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.

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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:

Light Sport Aircraft
Click Here to Learn More About The 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.

Aviaition Medical Exam | Student Pilot World
Click Here to Find an Aviation Medical Examiner

Disqualifying Conditions

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.

Aviation Headsets:

Aviator Sunglasses

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.

Cockpit Organization

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?

Other Essentials:

You will need a few other items including an E6-B Flight “Computer”, a logbook, and a red light flashlight for night-flights.

Flight Bags

You will need something to carry your gear in. Flight bags come in all shapes and sizes however the editors recommend an easy top access type bag for the student pilot. Everything in the bag should be accessible through a top opening and you should be able to reach it after you are belted in with one hand. Be sure to take only what you need for the flight – leave the heavy books and laptops at the FBO.

Good to Have:

You may want to pick these items up Fuel Strainer, Window Cleaner, and Wipes. You will need them on every single flight and they are good to have in your bag unless you enjoy rummaging through old closets at the FBO.

Learn to Fly Books & Courses

FAA Pilot Handbook | Student Pilot World
Click to Download

Training Material Free vs Paid

There are many quality online learn-to-fly books and materials available for free and paid. Click the links below to explore some popular options.

Free (Digital Downloads):

FAA’s Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)

Other FAA Aviation Publications

Paid (Printed):

(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: Buyer Beware – Reviews with Pros & Cons of the most popular training products.

Flight Schools

Choosing a flight school is the most important decision student pilots will make.

Flight School Locator | Student Pilot World
Click Here to Find a Flight School

Choosing a School – The Big Question

 The only question you want to ask yourself when visiting prospective schools is “Will this school really help me earn my wings?”. It sounds like this should be obvious however sometimes the school’s goal which is to make money will not always align with yours which is to become a pilot. Make sure to do your research and do not necessarily pick a school solely based on proximity to your location as it is sometimes better to bypass a town or two to get high-quality flight training.

(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: Choosing the best flight school for you.


One of the first major decisions you will need to make is to choose between part 141 or part 61 training. In a nutshell, both methods will teach the same topics in accordance with FAA practical test standards however part 141 is more structured and it closely follows a training syllabus. Part 61 training usually does not formally follow a syllabus and lessons can be structured based on factors such as the student’s aptitude and scheduling. If you go part 61 you can always track and measure progress independently with a private pilot syllabus like this free one from King Schools.

Flight Schools | Student Pilot World

Which should you choose?

The Part 141 vs part 61 discussion is the subject of perennial debate among aviators old and new. It might seem like Part 141 the more structured approach would be the quickest path to earning your wings however many factors go into successful flight training that is not helped by a more structured environment. A lot of it depends on how you learn and how much time you have. If you have a month or two to dedicate exclusively to your training then part 141 might be for you. If you’re doing this on weekends and holidays part 61 may be the better option. Do you prefer a structured environment or do you benefit more from a tailored experience? Regardless of what you choose, you will be subject to the same practical test standards and your pilot certificate will have the same privileges.

(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: PART 141 VS PART 61: which path is better for you?

Get a Degree

You can also earn a degree while training at several aviation-focused universities like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. This is a great option for those just out of high school who are aiming for a career as a professional pilot.


When you start your flight training be sure to ask to see the school/FBO’s insurance ticket certificate. Additionally, you may be required to purchase your own insurance referred to as “renter’s insurance”.  Even minor accidents in certified aircraft can result in big financial losses so don’t skip out on this. There’s really no reason not to have insurance as it’s fairly inexpensive and relatively easy to obtain. Some newer insurance companies are offering month-to-month policies tailored to the rental market. Please check out this article from the AOPA on renter’s insurance for more information.

Flight Training

Your flight school will offer two types of instruction: Ground and Flight Training.

Flight Training | Student Pilot World

Ground School:

Exam Prep: Students are required to pass a written exam as part of their flight training. Many flight schools and online learning companies offer optional ground instruction to help students pass the test. However, you can take the online FAA written exam without it.  Many students choose to take the written test before they start their flight training so they can focus on the actual flying.

Ground Flight Training | Student Pilot World

Ground Portion of Flight Training: Ground instruction for flight training mainly consists of things like briefings before and after training flights, understanding weather, checking your flight plan, or doing a postmortem of your flight performance. Be diligent as schools sometimes overcharge for this type of instruction, a common flight training “Gotcha”.  Carefully review your bill on the day take the lesson and immediately dispute any overcharges.

