jet-lag, then a major is your top choice. If you have a family and want to spend more time at home, then consider working for a regional company.

Becoming a Pilot through the Military

The skills developed in the military make it a smooth transition into the commercial pilot industry. Here’s what you need to know about how to become an airline pilot after leaving the military.

Do Military Personnel Need to Go to Flight School?

If you have experience flying planes and helicopters with the military, then you probably can skip the flight school training.

However, many airlines recommend that you still attend a flight school to gain experience flying different types of aircraft. You can also use your flight-time logged with the military to count toward your 1,5000-hours.

Obtaining Your Commercial Pilot’s License

Military pilots already have some form of pilot’s license. However, you’ll need to achieve your commercial license for the FAA before you can work for the airlines.

You’ll need to pass an exam at an FAA testing center, with questions surrounding the different types of aircraft, how to handle specific situations in the air and on the ground, as well as general knowledge on the industry and operations. Instructors will take you into the air to allow you to prove your skillset and knowledge.

Airline on tarmac at night

What is the Difference Between Being a Commercial Pilot and an Airline Pilot?

A pilot must receive a commercial certificate in order to be paid to fly. To receive your commercial certificate you must have at least 250 hours of flight time. An airline pilot is a type of commercial pilot but one with stricter requirements.

As you may have noticed in the outline above, most pilots achieve their commercial certificate fairly early in their career. Once you achieve a commercial certificate you can officially be hired to fly an airplane.

Prior to that you cannot be paid to fly.

Once you obtain a commercial certificate you can start looking for a job as a pilot. Unfortunately, most pilots still only have a few hundred hours by the time they obtain a commercial certificate so they’ll start working as a flight instructor. Other common jobs for lower hour pilots is airplane tours, traffic flying, and occasionally oil pipeline flying.

The more hours you build, the more job opportunities you’ll discover. Many commercial pilots will go their entire career without ever working as an airline pilot.

Wrapping Up – The Rewards Are Worth the Effort

If you dream of becoming an airline pilot, now you have the knowledge you need to start your journey. Put in the time and effort, and you’ll soon be taking to the skies as a qualified pilot.

If you’re ready to pursue a career as an airline pilot check out our Zero Time to Airline program. With this unique program you’ll start your job at the airlines in two short years.

We’ll take you through all of the required certificates and help you build up your 1,500 hours of flight time.  Click the link above or give us a call to learn more about this incredible program. 469.480.2211

After completing the commercial rating, aspiring airline pilots come to a critical fork in their career- Do I become a flight instructor or look for a job with low flight time requirements?

Because a CFI rating is not required at the airlines, some pilots opt to acquire hours through other avenues. This is sometimes due to having reservations towards teaching, easy access to alternative time-building jobs, or a number of other reasons.

But in our opinion, no other alternative has quite as many benefits as flight instructing. The biggest benefit is it makes you a better pilot.

1. It Makes You a Better Pilot

“Students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned go on to show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply spend the same time re-studying.” Source

You may be surprised at how many things you didn’t understand as well as you thought once you start teaching.

You may not feel very confident the first time but if you did it every week for several months you’d have it down. That’s exactly what flight instructors do.

To become a flight instructor you’ll attend a CFI Academy where you’ll learn how to teach students. You’ll also write your own lesson plans which will help you gain a deeper understanding of a variety of aviation principles.

And you teach these basic principles over and over and over, ingraining it in your own head more and more each time. You will be hard-pressed to find a commercial pilot, regardless of hours, that knows the basics better than a seasoned instructor.

Flight instructor teaching student in cockpit

You’ll also spend hours watching your students fly, continually correcting them as they make mistakes. With each new student, you’ll get better and better at recognizing common mistakes pilots make and you’ll get better at not making them yourself.

If you work at a good flight school, you’ll also spend time in meetings with the other instructors and your chief reviewing emergency procedures and analyzing accidents.

2. Instructing is the Fastest Way to 1500 Hours

This is probably one of the main reasons many pilots who are headed for the airlines become flight instructors.

The quicker you get to 1,500 hours, the sooner you get your seniority number. The sooner you get your seniority number the faster you can move up from the regional airlines to the majors.

In other words, the effectiveness of your time-building has a direct effect on how much money you make throughout your career.

This is why flight instructing is by far the preferred method of collecting hours. It’s absolutely the fastest pathway available to your average student.

If you find a job at a busy flight school there’s a good chance you could fly nearly every day of the week.

If you’re flying that regularly you’ll hit your 1,500 hours in no time. Considering most pilots reach CFI with about 300 flight hours here’s the quick math on how long it will take to build an additional 1,200 hours:

4 flight hours per day x 5 days a week = 1,200 flight hours in 1 year & 2 months

If you want to accelerate that and your flight school is busy enough you can get it done even faster:

6 flight hours per day x 6 days a week = 1,200 flight hours in 8 months

At Thrust Flight, many of our instructors reach 1,500 hours in less than a year. As a result, we’ve sent many, many flight instructors off to work with our airline partners.

If your goal is to become an airline pilot, we definitely recommend becoming a CFI.

3. It Will Teach You How to Work With a Variety of People

The above two reasons are quite practical. And easily the top two reasons most people become flight instructors. But there’s one other benefit we think most people are missing.

Working as a flight instructor really teaches you how to work with other people. At many schools, you don’t get too much say in who you teach. You’re assigned a student and you have to figure out how to work with them.

Student pilot and instructor flying

You’ll have students who struggle day after day after day to pick up the most basic principles and techniques.

As a result, you’ll be forced to learn different methods of teaching as you try to get through to them.

There will be times when you have to correct your students. When you have to tell them to buckle down and study if they ever want to become a pilot.

You’ll teach students of different ethnicity, countries, and backgrounds.

You may work with students who aren’t native English speakers forcing you to repeat and define many words as you teach them.

All of these challenges will help you become a better pilot and a better person.

The skills you develop here will undoubtedly help when you’re stuck in the cockpit for a 4-hour flight with an obnoxious airline captain.

Most people overlook these skills but they really are a huge benefit to working as a flight instructor for even just a few months.

Looking to upgrade your headset?

We’ve reviewed all the popular options for you. Check out our guide and find the perfect pilot headset for you.

A Bonus Reason: It isn’t Hard to Find a Job

The pilot shortage has caused a lot of problems for the airlines. But along with those issues comes some positive results. In this case, instructors are needed now more than ever.

If you’re hoping to fly tours or fly aerial photographers, those types of jobs are few and far between. It’s going to take you a while to get hours flying once a week at some points in the year.

But as a flight instructor, you could fly nearly every day of the week, especially if you work anywhere across the southern portion of the United States.

According to an article in the Washington Post, recruiting and retaining flight instructors is the number one challenge reported by flight schools. This is a nation-wide problem, and flight schools everywhere are hiring more than ever.

If you’re ready to become a flight instructor check out our CFI Academies. If you already are a CFI and are looking for a job be sure to apply for a job at Thrust Flight!

In the past people became airline pilots because of a life-long passion. Like teaching, and a few other under-appreciated careers, it was the kind of job that only those who felt it was their “calling” were crazy enough to pursue.

The hours were inconsistent, the schooling expensive, the training difficult and the pay not-so-great.

That is no longer the case.

The pilot shortage has created a rare opportunity for career-changers and those entering the workforce the likes of which have never been seen in the aviation industry.

This has resulted in more affordable flight training, the requirement for a degree disappearing, and pilot pay reaching numbers only attainable with 8 years of school in most other careers.

So how did all this happen, and what exactly do the changes look like?

