Hello Future Aviator!
So.. you want to learn how to fly an airplane? You are at the right place!
Learning to fly an airplane is simultaneously one of the most rewarding and challenging things you will do in your life! Lucky for us, Pittsburgh is an amazing place to do this. Follow along to see some of the things you will need to do to get an FAA license. While there is not a single recipe to get your wings, this post focuses on some common questions you may have. If you feel your question is not answered please feel free to reach out to TFC or post a comment below!
Disclaimer: This guide only covers some basics and focuses on Part 61 Private Airplane Single-Engine Land (SEL) FAA license. There are other variations of licenses like Sports Pilot Licenses, Recreation Pilot Licenses, Glider Pilot Licenses, and many more. Depending on what you want to do, these might be more suited to your needs.
What are the steps?
A pilot's license typically has the following steps (parallels to a driving license):
Schedule an Introductory Flight!
There is no better start to your aviation journey than getting behind the wheel of an airplane and flying it! There are many ways to do this! Most flying schools will provide a "Discovery Flight" option. Consider this as your first lesson. You need no experience or any certification/clearance to do this. Another option is to find someone who already has a license and hitch a ride. TFC regularly schedules fly-outs to nearby airports. Hop on an airplane, ask questions, and fly the airplane a little.
Get your medical done!
Find someone to teach you!
Get started on your FTSP (only for non US Citizens)!
Study and give your FAA Knowledge Test!
How long will it take?
It depends on you! Learning to fly is a skill set. As such everyone has a learning curve influenced by their prior experiences. Someone who has some prior experience with general aviation (GA) either because of family/friends or someone who is just a "natural" will take a shorter time than someone who has never been in a GA aircraft before. While FAA has a requirement of 40 hrs for Part 61, the national average is 55-75 flight hours depending on who you ask. The length is also a function of how often you can go flying. Weather, maintenance, schedule, and finances can all contribute to how regularly you can fly. Aiming for at least 2 lessons a week, assuming each lesson is 1 hr of flight time, means you will need close to 8 months. But this figure can be greatly reduced or increased depending on you.
One question we often get is "I am in my last semester at CMU, should I still start?". Our usual recommendation is yes. Even if you cannot finish the requirements, the flight hours and skill sets are transferable to wherever you will eventually move. No better time to start than now!
How much will it cost?
The typical cost of getting a PPL in Pittsburgh is around 8k-12k. A large part of this will go towards renting the plane (120$-185$ per hour) and compensating the CFI (40$-60$ per hour). This will also include one-time costs like buying the gear: Headsets, books, flight computers, online ground school, FTSP fees, AME fees, app subscriptions, checkride DPE fees etc.
The good thing is you can pay-as-you-go so the costs are spread over your entire training. TFC also maintains some materials like headsets, books, subscriptions, etc to help with some of the upfront costs.
Flight instructors often say "A license to fly is in fact a license to learn". As with all skills, learning never stops. Most PPL holders will go on to get more ratings like instrument flying (flying through clouds), multi-engine rating, high-performance, or complex rating. Being an aviator is more than a hobby, it's a way of life!
Have questions? Post a comment!