Flight Training:

Flight Training | Student Pilot World

Flight Training:

You will need a minimum of 40 hours in the cockpit which includes at least 20 hours of dual flight instruction (with a CFI) and 10 hours solo including a solo cross country of 150 nautical miles. These are the minimums. Don’t be surprised if it takes twice as many hours to complete your training. Your CFI (Certified flight instructor) is going to sign you off when he/she is convinced that you have grasped the training to the level of the practical test standards regardless of the hours in your logbook.

(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: Get the most while paying the least for your flight training.

Your Flight Instructor: The most important component of training is your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).  You are looking for an instructor who generally believes in others and has the skills and expertise to help people develop flight skills to the levels of the practical test standards. Stick to one or two preferred CFI’s in the beginning. Try to avoid going out with multiple CFIs until after you have made your solo flight.

(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: Picking the Best Instructor(s).

Trainer Aircraft

Choosing the right trainer aircraft is important since you will spend the next 50-70 hours of your life in it.


Stick to the Basics

The choice of your trainer airplane will likely be made for you by your school. Most flight schools have a well-worn fleet of basic aircraft that are easy to fly. If you have any say in the matter be sure to stick to a basic forgiving design. Avoid complex aircraft with constant-speed propellers and retractable landing gear, taildraggers, and high-performance aircraft for training.

The venerable Cessna 172 the most popular trainer aircraft in the world with over 40,000 produced.


High Wing vs Low Wing

The Piper PA-28 s a popular low-wing trainer aircraft.


High or Low? Both types of aircraft are perfectly adequate for student training. The main advantage of high-wing types is that they can be a little easier to land as they tend to float less near the runway. Cessna 172’s have huge flaps which can act as speed brakes helping a student with less than perfect approach speeds.  Also, the fuel tanks are overhead in the wings and gravity fed so you will not have to worry about switching fuel pumps on and off in flight.

Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA)

The technological advancement of avionics is the most significant development seen in aviation in the last 30 years. Today, there are Technically Advanced Airplanes (TAAs) that offer airliner-like avionics sophistication in the cockpit of a small general aviation plane.


Glass vs Steam

Assuming you have a choice should you learn on old-fashioned analog instruments, known as “steam gauges”,  or high tech” glass” LCD instrument panels? That depends on what your post-training goals are. The technology is nice to have but not essential for earning your pilot ticket. If you plan on heading over to the airlines then learning on “glass” is a good idea.  If not then, you may wish to skip the added complication “glass” adds to training. You are not required to learn about glass cockpits to pass your practical tests. Most instructors will emphasize “stick and rudder skills” – learning to fly the aircraft by feel and looking out the window vs focusing on the gadgetry. If your school has a nice modern fleet of TAA-type aircraft great. If not it’s not the end of the world. You will still get the training you need to pass the tests and become a safe pilot. If you are interested in learning to use high-tech panels on your own, you can invest in a pc based simulator like X-Plane 11 which has very realistic and fully functional instrument panels.

You can also learn more about avionics from the major manufacturers: Garmin, Avidyne, and Dynon.

New vs Old

Students are often surprised to learn that many training aircraft are quite a bit older than they are! Certified airplanes, due to regulations, market forces, insanity, and a plethora of other factors beyond the scope of this checklist are extremely expensive to replace and many remain in service for decades.


Checking Out Older Aircraft

Older airplanes may look well-worn however, many are perfectly fine for training so long as they have been maintained properly. Always ask the FBO or school for the logbooks up front and confirm that the aircraft has had the mandatory 100-hour inspections completed and signed off by an aircraft mechanic. If they refuse to let you look at the books you may want to take a walk.  Look at the instrument panels on the airplanes. Get concerned if you see multiple broken gauges (identified by an  “inop” placard).  Look at the rest of the school’s fleet – how many are flying? A hanger full of out-of-service aircraft is a big red flag. Do the flight controls move freely and correctly? Check the oil dipstick (see the preflight video link below) – how does it look? Look underneath the airplane for excessive grease and other mechanical fluid leaks and smears. Check for long cracks in the fuselage that have not been stop drilled to prevent them from spreading.  Finally, you can do a preflight inspection like the one in this video.

Flight Planning Apps

Today there are excellent all-in-one flight planning and in-flight navigation apps which offer a comprehensive feature set including pre-flight planning, in-flight navigation, and weather.