What is the Pilot Shortage

All of this happened due to a drastic shortage of pilots around the world. Boeing predicts that in the next 20 years over 800,000 new pilots will be needed. This is the result of nearly half of the current airline pilots being required to retire in the next 10 years due to the mandatory retirement age of 65 being enforced by the FAA.

To mitigate this, a new pilot will need to be made every 15 minutes over the next 2 decades.

To make matters worse, hardly anybody wanted to start a career as an airline pilot after 9/11. That lull in trained pilots is finally starting to hit. Just as a record high number of pilots were posed to leave the industry, a record low number were entering it.

Despite all this, air travel is becoming more common and popular all over the world. Between 2019 and 2038, the number of airline passengers is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.6%.

Inside an airline cockpit

All of this comes together to create the perfect storm (or perfect opportunity if you want to be a pilot). More pilots are retiring than ever before, less pilots are staged to come in, and air travel is increasing.

In short, the airlines are becoming desperate for pilots. In fact it’s already hit the regionals hard. As a result the pay, benefits and sign on bonuses for pilots at the regional level are higher than ever.

The Opportunity for Pilots

The trends in air travel are just one factor that contribute to pilot hiring. Retirement numbers have a huge effect on the number of pilots that need to be hired each year.

Therefore, the increase in the need for pilots is often greater than the increase in air travelers. This is evident from the numbers that were being touted just a month ago.

Of course this number also has the potential to increase as airlines try to become more attractive to pilots.

Airline pilots are going the way of many other trades. So much demand and so little supply is turning this career into a viable high-paying job for people of all backgrounds.

Flight training financing is becoming more accessible to anyone. And major airlines no longer require 4-year degrees making it easier and faster to become a regional airline pilot.

If you’re interested in learning how to start, check out our blog post on how to become an airline pilot.

Landing. It’s the phase when the majority of aviation accidents occur. And one-third of all accidents in the landing phase occur in gusty or very windy conditions. It’s not surprising why crosswind landings can be very intimidating.

But learning how to master crosswind landings is an essential skill for every pilot. Here are 3 simple steps to help you nail your crosswind landings and get better every time!

1. Crab and Slip

Crabbing involves turning the nose into the wind so that some component of the aircraft’s thrust is counteracting the crosswind, allowing the aircraft’s ground track to align with the runway.

Slipping involves banking the aircraft so that some portion of the wing’s lift is counteracting the crosswind. The opposite rudder is applied to prevent the aircraft from turning and maintain the ground track parallel to the runway.

Here is where we find one of the biggest false dichotomies in all of aviation.

Pilots commonly fall victim to the misconception that crabbing and slipping are two separate crosswind landing techniques, and you must pick one to use when landing.

If you go online there are dozens of people debating which is better – to crab or to slip? This is incredibly misleading and couldn’t be further from the truth. With some notable exceptions, such as certain aircraft that are incapable of a slip, a proper crosswind landing should involve elements of both techniques.

Start with a crab into the wind so your ground track is appropriate for final approach. Adjust the angle accordingly until you’re just above the runway – about 20 feet depending on your aircraft – and transition into a sideslip to get right on centerline.

The transition should be smooth, simultaneously bringing the nose around to align with the runway while banking into the wind to counteract the crosswind component.

Keep in mind that due to surface friction and the Coriolis effect, the wind will change as you descend.

Aviation textbooks and study guides will describe it all in clunky terms like “downwind aileron” but really it’s very simple: your ailerons keep you over the runway, and your rudder aligns the fuselage with centerline. Your rudder and ailerons will always be opposite of each other when transitioning from crab to slip.

Mysid / CC BY-SA

If you’re not on centerline, simply fly back towards centerline then straighten your fuselage with your rudder. Repeat after me: get over the runway, then straighten out with opposite rudder!

When landing in a slip, it’s ok to touch down one wheel at a time – when facing a crosswind from your right main may touch down first, and vice versa.

2. Keep Your Speed Up!

This one is highly dependent on the airplane you’re landing, but in general, it’s very helpful to carry more speed than you typically would for a landing. Keeping your speed up and using less flaps or even no flaps can help keep your approach more stabilized in gusty conditions.

Students who train at flight schools who teach them to “always always always” use full flaps can be seen being blown around like a kite during gusty landings.

Remember to increase aileron inputs as airspeed slows! Control surfaces become less effective as you slow down.

3. Finish the Landing

When you touch down, you’re still not done! Keep your crosswind correction angle even after you’re on the ground to maintain complete control over the aircraft when slowing down and taxiing off the runway.

A Few More Tips and Tricks for Mastering Crosswind Landings

Don’t be afraid to go around and try again! We can’t stress this enough. If you don’t like it or you aren’t stabilized, GO AROUND! Plan for the wind, don’t react to the wind. Don’t fight or over-control the airplane.

For a standard pattern, you’ll want to keep crosswind correction technique in mind for each leg and continue to make the appropriate power and control inputs.

If you’re in the downwind and not crabbing into the wind, you could get blown too close or away from the runway, which can mess up your turn to final.

In tricky landing conditions, you want to set yourself up for the best possible approach!

The best way to master crosswind landings is to practice what we’ll call the depth perception triangle: Keep looking at three things throughout your landing: (1) the end of the runway, (2) the end of your cowling, and (3) out your side window.

Doing this allows you to master reading your airplane’s attitude and behavior in crosswind landings as it responds to both your control inputs and the crosswind. It’s something you’ll have to consciously force yourself to do until it eventually becomes second nature, but it will make crosswind landings much easier for you once you master it.

Looking for more articles to improve your flight abilities? Check out our posts on the impossible turn and how to obtain a weather briefing.

Talking with ATC can be intimidating…

…but these 6 tips for communicating with ATC can guide you in your journey to becoming a qualified pilot.

1. Make Sure You Are On The Correct Frequency

You want to be transmitting and listening on the correct frequency at all times. Write down all applicable frequencies and have them readily available for your flight. It’s going to make you much less stressed, and can save you from an embarrassing transmission as well. Be sure to have extra pens or pencils on standby in your flight bag.

2. Plan Out What You Will Say When Transmitting to ATC

Be concise when talking, and think before you talk! Follow this formula when thinking out what you will say so that you are always concise-

  • Who you are talking to
  • Who you are
  • Where you are
  • What you want

“Addison ground(who you are talking to), Sportcruiser 493SC(who you are), holding short of Alpha over Romeo(Where you are), ready to taxi to active with information tango.(What you want)

Air traffic controller

3. Anticipate What ATC Will Say

After flying a few times, it becomes a little more predictable what ATC will say, so use that to your advantage! Anticipate what your directives will be. This will help you listen and you will be more prepared with what you will respond with.

4. Read Back All Pertinent Information When Communicating With ATC

Let ATC know that you understood what they told you, and that you’re going to follow their directions. For example, your takeoff, landing, or taxi clearance.

Air traffic controller

5. Write Down Any Instructions ATC Gives You

Especially at larger and busier airports, you will want to write down everything you are told. Directions can get long and complicated at times, so the less transmissions it takes to get instructions to you, the better for ATC and for you.

6. No Conversations In The Cockpit During Transmissions

There’s nothing worse than missing out on a transmission and not being sure if it was meant for you. Pause all conversation in the cockpit when ATC is transmitting a message so that you are sure to not miss any transmissions intended for you.

For a more condensed version of this information, check out our youtube video below- 6 Tips for Communicating with ATC.

Want some free practice? Check out LiveATC and listen to frequencies at nearby airports.

The Cessna 172 made its debut in the world of aviation more than 72 years ago. Fast forward to today, the name Cessna 172 still commands respect and admiration among aviation experts and aficionados. It’s also one of the top choices for pilot training.

History of the Cessna 172

With the Cessna 172, you get almost everything you want in a plane. Whether you want an afternoon joyride, short-haul trip with friends, or you’re trying to build time, the Cessna 172 is exactly what you need.

