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

Once you’ve picked out the best flight bag you can find, it’s time to stock it with all the essential gear you’ll need to fly. Every pilot has their own method for what gear they take with them while flying, but there are a few we think every private pilot should always take with them when they fly.

Whether your an experienced pilot or a brand new student pilot, there’s gear here you’ll use on every single flight. Plus some gear you may not use regularly, but will definitely want just in case.

Here are the top ten essentials!

1. Pilot Certificate & Medical

This one’s a no brainer, because you can’t legally fly without these. Make sure they are always in your flight bag.

2. Headset (with extra batteries if necessary)

This one should be a no-brainer as well, but always make sure you’ve got your headset with you before heading to the airport.

Nothing will ruin your planned flight faster than opening your bag and realizing you’ve forgotten it.

flight school if necessary.

Headset inside cockpit

3. iPad with ForeFlight and/or Sectional Charts

ForeFlight allows you increased situational awareness in the cockpit, and many pilots swear by it. It’s arguably the most popular electronic charts option on the market.

If you fly with ForeFlight, it can also be a good idea to keep a set of sectional charts as a backup in case anything ever happens with your iPad.

And make sure you keep your sectional charts up to date.

4. Kneeboard with Pen and Paper

This next one might seem “old school”, but every pilot should have pen and paper nearby to write down instructions and frequencies. With a kneeboard, you can have your pens and paper handy, and ready to go.

Plus, most kneeboards are built to hold your iPad along with a pen and small notepad.

5. Snacks & Water

Are snacks really necessities? Not always, but they can come in handy in the times you least expect.

A couple energy bars weigh next to nothing and take up very little space, and they can save you from being preoccupied with unexpected hunger in flight. Trust me, throw a couple in your flight bag.

Worst case scenario you don’t eat them and they’re already in there for your next flight.

Water is a no-brainer: dehydration can cause you serious physical and mental issues, and it’s not something you want to experience while 10,000 feet in the air. Drink plenty of water. Pick up a good reusable water bottle and get in the habit of filling it up before each flight.

If you’re a full time student pilot, snacks are definitely essential.

6. Charging Cords and a Backup Battery

If you’re flying with an iPad a charging cord and backup battery is essential. Particularly on those long cross country flights.

It’s a good idea to pick up a battery that’s strong enough to charge your iPad a few times, just in case.

It also helps for when you need to charge your phone mid flight.

7. Non-polarized sunglasses

Flying in Texas has taught us that sunglasses aren’t just nice things to have so you can look cool in the cockpit.

They are necessities without which your vision can be severely impaired when flying certain headings throughout the day.

Get a pair of good non-polarized glasses that won’t reduce visibility through windscreens or instruments with anti-glare filters.

8. Fuel Tester with Screwdriver

fuel tester and screwdriver is a flying MUST! It hardly takes up any space in your flight bag, but makes all the difference!

With a fuel tester and 4-way screwdriver, or reversible screwdriver attachment, you can check the quality of your fuel before you fly.

Besides the obvious reason, checking fuel is also important because you may get different fuel from other airports. And you want to make sure you have quality fuel to get you where you want to go

9. Extra Tools & Survival Gear

Extra tools can be a huge help in the cockpit and very handy on emergency maintenance stops. Many of these items are things you’ll collect as your aviation career goes on, so we wouldn’t consider all of these as student pilot essentials.

It’s always a good idea to keep a pocket knife or multitool on you, and we also recommend keeping extra oil and some microfiber towels in the aircraft as well.

You’ll also want to be sure you have a good flashlight. You can check out our guide on the best flashlights for pilots to help you find a good one.

It can’t hurt to also have a barf bag handy… for your passengers, of course!

How much or how little survival gear to keep in your flight bag is up to you, but it’s a good idea to at least bring some basic items like a compass and a first aid kit.

Nobody wants to think of the possibility of needing these items, but to be a truly safe pilot you have to plan for the unthinkable.

If you commonly fly over bodies of water, consider getting a water-activated emergency light or beacon.

If you fly at high altitudes, look into getting a pulse oximeter.

There are countless survival items designed specifically for pilots that have saved lives.

Do yourself a big favor and research some of these items. Decide which are necessary for you, keep them with you, and hope you never have to use them.


And there you have it! Our top ten flight bag essentials! Now it’s important to remember, just like no two pilots are the same, no two flight bags are the same!

Just getting started on your journey to becoming a pilot? Check out our guide on how to become a pilot.

And if you’re headed out on an extra long trip be sure to bring along one of these top aviation books every pilot should read.

What other gear do you recommend as student pilot essentials?

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!

We tend to put our attention on the “now”, living our lives day to day, focused on what our next goal is, or the current problem in front of us. So looking back at the end of the year, it’s often surprising how much has happened. We’d like to share with our followers a look at 4 big milestones that have happened at Thrust Flight in 2019.

Won AOPA Distinguished School of the Year

With the help of our students, Thrust Flight was honored to be the only flight school at Addison Airport to be recognized in 2019 by AOPA as a Distinguished Flight School of the Year. Coupled with that, our Academy Director Bob Choate was the only instructor at Addison Airport to be recognized as a Distinguished Flight Instructor of the Year.

This was validation of all our hard work throughout the last year. We look forward to rising to the challenge of bringing this quality to our students in 2020.

2019 Flight Training Experience Award

Expanded our Fleet

In preparation for expected growth in 2019, we added 5 new aircraft to our fleet. This included an air conditioned 2019 model fresh from the factory.

We are continuing in 2020 to add more aircraft to our fleet and will maintain our standards when it comes to having the best quality aircraft we can provide for our students.

Monthly CFI Academies

In 2019 demand for our Academy grew so much that we were required to host monthly classes, doubling the previous years bimonthly academies.

Our academy, under the leadership of Bob Choate, has grown to legendary status in the aviation community. With over 40% of each class hearing about us via word of mouth, the CFI Academy has become the face of our school.