Student Pilot FLight Planning

The major players are Foreflight and Garmin Pilot and FlyQ. Many of the apps have the ability to communicate with the avionics in the cockpit. Most are subscription-based but offer free trials for new subscribers.

Traditional Flight Planning

Although apps would make flight planning a breeze, as a student, you will likely spend most of your time learning to plan your flights manually by using classic and time-tested techniques like pilotage and dead reckoning on paper flight plans and charts using an E6-B “computer”.

(Coming Soon) Members Only Video – How to best use apps during your training.

Useful Flight Planning Links for Your Training:

Flight Planning Forms: FAA Flight Plan

Free online VFR Charts: FAA’s Sectional Aeronautical Chart Page

Paper Maps: VFR Sectional & Terminal Charts

Note: Paper Charts Expire be sure to check the dates.


Phone-Based Weather Briefing and Flight Filing: 1-800-WXBRIEF

Free Online Charts and Flight Planning (Worldwide): Skyvector

Free Online Weather: NOAA Aviation Weather Center

Bonus Free Mobile App (3d Modeling of Wind – Great for Pattern Work Prep): MeteoEarth


Simulators can help you get the most out of your flight training. They can really help you nail the most challenging maneuvers by allowing you to practice them repetitively in a less stressful environment than an airplane cockpit.

FAA Approved Aviation Devices (ATD)

There are primarily two types of simulators: FAA-Approved Aviation Devices (ATD) and home simulators. You can do 5 hours of your flight training in the FAA-approved devices. The FAA-approved devices are expensive and you will likely not purchase one for home use. Redbird is a popular manufacturer of full-motion devices. An example of a non-motion option is Gliem Aviation’s affordable solution.

Home Simulators

Home flight simulators have become an indispensable tool.  While time spent on these devices does not count towards your flight training hours, the use of flight simulators, especially in conjunction with VR (virtual reality) has the potential to significantly cut your time and costs to earn your pilot’s license.  Why? Because you get to practice! It may sound simple but many people overlook the value of practicing planned maneuvers ahead of time. And since you are sitting in your living room you can practice them over and over until you get them right.

(Coming Soon) Members Only Video: How to use flight simulators to supercharge your real flight lessons.

The two leading simulators are Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 11. Both offer exceptionally realistic flight experiences for training purposes. Both require a powerful modern PC with a high-end dedicated GPU to have a satisfactory experience for the user.

Microsoft Flight Simulator


After a long absence, Microsoft got back into the sim business in a big way with Microsoft Flight Simulator. It boasts the latest graphics, stunning photo-realistic scenery based on satellite imagery, highly detailed cockpits, and hand-crafted major airports. According to Microsoft, the flight model has been updated so that airplanes behave in the sim like they would in real life in conditions such as turbulence. The downside is MSFS is relatively new and as of early 2021, not all instruments on all the planes are functioning correctly. Also, good VR performance requires a powerful PC  and some “settings jiu-jitsu” to maximize the experience. Be sure to check the specs first before purchasing.  It is scheduled for release on the Xbox in late 2021 which would bring the equipment acquisition costs down significantly.

X-Plane 11


X-Plane 11 By Laminar Research is a full-function simulator that has been around for a while and supports VR. It was just recently updated and optimized for modern PCs. All of the instruments in the cockpit work properly and there is a universe of terrific add-ons. Nearly every type of aircraft ever made has been modeled in X-Plane. Some users claim the graphics are not as immersive and the flight model not as accurate as MSFS. X-Plane offers a free demo. Click here to check it out.

Most Essential Sim Equipment: Flight Stick, Rudder Pedals, Throttle, Flaps

The Flight Stick is what you will use to control your airplane in the virtual world. The main disadvantage of joystick-type controls is that “stick forces” are not realistic and users have a tendency to overcorrect when practicing maneuvers. Make sure the one you choose it’s ambidextrous (you can use it in either hand) or left-handed. Most gaming joysticks are designed to be used right-handed while most training aircraft are flown left handed. Also, be sure the joystick has a slider in front that can be used as throttle and up and down rocker-type buttons for flaps.