Undeniably the most popular aircraft, the Cessna 172 is the most produced aircraft in the world with well over 44,000 units produced.

It was 1956 when the world first met this beautiful aviation marvel. With a foundation crafted from the 170, the Cessna 172 was designed with unique features such as an angular tailfin, lowered rear deck (which made it possible to add a rear window) the tricycle landing gear and larger elevators.

These modifications increased the plane’s popularity, with at least 1,400 airplanes produced within one year of its debut. Today, there have been more than 44,000 units produced, cementing the Cessna 172 in aviation history.

Cessna 172 Models

The earliest model of the 172 which debuted in 1956 saw a variety of changes and upgrades, including the creation of special variants such as the 172 Hawk XP seaplane and a proof-of-concept electric-powered Cessna 172.

In 1986, the 172 ceased production, after almost 20 years due to liability concerns. Cessna, a company established in 1911 was acquired by Textron in 1992. Production of the 172 model resumed in 1996 after the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 was passed.

Engineering efforts were channeled towards the building of the 160 horsepower 172R Skyhawk. This model was the first 172 which was fitted with a fuel-injection engine and had a redesigned interior and ventilation system.

The 180 horsepower Skyhawk subsequently followed production in 1998, aptly named the 172S Skyhawk SP.

Due to its multi-purpose capacity and robustness, the Cessna 172 remains popular. While there are other faster and more agile planes from competitors like Beechcraft and Piper, the Cessna is relatively easier and less expensive to maintain.

Due to its popularity, parts are readily available and nearly every aviation mechanic has worked on a 172.

Cessna 172 on the ground

Record Setting Flight in a 172

Robert Timm and John Cook’s names are synonymous with the Cessna 172. It’s hard to talk about this plane without mentioning the world record for flight endurance undertaken by these two pilots from December 4, 1958, to February 7, 1959.

With a registered Cessna 172, Timm & Cook took off from the McCarran Airfield in Las Vegas, Nevada, and flew the 172 for a total of 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and 5 seconds. This world record was done to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund.

Cessna 172 Cockpit

Where the cockpit is concerned, modern Cessna 172’s feature an integrated set of cockpit avionics, known as the Garmin G1000 NXi which included an all-new and improved graphical interface, high-resolution displays, powerful hardware, wireless technology, and increased functionality for situational awareness.

This information is displayed on two screens in the cockpit, together with altitude, airspeed, and geographical position.

Some 172’s also include a digital autopilot feature. This digital autopilot feature was capable of sustaining a steady rate of descent and ascent, consistent speed, and altitude ranges in a completely automatic way. A pilot had the capability of recovering from unwanted altitudes with just a push of a button on the autopilot.

Flight Training in the Cessna 172

Nearly every flight school around the world has at least a few Cessna 172’s in use. Many of the features listed above are the reason. The 172 is aerodynamically stable and easy to handle for new pilots. The high-wing design gives the student a bit of added visibility.

Another reason it’s popular among flight schools is the standardized components. Since the plane has been around for so many years, parts are readily available so the plane doesn’t need to spend time at the mechanic’s shop waiting for parts like other models may have to do.

Overall, the Cessna 172 is an incredibly popular aircraft for good reason. How do you feel about the Cessna 172? Let us know in the comments below.

In the US, a pilot license is issued by the FAA and allows an individual to fly a variety of aircraft. But let’s break down the specifics of the different types.

You’ve heard the terms private pilot, commercial pilot, instrument rated, multi-commercial… to someone just diving into aviation these terms can get pretty confusing. In this article we’re going to break down the different types of pilot licenses that you can earn as a pilot.

Example of a pilot's license

To understand this, it’s important to know the difference between a certificate and a rating.

This can be confusing- but to oversimplify it: A certificate is the pilot’s license, and a rating lets you do additional cool stuff with that license.

Pilot Certificate or Pilot License?

 Technically speaking, a “pilot’s license” is not proper terminology. When people say pilot’s license, they’re usually referring to a certificate- although it is used so frequently that correcting it is considered pedantic (but many pilots are pedantic.)

Your certificate is what gives you flying privileges. There are multiple types of certificates, each providing additional privileges.

Ratings to add to your Pilot License

Your ratings are endorsements that expand the privileges of your certificate. Think of ratings as expansions for your pilots license. Ratings “stack” on top of each other. Ratings are much more diverse than certificates. They include your aircraft category/class rating, “type rating” for aircraft over 12,500 lbs, turbojet or turbofan, and additional operating privileges for your certificate (instrument).

This may seem overwhelming, so let’s go over some different certificates and ratings to explain things a little more clearly.

Types of Pilot Certificates (Pilot Licenses)

In the US, pilot certificates are Student, Sport, Private, Commercial, Flight Instructor, and Airline Transport Pilot. There is also a Flight Instructor certificate which may be held in addition to a pilot certificate, but we will discuss that further at the end of the article.

 Each certificate has specific requirements, including hours flown, current certificates and ratings, and certain medical requirements.

Student Pilot License

As the name implies, this pilots license is strictly for students training to obtain further certificates. A student cannot solo without a Student Pilot Certificate. There are a few requirements in order to receive a student pilot certificate.Requirements:

  • Must be 16 years old for airplane, 14 for glider/balloon
  • Proficiency in English
  • Meet certain TSA security requirements


  • Only used for soloing during training for an initial pilot certificate (sport or private.)

Sport Pilot License

Sport Pilot is a certificate that allows you to fly a Light Sport Aircraft with a number of limitations. It is the only certificate in the airplane category that only requires a driver’s license, not a medical.

Typically this certificate is ideal for individuals that do not want to go through the hassle of obtaining a medical and only wish to fly for purely recreational purposes.


  • Must hold a Valid Driver’s License or at least a Class 3 Medical
  • 20 hours minimum flight time logged
  • At least 17 years of age (airplane)


  • Only fly light sport aircraft
  • No more than 1 passenger
  • Only fly during the day, and only under 10,000 feet MSL (mean sea level.)

Private Pilot License

Private Pilot Certificate is the go-to for most that are seeking recreational flying. You have far less limitations than the sport pilot license, can fly larger aircraft, and are not limited to just one passenger.

In order to acquire further certifications needed for flying as a career, you must start with your private pilot license.


  • At least a 3rd class medical
  • Be at least 17 years of age
  • At least 35 hours under part 141 and 40 hours under part 61 (What’s the difference?)


  • Cannot fly for commercial purposes

Sport Pilot or Private Pilot?

A common misconception is that the Sport Pilot Certificate will be cheaper and faster than the Private Pilot Certificate.

In most cases the amount of training and flight time it takes to become proficient enough to obtain the Sport Pilot Certificate is almost the same as the Private Pilot Certificate. So generally the Sport Pilot Certificate cost the same as the Private Pilot Certificate.

Commercial Pilot License

The commercial certificate is specifically for career pilots. If you want to fly as a paid service you must have your commercial certificate.

This is not the final certificate you will need as an airline pilot, but it does open up other job opportunities to you such as corporate jet, tour guide, crop-duster and other types of flying jobs.

Interested in what types of jobs you can have as a commercial pilot? Check out our blog post about how much pilots can make.


  • At least a second class medical to fly for hire
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Private Pilot License
  • 190 total hours logged part 141, 250 logged part 61.


  • Not qualified to fly for an airline

Airline Transport Pilot License

To fly for an airline, the FAA requires you to hold an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate.

This is the goal for most career pilots, and is the certificate with the most requirements. Typically if you are starting from 0 hours, it takes around 2 years to complete your Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. The biggest reason it takes so long is the required hours.