In 2019 we graduated over 240 students that came to us from more than 10 different countries. It truly has become a “World-Famous CFI Academy.”

Launch of Zero Time to Airline

This is of course the most exciting part of 2019 for Thrust Flight. In just 5 months since launching the program, classes are now filled through the first 2 months of 2020 and there are no signs of slowing down.

We are thrilled to have a projected 105-120 new ZTA Students in 2020. At this pace over 200 airline pilots will complete the full program and move onto the airlines within the next 2 years.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this is the pace we have managed to keep up. Our students in the commercial phase of the program have completed this milestone in 5-7 months. Nearly all students have completed private and instrument in less than 4 months

private and instrument in less than 4 months. And the quality of our pilots is phenomenal. Looking at the momentum of the program through 2019, we couldn’t be more excited to see where our students will be at this time in 2020.

As we continue to grow and expand in 2020, we will maintain focus on the quality of our instructing. Ensuring our quality does not suffer due to expansion is paramount, and we are excited to take on the challenge going into next year.

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.

Flight training in the age of COVID-19 can seem like a worrying prospect. We’ve received many questions from students and instructors alike about what they can do to stay healthy during this time as they continue to fly.

Below we’ve outlined a few practices you may want to implement in your own routine as you continue your flight training. We’ve also outlined what we are doing as a school to help our students stay healthy.

The CDC has issued a few general tips to help curb the spread of this disease. These include:

  1. Wash your hands regularly. Use soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds.If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  3. Avoid close contact with other people, especially if you are in the high risk group of people (elderly or someone with pre-existing conditions).
  4. Stay home if you are sick.
  5. Wear a mask if you are sick and must go out in the public (such as to see the doctor).
  6. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue that is immediately thrown in the trash.
  7. Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.

1. Before your flight

As stated above, if you’re sick do not go to the airport for your flight, especially for ground school. Call your instructor and let them know you are ill and unable to fly.

You’ll want to check with your pilot school to see what their cancellation policy is around illness. At this time, you’ll hopefully find most flight schools very accommodating.

When you get to your lesson, if your instructor appears sick you should one, ask them if they are in fact sick, and two, consider postponing your flight until they feel better or switching to a different instructor until they feel better.

Before you begin your usual preflight, take a couple of minutes to wipe down the plane with antibacterial wipes. Wipe down every surface of the interior you are likely to touch. This includes the yoke, throttle controls, seat belt, handles, etc.

After you’ve finished wiping down the plane use hand sanitizer to clean your hands.

2. In Flight Tips

If you don’t already, we recommend all students use their own headset. While rental units can be disinfected, we feel it still isn’t worth the risk of transmitting disease given it sits centimeters from your mouth. If you’re not sure what headset to buy, check out our article on the best headsets for flight training.

If you do have to borrow a headset from your flight school be sure to spray it with a disinfectant spray.

While the CDC recommends staying 6 feet from other people this isn’t really an option when you’re flying in a small Cessna 172. But there are still things you can do to stay healthy in flight.

During your flight if you need to cough or sneeze, move your mic, and cough or sneeze in your elbow away from the other pilot.

We have been asked about wearing a mask while flying. If it makes you feel more comfortable you are certainly welcome to, however, we don’t view it as necessary because, per the CDC recommendations, only those that are sick need to wear masks. And if you are sick you shouldn’t be flying.

Coughing in the cockpit

3. Post-Flight Debrief

After your flight, gather all of your stuff and then wipe down the plane once more. This is to be considerate of the people flying after you who may or may not wipe the plane down.

Once again, when you are finished wiping down the plane, use hand sanitizer to clean your hands or go wash them in the nearest sink with soap.

What we are doing at Thrust Flight

Here at Thrust Flight we’ve adjusted some of our policies in order to follow the CDC’s guidelines. While you may not be training here at Thrust Flight, we wanted to share these steps so you could encourage your own school to make adjustments if they aren’t already. Here’s what we are doing:

  • Increasing the frequency in which we disinfect our facilities – our custodian is cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly, throughout the day.
  • Disinfecting aircraft between flights – we’ve instructed both students and instructors to make this a part of their preflight routine.
  • Adding hand sanitizing stations around the facilities  – we’ve added stations in our lobby, near our classrooms, and in the hangar.
  • Encouraging students and instructors to greet each other by waving rather than shaking hands
  • We’ve instructed all employees (flight instructors and administrative staff) and students to stay home if they are sick or feeling ill.
  • Instructing students and flight instructors to only come to the school for their flights and to leave immediately after.
  • Conducting ground schools online rather than in person.

We recommend everyone stay up to date with local government announcements concerning Covid-19 in your area during this time and be sure to continue to follow official CDC announcements.

Do you have more tips on staying healthy while flight training? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

By Patrick Arnzen

“So much for that pilot shortage” is a headline that can be found right now on an article posted by AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which — according to their About Us page— exists “to protect and to grow the incredible privilege that we call general aviation.”

They must certainly have earth-shattering data to make such a sensational claim, considering their position as a protector of the industry. The pandemic has certainly hit the industry in a big way, but to put the last nail in the coffin of the entire industry there must be some sort of data, studies, or hard evidence to substantiate such claims… right?

Read for yourself to see: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2020/april/07/airlines-go-from-boom-to-bust

Articles like this can be found all over industry-friendly websites. Headlines such as “Should We Worry About the Future of the Airline Industry?” and “How Coronavirus Will Change Aviation In The Next Decade” are widespread and apparently they are getting clicks, because they keep coming.

The very groups whose mission is to help this industry are evangelizing false claims that echo the fear and panic we see every day on the five o’clock news. All this fear and propaganda have been generated without any real analysis and are designed to illicit an emotional response.

It’s time for everyone to calm down, behave like adults, and have a real conversation about what has happened historically to aviation after major events. It’s also time for the industry professionals to have a dialogue about the real health of the industry rather than outsiders telling us what our future holds.