Much of the “stick and rudder” skills you will learn in the cockpit will require almost constant manipulation of the trim wheel and rudder pedals, especially during crosswind landings.  In the case of rudder pedals, be sure to get a set with an adjustable tension wheel like the ones shown, otherwise, you will not be able to calibrate the pedals to match your real in-cockpit experience. If your flight stick or yoke does not have a throttle mechanism then you will need one like the Logitech Flight Throttle Quadrant above.  There’s no need to buy a flap mechanism as most of the devices mentioned have rocker-style buttons that you can easily assign to control your flaps.

Trim Wheel

A trim wheel is a good accessory to add to your flight sim setup.

Flight Velocity Trim Wheel.


Virtual Reality Headsets

Using VR headsets with flight sims provides students with the ultimate and unprecedented ability to practice the maneuvers they will learn in training at home.  The two most popular VR headsets for flight simulators are the Oculus Rift S and HP’s Reverb G2.

Oculus Rift S ($299)

The Oculus Rift S is a second-generation VR headset and the most popular VR device for flight simmers. while the resolution is not as high as HP’s reverb G2 device, it is detailed enough to easily read the cockpit gauges which makes it a fine choice for home flight simulation. It’s available everywhere at a great price. Be sure to get the Rift S (the one that physically connects to your computer via the display port cable).


HP Reverb G2 ($699)

The latest VR set from HP, the Reverb G2, boasts an astonishing 2160 x 2160 resolution and is arguably the most capable on the market. However, users have indicated that a pc with super high-end specs is required to have a satisfactory VR experience. It’s also almost twice as expensive as the Oculus Rifts. The G2 may become widely adopted in the home sim environment however as of early 2021, it’s too early to tell.


Private Pilot Exams

You will have to pass two tests to obtain your Private Pilot certificate. The first is a written exam and the second one, called the check ride, consists of two parts: an oral exam and a flight skill demonstration portion.

Private Pilot Exams | Student Pilot World

Written Exam

The FAA Private Pilot exam has 50 multiple-choice questions. You need a score of 70% or higher to pass. Some students choose to study on their own and then take the test first before taking flight lessons. Your school may offer a prep course and there are popular self-study options: Sporty’s Pilot Shop, Gliem Aviation, and King Schools. however there is no mandatory classwork requirement for this portion, all you have to do is take the test and pass.

Free Resources to Help with The Written Exam

The FAA has several free testing resources on its FAA Airmen Testing page. You can even take a practice test. Create an account then you can take an FAA private pilot practice test. You can use the same site to schedule your Private Pilot Written exam online.


The final hurdle is you will need to pass a check ride which consists of an oral exam followed by a flight portion conducted by an FAA DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner). The typical check ride lasts for about 4 hours with the time split evenly with two hours for each section. if all goes well, you will receive a Temporary Airman Certificate on the spot while your permanent card is mailed to you. However, at this point, you are a full-fledged private pilot  – Congratulations!


Checkride is an Opportunity to Learn

The thought of a check ride can understandably be stressful however you should really think of it as once in a lifetime opportunity to complete a challenge that will help you grow in ways that you may not have thought possible. In many respects, it represents the sum total of all the knowledge and experience you acquired during your flight training. You should have no problem passing if you paid attention and you had a good CFI.

What is the Examiner Looking for?

The check DPE is not “out to get you”, he/she just wants to ensure that you are competent to the levels listed in the Practical Test Standards (PTS). They are chosen by the FAA for their experience and can usually instantly assess your relative ability. Just do your best and don’t try to fool them – you won’t.  Stick to their specific requests and don’t volunteer any additional info because that opens you up to questions you may not be prepared to answer. It’s a good idea to speak to someone who is familiar with your DPE’s emphasis areas before you take your check ride.

What if you Don’t Pass?

Don’t automatically give up during the exam if you think you failed an area. If you think you did something under standards just continue unless otherwise directed by the DPE because you can complete other items so you don’t have to cover those on the next check ride. It isn’t over until the DPE says so so don’t offer to end the exam let the DPE do that if necessary.  The other main reason to continue is that you don’t have to retake the entire check ride if you failed one portion. You simply have to retake that part in order to satisfy the requirements. So you might as well get as much of it done during the first session so you can focus on the weak area(s) next time you take the check ride.

Weather and Your Checkride

If the weather goes south on the day of your check-ride you can opt to do the oral part and defer the flight portion until you get a day of favorable weather. The exam is challenging enough without having to contend with additional challenges like gusty winds, marginal weather, or full crosswind landings.  Just like flight lessons, it’s your time and your dime so spend it wisely.