  • First Class medical
  • At least 1500 hours total flight time in most cases
  • Commercial Pilot Certificate with Instrument Rating (because of this, your instrument rating is not listed on your certificate if you hold an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate.)
  • An Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program must be completed.


  • Can’t fly rockets to the moon… unless you own a rocket. Then you totally can.

Note: If your goal is to become an airline pilot, check out our Zero Time to Airline program to get you there in 2 years.

Types of Ratings

Every one of these certificates comes with at least one rating (with the exception of Student Certificate.) On the physical certificate, these ratings state the “Category” and “Class”.


Category is the broad type of aircraft. Some examples of “Categories” are airplane, glider, helicopter, etc.


Categories consist of “Classes”. Each category will consist of their own unique classes. For example, in the “Airplane” category you have the “single engine” class and the “multi-engine” class, as well as “land” or “sea” class.

So when you combine all of this information onto the certificate, you get the full spectrum of how and what you are permitted to fly. For example you could hold a Private pilot license with an Airplane Single Engine Land Rating (typically abbreviated to ASEL.)

Type Ratings

Stay with us, this is the last confusing part.

“Types” are a section further broken down from “Classes”. These refer to specific types of aircraft. In FAA speak, a “Type” is a make and model of aircraft such as a Cessna 172 or Piper PA28. Under the Airplane category, you must receive a specific type rating if:

•The Aircraft is Over 12,500 lbs

•The aircraft is powered by a turbojet or turbofan engine

Type ratings are listed on certificates as codes designated by the FAA.

Instrument Rating

The Instrument Rating is one of the most common ratings that pilots get which expands your permissions as a pilot. To understand the Instrument Rating, you need to know the difference between VFR and IFR.

This isn’t overly complicated to understand, VFR stands for Visual Flight Rules and IFR stands for Instrument Flight Rules. It gets more complicated than just weather conditions, but for the sake of this article let’s just say that VFR is for clear, cloudless days and IFR is for overcast, bad weather days.

Your instrument rating allows you to fly in clouds (“instrument meteorological conditions”) and can be obtained with a minimum of a Private Pilot Certificate.


What do I need to pilot a Boeing 737?

Alright so let’s take all of this information and look at what a pilot would need to fly a common commercial airliner for an airline, a Boeing 737 for example.

The pilot would be flying as an airline transport, so his or her ATP certificate would certainly be needed.

The Boeing 737 is a multi engine land aircraft that is both over 12,500 lbs and utilizes turbofan engines, so a rating for Airplane Multi Engine Land is needed, as well as a type rating. The FAA lists the Boeing 737 type code as B-737.

So to fly the Boeing 737, a pilot needs to be an Airline Transport Pilot with an airplane multiengine land B-737 Rating. These certificates and ratings would appear as the picture below.

Example of a pilot license

To get to the ATP certificate needed above, the pilot would have started with a student pilot certificate to earn a private pilot license. Next they would add an instrument rating and a commercial certificate. If the training had been completed in a single engine aircraft, a multi engine class rating would also have to be earned. It is possible to start in a multi-engine aircraft, but this is very unusual.

Wow, thats a lot! What about something smaller?

Let’s look at a little less extreme example. What certificates and ratings would you need to fly you and a friend in a Cessna 172 on floats through the fog in Alaska?

The Cessna 172 is a single-engine aircraft, and since it is on floats it’s class is considered “sea”. You are not flying for compensation, so you do not need your commercial certificate.

Because there will be fog you will not be flying VFR, so will need to be rated to fly IFR. A sport pilot certificate will let you fly with a friend, but you need an instrument rating, which you can only get with private or higher.

So in this scenario the pilot needs to hold a Private Pilot Certificate with an Airplane Single Engine Sea class and Instrument Rating. The license would appear as the picture below.

Example of a pilot license

Flight Instructor

We have one more topic to cover, Flight Instructor Certificate.

To obtain your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), you will need to hold either a commercial or ATP certification. A CFI allows you to instruct students (obviously).

A common practice is to obtain your Instructor Certificate after receiving your commercial certificate and then instruct in order to finish the 1,500 hours needed for ATP certification.

Flight Instructor certificates are different than Pilot Certificates, so the FAA issues a second certificate to flight instructors. There are also Ground Instructor Certificates, which is yet another plastic certificate, but we won’t get into that here.


  • Commercial or ATP certification
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Knowledge received according to Part 61.183


  • To train a student in a multi engine aircraft or toward instrument ratings, you must receive additional instructor ratings, MEI (multi engine instructor) and CFII (Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument)

This article largely focuses on the Airplane Category, so if you are interested in other categories you will need to learn more about their specific classes, types and other ratings.

If you’re considering become a pilot, cost is likely one of your biggest concerns. Every flight student is worried about how much their training will cost.

Most pilots are familiar with the old saying, “An airplane is a hole on the tarmac that you throw money into.” It’s true for airplane owners, who receive frequent invoices from their favorite mechanic. But it’s also valid for student pilots, who are paying for both an expensive airplane and a professional flight instructor.

How much does it cost to become a pilot, you ask? It depends. There are many different licenses and approaches to aviation that you can take.

For private flying, you might just want a sport or private pilot license. If you are looking to make a career out of it, you need to start at the private certificate and work your way through the instrument rating and commercial license.

All flight training follows a similar structure. Flight schools provide applicants with a rough estimate of their total costs, but every student’s final number will differ. Along the way, students pay for the following costs.


Every course will require new textbooks, charts, and supplies. When you first start, you’ll need to buy some pilot gear, but that should last you for many years to come. This includes items like a headset, kneeboard, flight computer, pilot bag, and fuel tester.

Aircraft Rentals

Aircraft rates are billed per hour to the nearest tenth. Depending on the school, they may be billed wet, an all-inclusive number including fuel, or dry, where the student will pay for the fuel they use. Aircraft time is billed based on the Hobbs time recorded from the aircraft, which begins and ends when the engine operates.

The price you pay will vary depending on the type of plane.

Larger, more complex planes cost more to operate and are therefore more expensive. Smaller planes provide a better value since they can be rented for less money.

Flight Instructor Time

Flight instruction time is billed hourly, as well. You will pay for instruction time while you are in the aircraft receiving training, as well as for any ground instruction you receive before and after the flight. You will also occasionally pay for ground-only instruction to help you prepare for exams or check rides.

Cost of taking the FAA exam

Written Exam

When you take a written exam, you have to pay a fee to the FAA testing center. The fee is usually around $100, but it varies by location and type of exam.

FAA Practical Exam

If you do your check ride with a designated pilot examiner (DPE), they will charge for their time. Costs vary considerably depending on the type of checkride and your region. Generally, they are between $500 and $800.

Before You Start

Before you start training, there are a few things that you can get out of the way.

If you are not a US citizen, you will need to apply for approval to begin flight training from the Transportation Security Administration.

This process will involve getting fingerprinted and having a thorough background check completed. The total cost of the process costs about $230.

You’ll need to apply for approval before you can start flying (sport pilot or private pilot), before you begin an instrument rating, and before you start your multiengine rating. US citizens only need to present documentation to their flight instructor before their first flight.

You should also consider getting your FAA medical exam out of the way. The exam is performed by an AME, or aviation medical examiner. It usually costs around $100.

It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and get the more stringent grade of certificate, a first-class medical, especially if you want to fly for a career. That way, if any medical issues come up, they won’t be a surprise later on. If you are only completing your private license, you only need a third-class medical.

Ground School

Ground school usually describes the bookwork and aeronautical knowledge you need to accumulate to pass the FAA’s written exam. There are two ways student pilots can go about accomplishing their ground school–they can take a course specifically aimed at passing the exam, or they can make an independent study program with the help of a flight instructor.