I started my aviation career before 9/11. I worked as an airline pilot during the crash of 2008, and I own and operate a successful flight school. I am an active A&P IA mechanic and a Designated Pilot Examiner who evaluates pilots from Sport through ATP. I understand this industry. I have lived and breathed aviation for more than 20 years.

I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with some of the most talented aviation professionals in the industry.

Without exception we all agree: all of this conjecture is detrimental to attracting new talent to the aviation workforce.

This industry needs a positive message right now. But even more than a positive message, the industry needs a true and accurate message, a real study of what to expect in the future— otherwise we run the risk of artificially making the aviation industry look less attractive as a career choice than what is reality.

In no way do I mean to diminish the sufferings of those afflicted with COVID-19 or minimize the seriousness of a virus without a treatment. I am, however, saying that most of what I have read related to aviation and the virus is click-bait, pure and simple.

Here it is folks…the data. I believe all of you reading this are intelligent enough to draw your own conclusions from the facts highlighted below.

Two Causes of Reduction in Airline Travel: Fear and Economy

There are historically 2 causes of a decrease in air travel— fear of air travel and a hurting economy.

We have an example of each of these from the past 20 years.


Although one could argue that the decline in airline travel after 9/11 was caused by a weak economy coupled with fear of flying, it can be inferred by the market trends of the time and the number of air travelers month to month that fear played a much larger role (the market proceeded to go down even further after 9/11 while the number of air travelers steadily increased.)

US Travel Numbers sourced from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics

By July of 2003, the number of air travelers had recovered to pre 9/11 numbers. The fear caused by the novelty of commercial airliners being used in terrorist attacks only slowed air travel down for a few weeks, and completely returned to normal in 2 years.

It is important to distinguish the difference in the fear being experienced today vs the fear we all felt after 9/11. Our fear today is of a virus whose threat extends everywhere we go— grocery stores, church, work— this is not intrinsic to air travel. After the 9/11 attacks, the fear people experienced was related directly to flying.

Once consumers begin traveling again, it is safe to assume air travel will quickly return to normal, just as it has before. There is no inherent fear of flying in this case as there was after 9/11. And once regular travel resumes, the trend we’ve been seeing in global air travel can be expected to continue.

Total global air travel in millions(2019 is predicted not actual) Source


If fear of flying is not a concern, one other factor that could hinder air travel is the economy.

Dow Jones over the last 20 years

The Great Recession of 2008, the worst economic recession since the great depression, barely made a dent in the total number of air travelers. 10 million less travelers for one year in 2009, and then the trend went right back to continuing upward at a dramatic rate.

To summarize- it is a safe bet that more and more people will continue to fly after consumer confidence is restored. Nothing that we’ve seen in the past has slowed the upward trend, and this will continue. People WILL continue to fly.

What About Pilot Hiring?

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.

Pilot retirement forecast prior to pandemic– Source

These were the predicted retirement numbers prior to the pandemic. Recently, airlines have offered early retirement packages that only account for a fraction of the total future need for new pilots. Age 65 is a hard number for retirement, and the airlines historically have retired a percentage above the hard numbers listed above.

Think of the early retirements and lay-offs the airports have had due to the pandemic.

What does this do to the already inevitable pilot shortage once regular flying returns to normal? What will this mean when the number of air travelers continues to increase?

Consider the following: When the pandemic hit, the major airlines were about to lose a significant number of pilots to retirement.

This was anticipated and was not a major concern— the majors have an endless source of pilots they can hire from via the regionals. Because of this dynamic, pilot shortages are a problem first experienced and solved by regional airlines.

So when the pandemic resulted in a sudden halt in airline travel, the majors had an opportunity to offer early retirement to the pilots who were about to retire. Pilots close to retirement age cost the majors more to employ, so it makes financial sense to retire them early during a temporary lapse in air travel. After all, the regional pilots are always there when you need them.

But what does this mean for the regionals? They aren’t flying right now either. Hiring has been halted at nearly all regionals.

What many may not know is most of these regionals have not stopped interviewing and have continued their “cadet” programs at their partnered flight schools. I’ve seen this first hand. Thrust Flight’s regional airline partners are still prepared to start hiring as soon as needed. The regionals are setting themselves up to be able to hire a large number of pilots once people start flying again.

With all of this considered, a picture of our industry in the next year begins to form that is contradictory to many of today’s headlines. Once regular air travel starts up again, majors will hire a large number of the experienced pilots flying for the regionals, and regionals will be forced to increase their recruitment efforts from the most reliable source they have for pilots- Flight Schools.

Therefore, I maintain that now is a phenomenal time to consider a career as an airline pilot. While it admittedly is a bad few months to be a student just finishing their required 1500 hours, this lapse in hiring pilots will surely result in a surge once normal flight operations resume. A student starting today won’t be eligible to be hired at an airline for approximately 2 more years.

By that time, I predict hiring numbers will be higher than they were before the pandemic hit.

Even though airlines are in a temporary rough patch, the world still needs more pilots.

My call to action to each of my aviation constituents: This industry has been good to all of us. It is time to think of future aviators. Fear mongering does them a great injustice. This is not the time to stomp our feet and get emotional- pilots are logical by nature, so why are we reacting without thinking? Pilots are better than this. This industry is better than this.

We need to come together and support this industry so that those that come after us have the chance to reap the same benefits that we have.

Patrick Arnzen is a former airline pilot, has been a DPE since 2013, is an A&P IA, and owns and operates Thrust Flight, a flight school that trains and prepares students to be airline pilots. He has been involved in the aviation industry for more than 20 years.

Whether you’re a brand new pilot or have thousands of hours in your log book, there’s always more to learn. And one of my favorite ways to learn is from books. So I’ve put together a list of my 10 favorite books for pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

These books range from instructional to biographical so there’s something for everyone. Just pick up one or two and slip them in your flight bag or on your e-reader for when your stuck at an airport with a weather delay.

