Learn-To-Fly-Checklist – Follow Your Dreams & Earn Your Private Pilot Certificate.
Become a Pilot! Getting Started.
Learning to fly can be a daunting and expensive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be! Take the Student Pilot World checklist by clicking the boxes to the left to get started.
(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: Private Pilot Rating – Your top 5 decisions.
Note: the information contained in this checklist is primarily focused on the Private Pilot rating and is not meant to be comprehensive or a substitute for official flight training by a qualified school and instructor. Consult your local flight school for certified flight instruction.
The Student Pilot World checklist focuses on the Private Pilot Certificate – Single Engine, Land. However, we have included information regarding other ratings. We plan a more in-depth treatment of other topics in the future – please stay tuned. Note: In aviation, your pilot privileges document is officially called a “certificate” not a “license” even though you will receive something that looks like your driver’s license when you become a newly minted pilot.
The Private Pilot Certificate
The Private Pilot certificate is the most popular rating. It enables most pilots to do nearly 90% of the type of flying they want to do 90% of the time. You can fly day or night, in good weather (called VFR – visual flight rules), with passengers, from New York to California or anywhere else your airplane can take you. For professionals, it’s the first step on a long journey to the airline cockpit.
Private Pilot Basic Requirements:
Health: Obtain a medical certificate (more on that in the next tab).
AGE: 16 years old to solo (fly by yourself), 17 to earn the certificate, fluency in the English language.
Flight Training: Minimum 40 hours of actual flight training (Plan on 50 or more). Click for More Details
Tests: Pass a written exam and a check ride.
(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: Which pilot rating is best for you?
Sport Pilot Rating:
A Sport Pilot certificate is a relatively new and potentially lower cost rating for those who want a less burdensome flight training option however it comes with significant restrictions. You are limited to flying in Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA’s), can carry one passenger, no night flying, or flying into busiest controlled airspace (without an endorsement) and you cannot fly for business. On the plus side, a formal medical exam is not required. If you have a valid license you are all set for the medical requirements.
Many students who earn a Private Pilot rating go on to purchase and exclusively fly modern “light-sport aircraft” (LSA’s) because of their performance and lower costs. So you may wish to learn more about LSA’s even if you earn a private pilot certificate.
Other Ratings and Endorsements for Private Pilots:
IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) – The IFR certificate is the most useful post-PPL rating. It enables pilots to fly in instrument meteorological conditions (flying in the clouds). It turns the airplane into a truly useful mode of transportation and is a great way to sharpen the skills of the pilot. One of the great dangers to a VFR-only pilot is inadvertently flying into the clouds. The results of which can be catastrophic for pilots and planes alike. IFR pilots are far better equipped to deal with this potential emergency. It’s a great rating to check out once you earn your wings and get a little time as a “Pilot in Command” (PIC) under your belt.
Multi-Engine, Complex, High, Performance, Tail Wheel. There are many other interesting and useful ratings and endorsements that one can achieve as a private pilot to learn more please visit AOPA’s website.
Check out the Seaplane Pilot’s Association website to learn more about a super-fun Seaplane rating.
The Aviation Medical
Third Class Medical
The first step in your flying journey is to complete the mandatory Third-Class Medical exam given by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). The Third class medical certificate covers you for 60 months if you are under 40 years old and 24 months if you are 40 and up.
The doctor may ask you extensive questions regarding your medical history including any medications you are taking. You are required by law to answer truthfully. Several disqualifying conditions and medications could prevent you from obtaining a third-class medical certificate. Please check the links before making an appointment: Disqualifying Health Conditions | Disqualifying Medications.
(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: The Medical: Avoiding the “Gotcha’s”.
BasicMed – The Third Class Medical Alternative
BasicMed is a relatively new option that enables any state-licensed physician to complete a physical exam and fill out this questionnaire. You need to have held at least a third-class medical once before that was not revoked for a health issue. BasicMed is valid for 4 years regardless of age so long as you take an online course and pass a quiz every two years. Call the doctor before making an appointment as some may not be familiar with the program and the paperwork. Click here for the AOPA’s BasicMed guide. Click here for other types of medical certificates.
Sport Pilot Certificate
Some student pilots opt for the Sport Pilot certificate instead of the private pilot rating as there is no medical exam requirement so long as you have a valid driver’s liscence. Click here for more on the Sport Pilot certificate or here for the FAA’s Sport Pilot page.
Essential Student Pilot Gear
A flight headset will be your first significant investment outside the cost of the flight training itself. The main technological difference is whether or not they have ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) built into them or if they muffle noise via a non-electronic “passive system”. Passive headsets generally cost less than $500 while a good ANC will run $700-$1200.
Sunglasses are a “must-have” for the student pilot. Not having them on a bright sunny day can be downright dangerous. Non-polarized sunglasses are recommended for pilots as polarized lenses may make LCD instrument screens difficult to see. However, in a pinch, any pair of sunglasses is better than none.
Additionally, be sure to have a cheap backup pair of sunglasses that you leave in your bag at all times. Just make you can reach them after you are belted into your seat and you can put them on one-handed with your headset on.
Being organized is key to success in cockpit training. A good well thought out pen and paper setup is essential and it will make your training much less stressful. You will thank yourself over and over when you have to write down complicated instructions from the tower or copy an ATIS report.
Make sure you use a one-piece retractable pen so that you can write with one hand. Clip a backup pen to a place where you can reach one-handed it belted in. A good yoke clip like the one above is essential. Pair it with a small notebook with a hard-backed cover or index cards so you can write instructions one-handed.
Some pilots prefer to use a kneeboard to organize their cockpits. The editors feel that the major disadvantage of this setup for students is the tendency to have to be “heads down” to use it whereas student pilots should be “heads up” and looking out the window during training.
(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: What equipment do you really need?
You will need a few other items including an E6-B Flight “Computer”, a logbook, and a red light flashlight for night-flights.