Taking a prepared course is often the best way to get the ground school component out of the way. Truth be told, there is plenty of aeronautical knowledge left to cover after you’ve passed the written exam. The FAA practical exam for your license will also require preparation, and your time with a flight instructor one-on-one is best saved for that purpose.

With so many varying options, the cost of ground school can vary considerably. If you are paying your flight instructor for personalized training, your cost could be significantly more than the cost of a class–it will just depend on how much independent study you do.

It’s worth noting that you’ll be taking written exams throughout your pilot career, and the preparation for them never really changes. Written exams are required for all licenses (commercial, ATP, flight instructor) and additional ratings (instrument, rotorcraft, etc.).

The total cost for most ground schools is around $400, plus the FAA written exam fee, which varies between $90 and $200.

Student Pilot Cost

The student pilot license is issued by the FAA or one of their designated pilot examiners (DPEs). Once you have demonstrated that you can safely solo the aircraft, your flight instructor will give you their endorsement, which shows that you have the knowledge and proficiency to fly alone under some circumstances.

The actual student pilot license is free, but all of the training that goes into getting it is not. You’ll get the student pilot license on your way to getting either a sport pilot or private pilot license, so the real cost is included in those numbers.

Sport Pilot License Cost

The cost of a pilot certificate is related to how many hours it takes you to complete it. Flight training is always performed to proficiency, so the cost varies dramatically from one student to another. It’s all one-on-one training, performed in the cockpit and the classroom. All of that time is billed per hour.

The FAA sets the minimum requirements that students must meet before they can take the FAA practical exam. These are spelled out in the Airman Certification Standards (ACRs), which state precisely how well maneuvers and tasks must be performed to pass. Your flight instructor’s goal is to train you well enough that you can do those tasks safely and proficiently. How much practice it takes to get you to that point depends on how much you study and your aptitude for flying an airplane.

The total sport pilot license cost, including the minimum 20 hours of flight training, is estimated at around $7,000.

Sportcruiser on the ground

Private Pilot License Cost

The difference between the sport pilot and private pilot training programs isn’t as significant as you might think. The private pilot license includes more time learning about the national airspace system, flying at night, and flying cross-countries to other airports.

These are privileges that are more limited under the sport pilot rules, whereas a private pilot is allowed to fly nearly anywhere in the country.

The private pilot course consists of three different phases of training. During the pre-solo phase, you learn what you need to fly the plane safely. That training culminates in your first flight alone around the traffic pattern.

You then move into the cross-country phase of training to learn more about navigation and moving between airports. The last part of the course is practical exam preparation, where you bring all of these skills together and master them. It culminates in your checkride, a two-part practical exam. You’ll have an oral question and answer session, followed by a flight test in the plane.

Like sport pilot candidates, students who begin with the private pilot course can spend radically different amounts of time and money getting the license.

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) say that the minimum time you can get a private pilot certificate is 35 hours under Part 141 training or 40 hours under Part 61 (Learn the difference between Part 141 and Part 61). But the national average is closer to 70 hours, indicating that most pilots will take substantially longer than the regulatory minimums.

The minimum private pilot license cost, including 35 hours of flight training, is around $12,000.

Cessna 172 in the air

Instrument Rating Cost

The instrument rating course follows the same general schedule that the private pilot did.

You need to complete a written exam, and many pilots choose to attend a formal ground school to prepare for it. You must complete at least 35 to 40 hours of training, broken into a few phases. In the end, like the private pilot license, you must pass a practical exam that consists of an oral knowledge test and practical flying skills checkride.

One benefit of the instrument rating is that you can accomplish quite a lot of the training in a flight simulator. Modern simulators are full motion, with cockpits that mimic the equipment you take flying in the real world. Time spent flying simulators is excellent for a lot of reasons. Not only does it save you money, but it also creates an environment where your flight instructor can hit “pause” for a moment to explain things thoroughly. And of course, you can train for dangerous scenarios more realistically in a simulator than you can in the plane.

The instrument rating’s estimated total cost, including 21 hours in the G1000-equipped Cessna 172SP and 14 hours of dual in the RedBird full-motion simulator, is around $12,000.

Commercial Pilot Cost

Two types of pilots look to upgrade their licenses to the commercial level.

One set of pilots is going to school to become professionals, and they need to get the required hours to get there. They follow a curriculum, which will need to include another 120 hours of flight time, including 55 of dual instruction and 65 hours of solo time. These pilots enroll in a FAR Part 141 program to get it done quickly.

Other pilots may have had their private certificates for a while and been using them. Maybe they own an airplane, or they rent and fly regularly. These pilots can get their commercial pilot license under FAR Part 61 when they get 250 hours of total time in their logbook. When they have around 200 hours, they should talk to a flight instructor and make a plan.

How much does it cost to become a pilot with a commercial license?

The two types of pilots make it harder to say. With so many hours in question, a lot of money can be saved using the smallest, least expensive planes available.

If pilots are doing independent flying, they might not be interested in the commercial license’s overall cost. All it will take is about ten hours of preparation for the exam. They may just need to know how many hours they’ll need to finish it up under Part 61.

No matter how you begin building your hours for the commercial pilot exam, everyone ends it at the same place–in the cockpit of a complex aircraft. Your initial commercial license test must be in a complex airplane.

A complex plane is one with retractable landing gear, an adjustable-pitch propeller, and flaps. You must have about ten hours in such an aircraft, so these are usually the ten hours right before your checkride.

The estimated total commercial pilot license cost is about $24,000. The exact makeup of the sorts of training flights you need to accomplish to fulfill the regulations vary considerably, so make sure you work closely with a flight instructor when you get to this point.

Fly turboprop planes with a high performance rating

Multiengine Rating Cost

multiengine rating can be added to any grade of pilot certificate–private, commercial, or ATP. Most pilots opt to get it with their initial commercial license or as an add-on after that.

The rating is one of the fastest, easiest, and most fun you can get. Flying a twin is exhilarating after you’ve been flying in a single. The climb rate, higher altitudes, and all-around better performance will bring a smile to your face.

The course includes roughly ten hours of dual instruction in a multiengine airplane. Only about five hours of ground instruction is needed to bring you up to speed on the new airplane’s systems and some multiengine aerodynamics.

The estimated total cost of the multiengine rating, with ten hours in the Beechcraft Duchess, is about $5,000.

Flight Instructor Cost

The flight instructor course is one that mostly revolves around ground training. There are no new maneuvers or airplane systems to learn, but you will be expected to know the material you have learned well enough to teach it to someone else.

There are two written exams required for the CFI course. The Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) is an exam about basic teaching techniques, introductory learner psychology, communication, and how to structure lessons and a curriculum. The Flight Instructor-Airplane exam looks a lot like the commercial pilot aeronautical knowledge exam.

Everything else about the flight instructor course is about setting you up to teach. You learn how to fly from the right seat of the cockpit, and you must know the maneuvers well enough to perform them while explaining them.

The total flight time required is usually around ten hours. You may have to do spin training if you are getting the single-engine airplane rating.

Every CFI will tell you that flying is the easiest part of the flight instructor course. Oral exams for this license are usually very thorough. You will be asked to prepare an entire ground lesson and teach it to the examiner, and you will need to show a commercial pilot-level of knowledge for all areas that you are asked to perform.

There are different ratings on the flight instructor certificate. If you intend to keep teaching, the flight instructor-instrument rating is worthwhile. The course and prep are similar in cost and time as the initial CFI, but there will be less groundwork prep since you will not have to retake the FOI.

The estimated total cost of a CFI training course is around $4,000.