1. Stick & Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying by Wolfgang Langewiesche.

The famous pilot who made his first solo flight in Chicago in 1934 shares the discrepancy in the aviation world that he discovered early on in his flying career: words and realities disagree.

In other words, what aviators said that they were doing when they were piloting airplanes and what they were actually doing when they were flying were two different things. Langewische aimed to provide more accurate and realistic descriptions of what pilots actually do when they fly.

His first attempt at making these explanations was a collection of articles that were titled ‘Air Facts’, which assessed the different techniques pilots used to fly aircraft. In 1944, the aviator’s book ‘Stick & Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying’ was published.

Some of the key details that are discussed in this book include:

  • An explanation of the Angle of Attack, including what it is and why it is not visible, as well as how lift is created and the pilots role in creating it.
  • The reasons why planes stall.
  • The Landing Approach, including how an aviator’s acts in judging the landing approach and the visual clues that veteran pilots judge unconsciously to land their aircraft – including “The Spot that Does Not Move” and how novice pilots can learn and use these clues to their advantage.
  • The paradox of glide.
  • The “tail-dragger”, which highlights landing gear and explains why it can be difficult.
  • Why planes don’t feel the wind and hence, why they typically fly slightly sidewise.

Buy the Book

2. Fly Girls: how Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien.

This book captures the five women who offered incredible contributions to the aviation industry, and besides Amelia Earhart, are not well-known.

In addition to Earhart, the additional four female aviators highlighted in this book are Ruth ElderRuth NicholsFlorence Klingensmith, and Louise Thaden.

The author accounts the trials, tribulations, successes, and everlasting impact these women had on the aviation industry – an industry that is historically male-dominated – and how they paved the way for women pilots today.

Buy the Book

3. Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by by Adam Makos.

This story tells the inspiring tale of Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, the most famed duo pilots in the history of the U.S. Navy. Hudner was a white male who hailed from an affluent New England Family who forewent studying at Harvard to fly fighter jets in the Navy.

Brown was an African American from Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper, who became the first African American carrier pilot for the Navy and served a country at a time when Jim Crow laws prevented him from being served in restaurants and bars.

The duo manned fighter jets in the Korean War together and defend Marines who were cornered at the Chosin Reservoir. When one is shot down, the other must decide how to save his friend from certain death.

Buy the Book

4. Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story by Carol Shaben.

This is the true story of a commuter plane that crashed in the remote wilderness of, Canada in October, 1984. On board the plane were 10 passengers; 6 perished and four survived: the pilot, a politician, a police officer, and a criminal who was being escorted to face his charges.

The politician was Larry Shaben, the first Muslim Cabinet Ministor of Canada and the father of the book’s author.

The story recounts the real-life harrowing experience the four survivors endured and the life-changing friendships they forged under desperate circumstances.

Buy the Book

5. Weather Flying, Fifth Edition by Robert Buck.

A resource guide that provides insightful and potentially life-saving tips that pilots’ can use to fly their aircraft in all kinds of weather conditions.

‘Weather Flying’ is regarded as the ‘bible of weather flying’, as it explains the vast types of weather a pilot may face and the appropriate ways to deal with that weather. This is definitely a must read for every new pilot.

Buy the Book

6. The Thinking Pilots Flight Manual: Or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It by Rick Durden.

This guidebook picks up where standard flight-training manuals leave off. The author illustrates topics that aren’t taught in flight-training school and encourages aviators to think about these topics in real-life applications.

Topics range from how to actually handle a preflight to handling difficult landings. It also offers details on aerobatics, flying float planes, and exposes some of the most common aviation myths you’ll inevitably hear from other pilots.

Buy the Book

7. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge by Federal Aviation Administration/Aviation Supplies & Academics.

An official FAA handbook that has been required reading for pilots for more than three decades. It offers basic flying fundamentals for all types of pilots and all types of aircraft.

The guide offers required knowledge that pilots need in order to comprehend aerodynamic theory and earn a certificate.

Buy the Book

8. Squawk 7700 by Peter M Buffington.

This book recounts the journey Peter Buffington, the author, took to achieve his childhood dream: becoming a pilot for a commercial airline.

Buy the Book

9.The Next Hour: The Most Important Hours in Your Logbook by Richard L. Collins. by Peter M Buffington.

Author and aviator Collins shares his personal experience in the hopes that pilots of all experience levels and abilities will be able to learn how to navigate through the inherent risks that are associated with flying small planes. Topics include:

  • The three word emergency checklist all pilots should know
  • Why the thought process of a pilot is more important than his experience
  • The unique trials, tribulations – and rewards – of night flying.
  • How to effectively manage technology in the cockpit.

Buy the Book

10. Unusual Attitudes: Obsessions and Confessions of a Lady Pilot by Martha Lunken.

A collection of author and aviator Martha Lunken’s favorite Flying Magazine columns. Lunken collected these columns in her book in an effort to reach a wider audience.

The stories highlight her experience in aviation and fellow aviators who shaped her career and had a lasting impact on her life.

Buy the Book

What are some of your favorite aviation books? Let us know in the comments below.

A good quality flashlight is a flight bag essential. But you don’t want just any cheap light. You want a quality light you can depend on when you need it.

Once you start flying at night you’ll need a nice light for your preflight inspection and for reading any charts in the cockpit.

This list of flashlights and headlamps are some of our top pics for quality lights you can pack in your flight bag.

What to Look for in a Flashlight or Headlamp

When searching for the perfect flashlight there’s a few things you’ll want to consider.

You’ll want a flashlight or headlamp that has a few different light level options as well as a red or green color option. This will help you preserve night vision in the cockpit.

Be sure to look into the function of the light, as well. Some lights require you to go through the bright white light options before getting to the red option. Unfortunately, it can a bit of a challenge to find good flashlights with this well thought out design but many headlamps do have this function.