You can read more about what to expect during your check-ride on the AOPA’s website.

(Coming Soon) Members Only – What happened on my first check ride – a true story.

Personal Safety

Flight training is considered to be relatively safe as student pilots are usually operating under the watchful eye of their CFI’s however it is never too soon for students to start thinking seriously about safety.


Your training will focus a great deal on keeping you as safe as possible. However, there are a few things you can do to preemptively get in the know regarding safety.


A good place to start in terms of your own well-being assessment is to use the time-tested Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)’s mnemonic for flight fitness:

IM SAFE – Illness, Medication, Stress, Alchohol, Fatigue, Emotion

Assess your safety before every flight & don’t go if you fall short in any of these assessment areas. In addition to sacrificing your safety, you are also wasting your money if you fly impaired. Flying requires 100% of your attention and any one of these will prevent that from happening.



The NTSB is the US federal agency largely responsible for investigating transportation accidents including aviation. The FAA is the agency charged with enforcement largely in the form of AD’s (Airworthiness Directives). Sometimes the NTSB deferred investigations to the FAA. Confused yet? Don’t worry as all f this provides a large database of all aviation accidents that you the taxpayer can search. The editors find this helpful for the student pilot in ways such as looking up the home airport and studying accidents or looking up mishaps by airplane make and model to determine the types and frequency of accidents that have occurred in your trainer aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)  Aviation Accident Database & Synopses


Another useful resource is a system maintained by NASA called the ASRS – Aviation Safety Reporting System. The searchable database encourages pilots to voluntarily report any noteworthy safety incidents (usually lapses that could have led to an accident but did not) by offering the reporter immunity. Click here to search the ASRS database.


Every pilot should read these two books at some point (and probably many times) in their aviation career: The Killing Zone, Second Edition: How & Why Pilots Die, and The Next Hour: The Most Important Hour in Your Logbook by the late Richard L. Collins


A Final Word But Not The Last

Students will commonly lean on their instructors to be the ultimate keeper of the keys in terms of safety during the training period. While this may be ok for the flight training, ultimately your safety is … you guessed it … always and forever your responsibility. Make sure to thoroughly check the weather, the equipment, as well as your own state of wellness before hopping in the airplane skyward bound. Make sure to do a thorough pre-flight inspection every time you fly. Follow the checklist meticulously and don’t skip steps even if you see others doing it.

Don’t let your instructor or school pressure you to go on flights if you do not feel comfortable. You’re the one in charge of your safety … No one else! Exceptional safety is an ongoing goal that all pilots should strive to achieve by improving and evolving throughout their flying careers.

Bonus: Click here for Katheryn’s Report a blog that tracks and consolidates accident reports and photos. This is a great site for the conscientious pilot to review regularly. The best way to learn safety is by studying the mistakes of others some of whom have paid dearly for the knowledge you are receiving.

You’re a Pilot … Now What?

GO flying!

The best way to continue the journey is to go flying – now as a Pilot in Comand (PIC)! Be careful not to forget all the things you just learned regarding safety. And while you are now a full-fledged pilot, don’t be afraid to seek additional training from an instructor on maneuvers and concepts for which you may not yet feel 100% confident. In flying, the learning journey never ends.

Student Pilot World | Go Flying!

Rent an Airplane

Rent a plane from your school or join a flying club. The club will likely have to take a checkout flight(s) before they give you the keys to their airplane to head out for the wild blue yonder on your own.

Buy an Airplane

If you have lots of extra cash sitting around with nothing to do you can buy a plane.  There are several online classified sites to help you find your new plan such as Trade-A-Plane, Controller, and Barnstormers. These sites are all fun to browse even if you are not looking to buy right away. You can always dream …

A sample listing from Vanbortel Aircraft on Controller.com:


Aircraft Ownership: Choose Your “Mission” First

The number one criteria that should determine which aircraft you buy is that it should fit your “mission”. Its performance, capabilities, and costs should support the flying you plan on doing regularly. If you just want to fly alone or to the local airports then a nice small plane like a Cessna 150 or even a light-sport aircraft would do nicely. If you plan on traveling to faraway places with lots of people, then you would have to look at larger, more capable, and more expensive aircraft like the Cirrus SR22.