Become an airline pilot with an ATP rating

Airline Transport Pilot Cost

To qualify to become an airline transport pilot (ATP), you must have accrued 1,500 hours of total flying time. Few people pay for all of that time; the ATP is usually a license that working professionals get after they’re already well into their careers.

Remember, there are lots of jobs in the aviation world that only require a commercial pilot license.

You only need an ATP to work for an airline. Many copilot jobs, banner towing, sightseeing flights, survey flying, or flight instruction all only need a commercial. Most pilots build their time up to 1,500 hours by working other jobs, and then they get the ATP as the next step in their careers.

The actual cost of getting the ATP isn’t that great because the flight training is pretty simple.

Any pilot who has built up 1,500 flying hours is likely to be reasonably experienced. Most ATP applicants need less than 20 hours of flight training to get themselves ready for the checkride. Pilots who do not do a lot of instrument flying may need a little more time since the ATP is heavily an instrument-flying checkride.

The written exam is another matter. The ATP written is difficult, but most pilots find success with independent study programs and the occasional check-in with their flight instructors.

One of the most challenging parts of being a CFI is also one of the things that flight instructor training doesn’t prepare you for—dealing with the constant flow of students.

It’s incredible how quickly a full flight schedule can make you feel like you’re falling behind. The more flying you do, the more recordkeeping and notes you’ll have to take.

The only way to keep your head above water is to develop a system that works for you, one that you’ll stick with.

6 Tips for CFI Organization

Lesson Plans for the Real-World

Lesson plans are discussed at length in CFI training, but real-world lesson plan use is different than what is usually taught. Nearly every flight school has a curriculum set up, so all the flight instructor has to do is follow it. FAR Part 141 flight schools have these curriculums approved, but even FAR Part 61 schools use some sort of syllabus, be it from Jeppesen, Cessna, or their own creation.

So you don’t have to come up with the elements of the lesson plan, but you do have to follow it. The closer you follow it, the easier your job becomes.

To keep you on track, you should have a print out of the lesson plan with you at all times when you’re with your student. You can check off tasks as you complete them and keep notes about how well the student performed.

Take Notes…Lots of Notes

The printed lesson plan page is an excellent place to take general notes, too. The more notes you take during a flight, the better.

If you’re going to move right on to your next flight student as this student leaves the building, you’re going to need to remember this flight or ground lesson later.

If you teach six or seven students in one day, that becomes increasingly difficult.

Sometimes, you might not see the student again for a month or more. The only solution is to take notes as things happen.

Notes from each meeting with a student are essential on many levels. On the one hand, reviewing your notes helps you remember what happened the next time you meet with that student.

Your notes also help brief other instructors should your student fly with someone else. If your student is up for a progress check, the chief or assistant chief can review the student’s progress through your notes and find areas they might want to know more about.

Your instructor notes provide a more complete picture of the student’s learning than the lesson plan and standard grading scheme allow.

Taking notes during the flight often makes students nervous. If you have to jot down notes, it’s probably not good, right? Their minds immediately begin to wonder what they’ve done and what the heck are you writing.

Flight instructors talking in the hangar

You can attempt to stop this from the get-go by telling every student that you have a terrible memory and need to write everything down.

Point out that you write down as many good things as bad, which is a good habit to have anyway. Once they get used to seeing you write notes, they’ll tune it out.

Taking notes in the air requires a little practice.

A kneeboard is good, but you often don’t want your student to read the notes before getting back on the ground.

Printing your lesson plans on a half-page printout and folding it over like a greeting card enables you to make notes on the lesson plan as needed and on the blank side for general notes, too.

Whatever you do needs to be quickly accessible in a crowded cockpit when under pressure, so keep it organized and tidy. Using shorthand or other abbreviations is a great idea.

Tidy Recordkeeping

These notes won’t do you any good if you don’t have a tidy system of recordkeeping.

Many instructors inherit the system that their school uses. But many schools only keep the bare legal minimum and leave lesson notes and instructor briefings up to the CFIs.

In that case, you’ll need to ask around and see what the other instructors do.

It gives you the flexibility to create your own awesome system, but it also means you have to do all the work of creating your own awesome system.

Leverage New Technologies

The tablets that many of us use in the cockpit have a plethora of apps that can help us take notes and keep organized.

One of the best apps is called Notability. It’s a simple note-taking app that allows you to handwrite notes and organize them into folders. Handwriting with a stylus is much faster than typing, making it more useful in the air.

You can also draw, add photos or video, and use it to annotate PDF files. If your school’s lesson plans are in PDF format, you can load them into Notability and mark them up as needed.

You can then type them out later, or at least clean up the illegible parts.

Tablets are great ways to stay organized for many other reasons, though.

You can download many FAA handbooks and publications to the tablet, freeing up your flight bag and reducing the time it takes you to find bits of info. ASA makes a great, searchable FAR/AIM app.

You can also use the voice recorder or video camera apps to record notes or student interactions, with their permission, of course.

Record them doing a maneuver in flight, and then replay and talk about it during the debrief.

flight instructor reaching into airplane

Tablets lend themselves to the cockpit exceptionally well. Popular flight apps, like Foreflight, give you approach charts, sectionals, and planning tools.

But the productivity apps that are useful in the classroom can also be applied in the cockpit by CFIs.

Plan for the Paperwork

Paperwork is not the glamorous part of being a CFI, but it is one of the most critical parts.

Most pilots have an open disdain for paperwork. It’s the closest thing to a real-job that they have to do, after all. And CFIs have even more of it than most pilots do.

The unfortunate truth is that most CFIs don’t dedicate enough time to doing the paperwork.

At the end of the day, you’ve got a mountain of notes you need to go over, and you need to organize each student’s records. But you’re also exhausted and ready to head home.

Most flight schedules don’t afford the time to allow a CFI to make their notes during the day since the next student is often ready and waiting by the time you’re done with a lesson.

So what’s the solution? A lot of it depends on your school’s scheduling policy. You can always maximize any gaps in your schedule from bad weather or no-shows by doing paperwork.

But you can also build in extra time throughout the day, just 30 minutes here and there, to make sure you don’t fall behind on paperwork.

Perfect Your System

Over time, you’ll pick up on exactly how much you need to do and when.

It’s essential to look at your recordkeeping as a whole system, one which gets completed due to planning and strategy.

If every student has a matching record jacket, and every flight has a form-based lesson plan with a notes section, it’s a lot easier to keep doing the same thing for every flight.

The key to making this work is to ensure that you keep the FAA, the school, your students, and yourself happy. The school and the FAA are worried about the legal minimums—lesson plans completed and organized, various vital records kept safe.

But you and the student should be interested in their learning progress and ensuring that you’re prepared for their next lesson by remembering precisely what they need to work on.

Flight instructors know that learning plateaus are a natural part of learning a new skill. It’s happened to all of us at one point during our training.

You’re progressing fine, until one day you just can’t get it. Maybe it’s nailing the flare for landing, or maybe it’s reading a specific type of performance chart (I’m looking at you, crosswind component chart).

Whatever it is, everyone else seems to get it except for you. It’s a terrible feeling, and you aren’t sure what to do about it when it’s happening.

good flight instructor should have a few tools in their flight bag for dealing with inevitable learning blocks. With the right techniques, you can guide your students through these rough patches and start making positive progress again in no time.

All students will have the occasional hangup every once in a while, but it’s seldom a cause for concern.

Set Realistic Expectations

The best way to prevent learning blocks is to set your students up for a positive training experience early on in their flying careers.

If you train younger, career-path students, they are far more likely to worry about their progress and compare themselves to their peers than adult learners.

But no matter the age of your student, they will have a learning plateau at one point or another.

When you first meet with your students, plan a conversation about the phases of flight training and what they can expect. Point out that they will likely experience a plateau at some point and that it’s a natural part of the learning process.