You may also want a flashlight that uses conventional batteries (AA or AAA) so you don’t have to remember to keep them charged. However, if you’ll already be carrying a spare battery to charge other items, it may not be a big deal.

If you’re going to go with a headlamp you’ll want one that’s comfortable to wear on those long flights.

NITECORE Flashlight

This is our top pick for a basic flashlight that should work for any pilot.

This is a very bright, very compact, and affordable flashlight. It comes with 5 separate brightness settings, a red mode, and a number of special features such as strobe, SOS, and beacon.

Plus it uses AA batteries so with a few extras in your bag you’ll be good for a long time.

We also like the inclusion of the SOS and beacon features. These are the kinds of things that you aren’t likely to use often, but which could someday be extremely useful – even life-saving! The five brightness settings are also welcome.

The package includes a number of additional features too, such as a lanyard, spare parts, keychain light, and holster.

Streamlight Stinger Flashlight

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.

This flashlight has a lot going for it, but with one main flaw.

First the good. The Stinger is an extremely well-made, compact, and powerful light that will stand the test of time and prove a joy to use. The beam has three brightness settings which is really useful for your preflight inspection of the plane. And the resilience of the light is second-to-none.

Unfortunately, though, the flashlight does not include a red or green option, meaning that it won’t be as effective for providing a low level of light that won’t ruin your night vision. There is a solution to this however (see below).

It’s also a shame that the battery is rechargeable. While there will be some people who like this feature, for many others it can mean another thing to remember before a night flight.

Searching for a good flight bag?

Discover a bag that meets all your needs. Check out our ranking of some of the best flight bags available (You might also want to see our top recommended aviation headsets as well).

Streamlight Flip Lens for Stinger Flashlight

If you loved everything about the Stinger but need that red or green functionality, then there is always the option to add colors using these lenses.

This is a neat solution, but you’ll have to buy the lenses separately and then store them with the light.

Maglite XL50 LED Flashlight

This tactical pack should provide everything that the average pilot needs in a flashlight, all in a single package.

Specifically, you’ll receive a light with a powerful LED beam. This is a small, compact, and very well-made tool, anodized against corrosion.

The tactical pack includes colored lenses, pocket clip, and an anti-roll device. Again, this is not as convenient as being able to switch between colors with the press of a button. But it’s a great pack and particularly well-made and durable tool.

LUMENSHOOTER Multi-Color Flashlight

The Lumenshooter places its multiple colors front and center, and each of these is vivid and useful.

The flashlight also comes with some useful additional features, such as a memory function. This means that if you’re on a color for three seconds, the torch will remain on that color when you turn it back on. No rotating between colors. If you’re using this primarily for reading charts in the cockpit, then that’s a perfect feature.

Otherwise, this is another very nicely made flashlight and one that is once again resilient, compact, and ergonomic to use.

Smith & Wesson Galaxy 12 LED 15 Lumen Flashlight

So how does this Smith & Wesson Galaxy 12 stack up against the others?

In terms of the basics, it has those covered well. This is a small and well-made flashlight with a satisfying ergonomic grip, and a durable anodized aerospace aluminum. That’s important, as it means the flashlight will last a long time and won’t fail you in an emergency. We also like that this is powered by regular AAA batteries (included), and the included holster and wrist lanyard could also be useful.

The flashlight also uses multiple switch technology, mapping red, blue, and white to a single switch. It’s quick and easy to use.

The downside of this design that we can see, is that it means you need to cycle through all the colors before you can turn it off. This can be an issue if you’re trying to keep the light low and you need to switch to the more disruptive blue before you can turn it off. Covering the end with a hand will solve this issue though.

The torch is also nice and compact at 6.25” and only weighs 6.4 ounces: perfect for throwing into a bag.

Best Headlamps

Flight Outfitters LED Headlamp

The Flight Outfitters LED Headlamp is an excellent option for any pilot. One of the best features of this headlamp (and missing on many others) is two separate buttons for the red and white light. This makes it easy to turn on the red light without having to flash through the white light.

Another great feature that’s often missing on other headlamps is two brightness settings for the red light. This can make a big difference while in the cockpit.

The only downside to this light is it doesn’t feel like a quality headlamp like some of the other options.

Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp

The Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp comes with a red night vision, dimming options, strobe lighting feature, and the ability to turn on and off without needing to cycle through the white modes. In short, that’s everything you could need for a headlamp like this.

It’s powered by AAA batteries, and offers basic water resistance so you don’t need to worry about it getting wet in the rain.

One complaint we have with this headlamp however is it’s somewhat confusing function. It has a bit of a learning curve to get used to switching between white and red light.

BioLite HeadLamp 200 Lumen Rechargeable Head Light

The BioLite headlamp features a smart, low-profile design that is comfortable to use. The device is rechargeable via USB which may not be preferred by all pilots. The headlamp also comes with a variety of different modes, including white + dim, red + dim, white strobe, and red strobe.

A great feature is the option to tilt the front panel downward. This can help you to angle it down to read checklists or charts in the cockpit, while also avoiding ruining your night vision.

A single charge will offer you 40 hours on low, or 3 hours on the highest setting white light. The whole thing weighs only 50 grams (which is extremely light). One small downside is there’s no water resistance.

If you’d like a higher output option the BioLite 330 lumen headlamp is another great option.

Nitecore NU25 Headlamp

Finally, we have one last headlamp, the Nitecore NU25. This high output headlamp includes a 13 lumen red light for reading charts in the cockpit.

This incredibly lightweight headlamp will be comfortable to wear for those long night flights. It also includes a high CRI 20 lumen light that renders colors better and makes it easier to read.

This headlamp uses a rechargeable battery so you’ll want to take that into account when deciding if this is the headlamp for you.

Overall, the Flight Outfitters is our favorite headlamp on the list but any of these will work well for a pilot.