Purchasing a Used Airplane: Buyer Beware

New aircraft are extremely expensive therefore you may need to look to the used market. You may be surprised (or maybe not at this point) to learn that many of the used aircraft can be as old as you are or even more. The upside for older aircraft is that most of the mechanical issues are well known and documented so you should be able to learn about the maintenance issues associated with the aircraft you choose before you buy. The downside is the shape it’s currently in will be dependent on factors outside of your control such as how it has been maintained over its very long service life.

Be sure to do your homework and do not do any deals or blindly send funds to someone you don’t know. There’s an established process for safely buying used planes which you can read about on the AOPA’s site.

Aircraft Operating Costs

It’s worth mentioning during a discussion on aircraft ownership that a common mistake is not factoring the airplane’s operating costs into the decision. Even some modestly performing general aviation planes can cost $200+ an hour to operate with aviation fuel (10+ GPH 100LL) accounting for half or more of the tab. Maintenance current and anticipated makes up the rest. We didn’t even factor in a loan for the aircraft itself. Do you really want to spend $200 every time you take the airplane out? Costs can balloon quickly and you can easily get in over your head if you aren’t realistic upfront. You may wish to consider Light-Sport aircraft which be a much manageable $50-$75 per hour or less to operate. They sip around 4 gallons of car gas an hour making them cheap by aviation standards to operate. if you are interested in learning more about how to calculate aircraft ownership costs, you can click here for a cost calculator.

Buying an Airplane Based On Your Skills Not Your Wallet

Be sure to look at airplanes that are commensurate with your skill level. Resist the urge to jump into the fastest, coolest airplane right off the bat even if money is not an issue. High-performance aircraft can have slimmer safety margins and can be less forgiving when it counts the most. You can always upgrade later when your skills are up to the job of flying a demanding aircraft.

Engine TBO – Time Between Overhaul

One of the most significant considerations when purchasing an aircraft is its engine TBO (time between overhaul). Most airplane engines require a $30K+ overhaul after 2000 hours of use or 12 years (whichever comes first). Beware of a great deal on a plane that has an overhaul coming up – don’t forget to build that into the price. Equally concerning is the aircraft that has unusually low time on the engine. A motor that has sat around unused for years would also likely need a total overhaul regardless of how many hours are on the Hobbs meter. Don’t forget to put the word out at your school or FBO that you are looking for an airplane. The best chance you will have of getting a great and honest deal on an airplane that you know is mechanically sound is to work within your local community.

Fun Book to Read: On Duct Tape and a Prayer is a funny and short true story about someone buying an inexpensive airplane on a budget. It describes all the things people usually run up against when buying a used plane. The audiobook is hysterical and worth a listen.

Build A Plane

Airplane kits have come a long way in the last few years. They used to be mere blueprints and raw materials some of which you would have to source on your own. Now, many kit manufacturers offer complete “quick build” options with most of the hard stuff already done for you.

The Bushcat (pictured below) is a highly capable example of a modern airplane kit. The manufacturer claims it can be built by a novice without any special skills in around 350 hours for around $80K.


A big player in the home-built market is Vans Aircraft.  You can also get a great deal on some of the planes already built. Other noteworthy kit planes companies are Sonex, Rans, Glassair. Most kit planes a very capable aircraft and use the excellent and reliable Rotax engine.

You can even build a large 6-Seater Airplane like this recently introduced Bearhawk 6-place (pictured below).


Check out Kitplanes Magazine to learn more about building your own plane.

Additional Training:

You can continue your aviation journey by getting a new rating. An Instrument Rating is the next logical and most useful one. An instrument rating is next-level type training and it turns the airplane into a truly useful form of transportation for the pilot. Aerobatic training is another good option as is how to learn to land other types of aircraft like taildraggers. The options are quite literally infinite.

Other Great Resources

Check out the major associations: AOPA (Airplane Owners and Pilots Associations), EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), Seaplane Pilots Association

Read the magazines & blogs: Flying Magazine, Plane & Pilot Magazine, Aviation Consumer Magazine and their blog Avweb, General Aviation News

Go to the events:

SUN n Fun 

Sun n Fun

EAA’s AirVenture:

EAA Airventure

Happy Flying!

Aviation is one of the most infinitely fascinating endeavors in which you can invest your time. You will come across as many characters as you will aircraft types and all will have a story to tell. The flying community is passionate, supportive, and strong. Pilots are thoughtful individuals who take the fun of flying seriously. Regardless of how you continue your journey, the editors of Student Pilot World wish you well and hope your time in aviation becomes a life-long grand flying adventure!

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