Your goal is to set realistic expectations and reduce their anxiety before they ever even have any.

flight instructor checking the plane

An equally important point of this conversation is to convey that everyone learns these skills differently and that it’s perfectly normal for some to progress faster than others.

It may sound a small thing to the instructor, but what you’re doing is laying a foundation for a positive culture among your students. And, in case there was any doubt, your students are comparing notes and talking about their flying when you’re not around.

Accept the Challenge

The first thing to do when you see your student plateau is to tackle the thing head-on.

Start by ensuring that your student has a positive attitude about it; you do not want them giving up too quickly or getting discouraged early on. Break the task, maneuver, or ground lesson into smaller, more attainable goals.

Remember the building blocks you learned in the fundamentals of instruction? Start putting them to good use.

Make sure they’ve mastered all the skills leading up to this point, and break the problem-making task into as many baby steps as you can. The great thing about smaller goals is that they can help you transition a level plateau into a slow and steady ascent.

Try Something Completely Different

So you’ve tried explaining it every way you know how, you’ve taken the controls and demonstrated the task, but it’s still not clicking.

Try turning the table and make your student play flight instructor. Have them do more talking, and see if you can find in the gaps their understanding.

If none of this is working, starting asking senior instructors if they’ve ever had this same problem. You’d be amazed at how one innocuous little tip can completely change the entire scenario.

If nothing in your toolbox is working, it’s time to step back.

Your student can’t keep going up and doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. It’s time to take a break, so skip the lesson and come back to it later.

Let them excel at something different to rebuild their enthusiasm and confidence.

You can even just take a flight for fun. If you’ve got a pre-solo student who just can’t get their landing consistent, trying taking them on a cross country for a hamburger.

Or just have them take a mini-vacation with a week off from flying.

Have Them Fly with Another Instructor

Flying with a different instructor is a fantastic way for your students to learn something new. Don’t let your ego get in the way here.

It says nothing about your skills as an instructor; no instructor has ever been able to teach every student everything.

flight instructor and student doing preflight check

Sometimes instructor changes are simply for personality reasons, and sometimes their just because you need a little advice on how to handle an individual student’s training.

It might help not to let on that the change is due to the learning plateau—but do brief the other instructor on the situation. Then tell your student that they’ll have to fly with whatshisface on the next flight due to a scheduling conflict.

You don’t want them worried about their performance or stressing about the change. You just want them to have a positive flight with another instructor.

Invite Them to Backseat

Another thing you can do is have them backseat with a more advanced student. If that student is working on the same task, that might be good or bad.

The purpose of back seating is to just get your blocked student out of their headspace for an hour or two. It’s not just to say, “See, this guy can do it!”

Let them observe another student learning something.

Probably the best scenario is if that other student is having trouble with some other task. Show them that other pilots have these same problems and that with perseverance and hard work, they will get over them.

What other tips do you have for flight instructors to help their students through learning plateaus?

As a job, flight instruction straddles a fuzzy zone between professional pilot and professor.

You need to have a flight bag full of goodies to do your job correctly. Some of that stuff you will have been carrying around since day one of your pilot training, while other things are new tools you need to teach.

Here’s a look at some of the supplies you might want to consider purchasing for your CFI training, which you’ll use every day while teaching students.

You can find a lot of flight instructor supplies lying around your flight school or FBO. Some flight schools have built up a collection of old instruments, classroom aides, and various props that instructors can grab when they need them.

Other times, you’ll be working on your own in an empty hanger. In those cases, you’ll need to think ahead and figure out what you need when.

An Organization and Note System

If there’s one constant in flight instruction, it’s the need to take copious notes. You’ll take notes in the plane, on the ground, before and after the flight, and during ground lessons.

The key to your success will depend on how organized you can keep those notes. Of all of the instructor tools you can have, a clean and tidy note system is the one that will pay for itself first.

Tablets like the Apple iPad offer fantastic versatility for flight instructors. There are hundreds of apps you can browse that will help you teach, both on the ground and in the air.

Notability is a great app that can help you organize your notes into binders for each student. Notes can consist of handwriting, typed text, photos, or video.

You can even make PDF templates to make all of your notes match the same format or your school’s lesson plans.

Most pilots already know about Foreflight and the wonderful tools it has for pilots. Foreflight has some great options for instructors, too, including route recording and having any chart at your fingertips. Since many of your students will want to use it, it helps to be knowledgeable about this app yourself.

Also, give some consideration to the power of your tablet and how it can help organize the rest of your flying life. Look for apps that educators use in the classroom.

Explain Everything is a great one. It allows you to create multimedia slideshows that can be projected and presented. During the presentation, you can quickly annotate, draw, and point to things.

There’s another great app that shows a wind tunnel simulator. You can put in different shapes and airfoils, and you can change the angle of attack right on the screen.

One of the handiest accessories you can have for your tablet is a high-quality stylus. Even though many tablets don’t come with them, they are available as an accessory.

With the iPad, most are now compatible with the Apple Pencil, but you can still find many generic styluses online for older units.

Some people don’t like taking notes or record-keeping on a tablet, which is fine too. But it’s still just as essential to have a dedicated note-taking and organization system.

Demonstration Props

As a CFI teaching students, you’re going to spend your time trying to convey some pretty abstract and complicated subjects. In the process, it helps to have something physical to point at and talk about.

For every lesson plan that you can think of, try to find something you could have on hand to relate it to.

Gyroscopes are a great example. It’s one thing to read about rigidity in space and gyroscopic precession in the book, but it’s an entirely different thing to feel it in your hands or see it before your eyes. How can you make that happen?

Pick up an antique-style toy gyroscope top. You pull the string, and with the top spinning on a book, you can easily show rigidity in space. Tap the side with a pencil, and precession comes to life.

Another excellent prop for the gyroscope discussion is a custom-built bicycle wheel. This one doesn’t fit in your flight bag easily. With a handle mounted on the hub that the student can hold, you can make enough force to surprise them when gyroscopic precession hits in a place they might not be looking.

Any airplane parts you can get your hands on, be it from real planes or model ones, are helpful.

You can use a small propeller from an RC model plane to talk about P-factor and washout. A small model plane with control surfaces helps show stability, the directions of motion, and types of controls.


You might already have a collection of aviation books, but it is convenient to have your references and sources close at hand. And while all of these publications are available on your tablet, having paper copies in the classroom is handy for finding things quickly while discussing with your students.

The most important books to have around are the FAR/AIM, the FAA handbooks, and your aircraft’s POH/AFM.

Old Paper Charts

On that same note, it’s handy to have a collection of old charts around. On the one hand, many students are no longer buying physical charts and relying solely on their tablets.

Their instructor’s paper charts might be the only time they get to hold paper examples, which is a shame.

You can learn a lot about a chart just by studying the publication in its entirety. When was the last time you looked at a chart and perused the legend?

Class D airspace

The new digital equivalents are outstanding, but for beginners, they sometimes don’t make a lot of sense and can seem ad hoc in their structure.

Primary instructors should keep a drawer full of old sectionals, especially ones from other parts of the country with features their students don’t see in the local area.

Flatland students will especially enjoy looking at sectionals from mountainous areas. Don’t forget to have a TAC and a WAC for reference, too.

Instrument instructors will need even more options. Like the VFR sectionals and chart supplements, instrument charts are best learned initially from the paper examples. Students learn on either Jeppsen or government charts, and as the CFII, you should have a set of both to teach the differences between the two systems.

Classroom Supplies

Some flight instructors use shared classrooms, while others use their own space all the time. Their preparation will largely depend on the overall organization of their flight school.

If space is shared, you should assume that what you need to teach will not be there when you need it. Bring your own supplies. The biggest thing missing nearly every flight lesson–functional dry erase markers.