There’s a lot of conflicting information online about whether or not a 4-year college degree is required to become an airline pilot. But do you need a degree to be a pilot at the airlines?

Some sources claim it’s absolutely mandatory, while others say you don’t need one at all. As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Aviation College – The Bottom Line

To cut right to the chase – you do not need a degree to be an airline pilot, but by the time you move on to the majors it’s a good idea to have one.

Most majors list 4-year degrees as preferred and some even mandate them. Even during pilot shortages, the majors are very competitive when compared to the regional airline, so it’s always advisable to get whatever edge you can over your competition.

AirlinesDegree Requirements
American AirlinesNone
United AirlinesPreferred

This is not necessarily the case at the regionals. Pilot demand always hits the regionals before the majors so they can’t afford to be as picky.

These regional airlines hire directly out of flight schools. Since the typical route for an airline pilot is to start at the regionals and work up to the majors, it’s common for pilots to use their time at the regional airlines to complete their 4-year degree via online resources.

Alternatively, getting your degree prior to or in conjunction with your flight training offers you the option of reducing your required hours prior to being eligible for an airline pilot position. The FAA’s “1,500 hour rule” can be done in just 1,250 or 1,000 hours depending on what type of degree you obtain (see §61.160 for details.)

So the question becomes: how should you balance going to college with flight training?

There are a few different options and each one is going to work better for different individuals depending on their situation.

Most major airlines have 4-year degrees as a “preferred” requirement. Updated as of 6.25.2020

As you weigh your options on becoming an airline pilot, you should also consider how much you’ll be paid based on the path you choose. Take a look at our pilot salary guide to get an idea of how much you could earn.

Studying for aviation college test

1. Attend a 4-year university that offers flight training

Many choose to get their flight training through a 4-year university that offers flight training, a route that will have you flight training while following the traditional college timeline.

Typically you’ll finish all of your ratings by the time you’ve completed your degree program (usually an aviation related degree to take advantage of the hour reductions mentioned above) and then you’ll need to either instruct or find another job as a pilot to reach the rest of your required hours. If you’re instructing this typically takes around a year.

Timeline to Airline Job:

5-6 years


• Obtain degree along-side your flight training

• Complete your degree and flight training in one location

• Reduced required hours if obtaining aviation degree

• Student loans are more readily available for individuals unable to finance their flight training on their own or with parents’ assistance


• Expensive

• More than 4 years to start flying for the airlines

• Training is not accelerated, meaning you spend more total time on flight training

• No fallback – an aviation degree is only good for aviation

Best for:

Those that are unable to finance without Title IV assistance

• Students who may want to wait a few years and enjoy the “college experience” before starting a job

Train at a flight school instead of going to an aviation college

2. Attend a 4-year university and flight train elsewhere

Although perhaps one of the least-traveled paths, some choose to begin their flight training after obtaining a 4-year degree. Typically those who take this path obtain a degree outside of aviation, and begin flight training at a pilot school shortly before or after graduating.

This is the longest and most expensive option, but it does give the student the most flexibility in their career pathway.

Timeline to Airline Job:

6-7 years


• Multiple career options after completing training

• Ultimately spend less on your flight training vs doing it at a University

• Degree offers security in the event of an industry downturn


• Most expensive, as you are paying for both a 4-year degree and flight training separately

• Takes 6+ years. As important as seniority is in the airlines, you will have to determine if this is a deal breaker for you.

Best for:

• Those who aren’t 100% sure they want to be pilots

• Students who have the means to spend extra money on their education to have flexible career options later in life

3. Attend a flight school and finish your degree online

For those that know they want to be an airline pilot and want to get there as quickly as possible, this is the most attractive option.

Many online university programs will offer credit for the ratings you’ve obtained from flight schools, and you could use this to get up to 45 credit hours. This would reduce your bachelor program after flight training to about two years.

The most efficient way to do this is to attend a flight school with an accelerated airline pilot program (usually takes 8-10 months to complete) and once you obtain all your ratings, begin taking online classes while working as a flight instructor.

This way you are getting the aviation degree needed to take advantage of the 250-500 hour discount, and simultaneously instructing to start knocking those hours out.

Given the right circumstances, this pathway could get you through all of your ratings, all of your FAA required hours, AND your bachelor degree in just 3-4 years. You could even be flying for a regional during the end of that timeline if you fly enough to reach the required hours prior to obtaining your degree. This is attractive when considering seniority numbers in the airlines.

Timeline to Airline Job:

2-3 years


• Most cost effective

• Quickest method to get a seniority number

• Reduced required hours if obtaining an aviation degree


• No fallback – aviation is the only career an aviation degree will be useful in

• No “college experience”- if the college campus experience is important to you, then you’re going to be missing out (although Thrust Flight has a pretty similar atmosphere.)

• Title IV loans rarely available at flight schools

• Very demanding schedule

Best for:

• Those who want to get to the airlines as soon as possible

• People who can forego student loans in order to save more now and earn more in the long term

• Students who are positive they want this career

Do Your Research

Before making a decision on which path is right for you, make sure you understand the concepts of the 1,500 hour rule as well as seniority numbers in the regionals.

These factors may affect which path is best for you. Each student is different. We talk to people every day with different recommended paths, because accelerated flight training from zero time through all your ratings is not the best option for everyone. Do your research. Call different schools. Talk to pilots and student pilots. In the end, you want to make the decision that is best for YOU.

Every pilot needs a good flight bag.

Whether you’re jumping in a Cessna for your very first training flight, or you’re a pilot with thousands of hours under your belt, this article will help you find the best flight bag to meet your needs.

Before we jump into the flight bag reviews, however, let’s talk about what makes a good flight bag.

What to Look for in a Flight Bag

They type of flight bag you buy will largely depend on the type of flying you do.

If you’re a brand new student pilot, you may want a larger bag to carry all of the extra study materials you’ll need when you’re at the airport.

If you just fly occasionally, or always go on short day trips, you can usually get away with a smaller bag that will just fit your headset and iPad/charts.

Of course, if you’re an airline pilot, or about to be one, you’ll want a much larger bag for those overnight flights.

Overall, you’ll want a bag made out of a durable material that won’t wear down easily.

What to Carry in Your Flight Bag

Every pilot has different opinions on what the essential flight bag gear is but in general, you’ll always have these items:

  1. Pilot certificate and Medical
  2. Headset
  3. Backup Batteries (if needed)
  4. iPad
  5. Extra charts
  6. Pencil/Pen
  7. Flashlight
  8. Kneeboard
  9. Water & snacks
  10. Sunglasses
  11. Fuel Tester

As you look at bags, it may help to write out a list of everything you’d like to be able to carry with you. Some pilots also like to have a backup radio and other emergency/backup gear.

Whatever you decide, make sure you buy a bag with enough storage space to comfortably fit everything.

Now that you know what gear you need to store in your flight bag, let’s take a look at some of the best options on the market.

Best Flight Bags for Student Pilots

Editors Pick: Flight Outfitters Lift Flight Bag Review

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The Flight Outfitters Lift Flight Bag is a sturdy and highly convenient flight bag that’s easy to carry in one hand but also offers ample space for everything you could need.

There’s a separate pouch for a water bottle for easy access, or a back-up radio pocket. There’s also a fuel tester pocket, and 2 external chart pockets.

The fleece-lined headset pockets make sure that your headset will be kept in place, while the adjustable shoulder strap makes it easy to carry around the airport.

Dimensions are 12”x10.5”x9”.

What’s great about this bag is just how clearly it has been designed specifically for pilots – with lots of thoughtful compartments and design features. The manufacturer Flight Outfitters is well known for creating premium pilot products, and this bag is no different.

The bag is also particularly sturdy and compact, meaning it doesn’t get in your way and you’ll never have to worry about damaging your possessions.

The bag comes in a few different colors, mainly with a black body and colored accents. The fleece interior is lined orange to make it easier to find in the dark.

The drawback is that this bag is relatively small and with very specific pockets. That is to say that it isn’t quite as versatile as some other bags on this list. Some buyers might also prefer a leather aesthetic.


  • Compact Size for essentials
  • Popular with private pilot students
  • Well-thought out pockets
  • Extremely durable


  • Small in size
  • Can’t be easily cleaned
  • Only one color option available


Given it’s compact size, adequate storage space and durable material this flight bag is perfect for both student pilots and flight instructors.

Flight Gear HP iPad Bag Review

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As he name suggests, the Flight Gear HP iPad bag was designed around the iPad. And, given that nearly every pilot you’ll meet flies with an iPad or tablet, there’s a huge market for this type of bag.

As you might expect then, the bag features a large, padded iPad pocket that has a handy pass-through slot for charging.

It likewise comes with the usual headset hanger, water bottle, and fuel tester pockets, organizer pocket (with key ring) and more.

Its compact size once again ensures that it won’t get in the way, and makes it perfect for fitting into cockpits or under chairs.

The front of the bag unzips entirely, which means you’ll be able to easily get in and access all the things you need.

Measurements are 12”x7.5”x132. This makes it just slightly bigger than the previous entry.

The bag only comes in one color, which is black and cyan.

Like the previous option, this bag is very structured with very clearly defined compartments for specific roles. If you hang your headphones inside, this doesn’t leave a lot of space for additional items – such as lunch or a few books.


  • Good looking, Premium Bag
  • Many Functional Compartments
  • Front-Opening


  • Somewhat inflexible
  • Only comes in one color
  • Less resilient than the previous offering from Flight Outfitters


The Flight Gear HP iPad Bag is another excellent option for pilots who really don’t need to carry too much stuff on their flight and around the airport. It’s a well designed bag that makes just about every pocket easy to access.

AirClassics Dispatch Pilot Bag Review

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This bag is the smallest on the list and less rigid than the previous two options. It functions just like a standard shoulder bag. This will appeal to some readers and not others.

While it isn’t rigid, it is made from a durable 600D polyester and the interior tablet pocket is also padded.

The interior is also very spacious with two separate pockets including the main compartment and smaller area for charts and any other small documents. The large space provides room for headsets, along with one or two other items.

You’ll also find a front pocket with space for pens and spare batteries, side slots for fuel testers, flashlights, and water bottles, and an adjustable strap. Note that the water bottle pocket is not specifically intended for that role and won’t fit all bottles.

The interior is lined blue to make it easier to find what you’re looking for in the dark.

While the front compartment is front opening, the two main pockets need to be accessed from the top.

Dimensions are 11.5”x9”x4.5”.


  • Compact Bag for the bare essentials
  • Blue Interior for easy visibility
  • Looks more like a “regular” bag, making it slightly more versatile


  • More difficult to access everything
  • Fewer specific pockets


The AirClassics Dispatch Flight Bag is perfect for the pilot on a budget. It can easily store the essential gear you need for your flights. If you’ll be using this bag as a student pilot, you may want to consider also bringing a backpack to the airport for any additional study materials you need for your lessons.

Flight Gear HP Crosswind Bag Review

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This bag is a little different from some of the others on the list so far. This is shaped more like a gym bag, being a longer and more oblong design.

That said, it’s still a rather compact bag and the simple handle makes it easy to carry in one hand.

This shape gives it a much larger main compartment, which the manufacturer describes as “cavernous” (perhaps a tad generous!).

There’s certainly a lot of room in here for books, a kneeboard, and some extra gear compared to the first three bags.

It also comes with many of the benefits you associate with the Flight Gear brand, such as a high visibility interior for easily finding things in the dark, exterior pockets for fuel testers and water bottles, and a comfortable padded strap.

That said, it only comes in a single color and has fewer “specialty” pockets for pilots. It also lacks any additional reinforcement that would make it more durable.