If you teach from a tablet, you might want to make sure you have access to a compatible projector in your classroom.

A poster of the cockpit of your training plane is handy for chair-flying activities. If you can find one that matches exactly, you’ll increase your student’s positive learning between the classroom and the cockpit.

How to get a private pilot license

Instrument Training Tools

Never count on your students to have their own supplies, either.

It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them; the time will eventually come when even the best-prepared student has forgotten something.

For the CFII, it’s usually their instrument hood or goggles. Keep a spare set in your flight bag to save the lesson.

It’s also up to the instructor to have some form of instrument covers. There are simple suction-cupped rubber covers for steam gauges or cling-film covers for electronic displays.

Airplane Supplies

There’s an entire list of things that you may find handy to have when operating an aircraft as a flight instructor.

You’re teaching your student how to be a self-sufficient pilot, but at the same time, you’re operating as the school’s representative and as the veteran pilot onboard.

Some schools may keep their planes stocked with these items, but other places may put the responsibility onto the pilots.

Here are just a few items that you might want to keep in your flight bag or at least in your office.

  • Windscreen cleaner cloth and water in a spray bottle
  • Tire gauge
  • Manual fuel gauge
  • Fuel testing jar
  • Spare batteries for your headset
  • backup battery for your tablet
  • A nice multitool with flat and Phillips-head screwdrivers

Instructor Go-Kit

Finally, think about the personal things you’d like to have handy after a long day on the job.

Think through some what-if scenarios. What if, at the apex of a long cross country, the plane breaks down at a distant airport?

It’s not out of the realm of possibility, and it might be a day or two until a mechanic can get to it. Should you pack a full overnight bag when you go on long trips?

That might be overkill, but if you’ve got a track record for this sort of diversion, no one will fault you for it.

Some in-between level of preparedness is likely sufficient. Throw a travel-sized toothpaste and toothbrush in your bag, along with some emergency snacks and a big water bottle.

It also can’t hurt to have sanitizer wipes and even a first aid kit if you fly in planes that don’t already have those supplies onboard.

And all flight instructors will benefit from a pack of gum or breath mints, even if you only have them to subtly offer your students.

What are your top recommended flight instructor supplies?

For the new flight student, the first flight can be an overwhelming experience.

Many students that come into your office may have never been in a small aircraft before. Even fewer have undertaken an exhaustive training program like pilot training.

What can a flight instructor do or say to put students at ease and help them get the most out of their experience? Here are a few tips to help you with any new student.

Take Time to Get to Know One Another

The business of flying an aircraft is a serious one. It’s even more serious when you consider how limited your time with students is and how much material you have to teach them.

But instructors and students have a close relationship, and that has to start somewhere. The most successful flight instructors are the ones that are liked on some level by their students. Contrary to the beliefs of some, flight instruction is a job that involves many “soft skills.”

This isn’t any different than many other professions. Even among airline pilots, crews usually spend a few minutes getting to know one another before getting to work.

Why spare the time?

Because you’re going to work together in close quarters for a while, and it makes sense to know who you’re working with.

For flight instructors, it’s essential to get to know a little about your students’ motivations.

Why are they taking lessons, and what is their history with aviation?

Keep an open mind and try to get to know them. Try to see things from their point of view, as a new person in a new place. What can you say that will make them feel that they can be successful here?

Perhaps most critically, the key is to understand how important it is to listen.

Tips for flight instructors

You’ll learn a lot about the person you’re going to be teaching if you take the time to listen to them. Knowing your student better allows you to find points of common reference and understanding.

Establish an “Open Door, Safe Space” Policy

You want your students to feel comfortable coming to you with their aviation-related questions.

Never put down students or make them feel like you don’t have time for their questions.

It’s one thing to say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” but it’s a more challenging thing to live by this philosophy.

It can often help to find some common ground with your students. Relating your experiences as a new flight student can be an excellent place to start.

Calibrate Their Expectations

Maybe the most productive thing a flight instructor can do on their first meeting with a new student is to set realistic expectations.

Incoming students do not know what to expect. Primary students don’t know what flight training is like at all. Advanced students won’t know what you’re like, or what the new school is like.

Set expectations in the macro and micro.

  • Ensure your student knows when and where they should be for flight lessons, and what to expect if the weather is bad for a flight.
  • Lay out the school’s no-show or cancellation policies.
  • And finally, make sure they understand how much they’ll be expected to prepare for each flight lesson.

It also helps to lay out what their flight training will look like overall. How many hours will it take them, and how much will it all cost? Try to answer the questions that they might not want to bring up right off the bat.

Some new flight students have done quite a lot of research about flying before they land in your office.

It’s important to gauge where they’ve gotten their information and how accurate it is. There’s a lot of crazy stuff on the internet, and as the paid professional, it lands on you to fix any bizarre ideas they might have come across.

Beware of Hidden Fears (and Airsickness)

Some students will come right out and tell you what scares them or makes them anxious.

Other students will not. But every student you fly with has something that they aren’t keen on, just like you had when you started flying.

Maybe it’s stalls, or maybe it’s talking on the radio. Or maybe it’s the fact that they get airsick every time they leave the ground.

As the flight instructor, pressing for the information isn’t the best tactic. If the student comes out and says something, talk it through and give them the facts. If they don’t talk about it, you’ll have to gauge their reactions to figure out what’s going on.

This is all part of setting realistic expectations and making sure that they’re comfortable telling you anything that’s bothering them.

Airsickness is the perfect example.

It’s an embarrassing situation for the student, who claims to want to be a pilot, to become airsick. It’s up to their instructor to put them at ease and to make them understand that many pilots experience airsickness in the beginning.

It’s also up to their instructor to help them mitigate its effects and help them overcome it. Furthermore, it’s up to their instructor to minimize any uneasiness or embarrassment they feel about it.

Tips for CFI's and new students

Be Supportive

Flight instructors have a role to play in the lives of their flight students.

They not only teach them how to fly a plane, but they also teach them how to be pilots. Instructors are mentors and role models.

It’s up to instructors to make sure their students fly safely, and many of the habits learned in early training will stick with them for years. Some will last a lifetime.

But instructors are also coaches. You have to show them how to study and what to study. Give them tips for success, like the things that helped you get through your training.

On their first lesson, spend time going over all of the resources available to them.

Walk them through the school’s syllabus and flight lessons, as well as all of their textbooks and supplies.

Then show them any websites you think might help them. Are there any student groups at your school? Is there any tutoring available? Make sure they’re aware of all the opportunities available to them at the school.

Remember the Law of Primacy

On the first flight, a new student’s attention is being diverted everywhere.

Since they aren’t used to the environment, they don’t know what to focus on. The result is an overwhelming, tiring experience. Remember how tired you felt after your first flight lessons?

Very little of what you say on day one will be remembered, so keep it short and sweet.

But above all, remember how hard it is to untrain bad habits. In your flight instructor academy, you learned about the Law of Primacy.

It states that things learned first make the most powerful impressions. From day one, make sure your students are steeped in safety culture.

Use the checklist every time, do a thorough pre-flight, and follow your company OpSecs to the letter. In other words, make a good impression.


Flight instructors are many things–they’re teachers, coaches, role models, and mentors. Sometimes, they’re good friends too.

It doesn’t always happen, but keeping your relationship professional and friendly keeps your student at ease and keeps them excited about coming to the airport to fly.

It also fosters an environment where they’re comfortable speaking up more often, which is vital in the student-centered learning process.

The first flight should be viewed as an opportunity for the flight instructor and student to connect. Remember, they aren’t you.

They’ve got an entirely different background, and to work with them, you’ll need to find a little common ground to build from.