This is a simpler, more affordable design. It will do the job for most, but perhaps lacks the wow factor of some options here, or the extreme practicality.


  • Design provides large interior space
  • Still easy to carry one-handed/store
  • Affordable


  • More difficult to access everything
  • Fewer specific pockets


he Flight Gear HP Crosswind is an excellent bag for pilot’s who want a small bag but still need some extra gear that won’t fit in the smaller bags mentioned above.

In particular, this bag is great for flight students who have a small stack of books and manuals they need to haul around every day at the airport.

Best Flight Bags for Private Pilots

Myogloflight PLC Pro Flight Bag Backpack Review

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This bag is taller than many of the others we have looked at, at 16”x10”x3”.

This gives it a shape more like a suitcase or even a backpack – and it can be worn on the pack or attached to a separately sold “luggage cart.”

This versatility makes it a strong choice for a lot of pilots.

Likewise, the amount of storage it affords will also be very beneficial for many. The entire front compartment opens up, allowing easy access to the roomy interior.

Here, you’ll be able to store an iPad in a pocket, as well as numerous other gadgets and tools in the mesh pockets on the opposite side. These are perfect for headphones, cables, chargers, and more. A handy strap is also perfect for fuel-testers.

The only downsides here are the price, and the fact that it is somewhat large, meaning you’ll need a bit more storage space for it.


  • Lots of storage
  • Versatile system can be worn as a backpack or pulled on a luggage cart
  • Plenty of pockets


  • One of the most expensive options
  • Bottom of bag isn’t reinforced

BrightLine Flex B7 Flight – Echo Review

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The B7 Flight-Echo is a somewhat different beast compared with the other options on this list so far.

This is a much larger bag that has a thicker depth and a whole lot of pockets. Seriously. This bag has pockets everywhere.

In fact, it has three separate attachment points for shoulder straps – and even three pockets right on the front!

It definitely took a while to remember what pocket was storing what.

The bag comes with a SPE instead of a SPA, a big adjustable water bottle pocket. It also has a particularly strong main handle with slots for a J-hook.

The B7 Flight is designed specifically for airline captains, but is suitable for everyone else too. The huge number of pockets, compartments, and zippers means there is plenty of room for all the gear you need.

And with a whole lot of storage space, it’s ideal for a large number of personal uses as well. This will easily hold an iPad AND a keyboard, including cases. You can even fit a 13″ MacBook Pro in here, along with a ton of adapters and documents!

And you can actually fit two sets of headphones in!

Despite all this, it’s actually rather compact and easy to carry in one hand – though it might create a few more space challenges than some of the other options we’ve looked at so far.

It’s tough, though it isn’t specially reinforced as some other options on this list are.

One other handy feature on this bag is its ability to separate into different bags. So if you’re headed to the airport to fly IFR and need more gear you can bring the whole thing. If it’s a VFR day, you can separate the bag and take just take a third of the bag.

No other brand on the list has this unique functionality.


  • Premium bag that’s extremely versatile
  • Huge number of compartments
  • Ability to split into separate bags


  • Can get rather heavy when fully loaded with gear
  • Not specially reinforced
  • Higher priced bag


The BrightLine Flex B7 Flight Echo bag was designed for airline pilots. So if you’re headed to the airlines (or already there) this may be a great option for you. If your the type of private pilot who always wants to prepared for anything (and thus need lots of gear) this bag is perfect for you.

Flight Gear HP Tailwind Pilot Backpack Review

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Flight Gear HP make great bags for pilots, and this flight bag backpack is no different.

If you need to haul more stuff around the airport this backpack is exactly what you need.

Like other bags, the entire front will zip open to provide easy access. Here, there’s ample internal space for a headset which can remain suspended and protected.

There are iPad sleeves, and enough space around the rest to fit a host of other items.


  • Opens all the way
  • Easy to Carry
  • Suspends headphones in the pocket


  • Headphones pocket takes up a lot of space

Flight Outfitters Brush Pilot Bag Review

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This bag comes in a light canvas that has leather accents.

It stands out immediately from the crowd thanks to its color scheme, while the leather elements make it feel premium without limiting the practicality.

The padded headphone pockets (two of them!) mean you don’t waste previous internal storage, of which there is plenty.

The interior is large enough to store a lot of additional items, while the metal reinforced handle is enough to hold weightier items.

This is another bag from the excellent Flight Outfitters, and again comes with a lot of extremely thoughtful design features.

For example, the Brush Pilot Bag features a pass through strap on the back which lets you easily slide it over rolling luggage handles. The orange interior meanwhile makes it easy to find things in a dark cockpit.

We love this bag, but it’s a shame the design won’t be to all tastes.


  • Premium design
  • Reinforced handle
  • Suspends headphones in the pocket


  • Headphones pocket takes up a lot of space

Lightspeed Aviation – The Markham, Leather Flight Bag Review

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For this writer, a flight bag should be a premium item for a successful professional. And for this writer, a premium bag should be leather.

That’s what makes this such a standout option, along with many other excellent features such as the center zipper that opens to reveal a large interior compartment that is more than spacious enough for headsets, charts, and all your other gear.

The front is divided with an organizer pocket for useful items and documents. A zippered rear pocket is great for storing iPads, and the side pockets are ideal for water bottles and fuel checkers – or you can use it for storing a transceiver thanks to the handy antenna-on storage feature.

There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can check out the bag first and return it if it’s not for you.

Of course, there is a trade-off with leather and this option is not as structured or reinforced as some others. It’s also not likely to hold up as well to the weather. But if you want something really premium with lots of pilot-centric features, the Markham is a cut above.


  • Lots of highly useful compartments and pockets
  • Great size and comfortable to carry
  • Extremely premium design


  • Expensive

Have a flight bag recommendation we missed? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to check out the best books for pilots and add them to your flight bag!