It's been said that getting your pilot's license requires determination, grit, and really deep pockets.
We're kidding about that last part. Sort of.
(Editor's note: the next couple of paragraphs is just fluff trying to convince people this is really
something fun that all the cool kids are doing. If you're already one of us, skip to here
for the requirements from the FAR's)
What does it take to get a pilot's license? Let's take a look at the fundamental question - why do you
want to do it?
Surprisingly enough if you answered "I dunno. Just 'cause?" that's a pretty good answer (although you
probably didn't win any essay writing contests back in high school)). Nobody's putting a gun to your head,
so if you hate aviation, anything aviation related, and probably puppies too, let's face it, this isn't for
you. That's really all it takes, a desire. All the rest of it is really ancillary. Pretty simple, huh?
We're all pilots here so we know about that indescribable feeling you can get when you look up at the wild
blue yonder and start to feel like you belong up there. Aside from that purely carnal desire to climb into a
cockpit and take off, there's literally millions of different reason's to learn how to fly. We'll go over a
couple of them to get you thinking.
Just for fun
Here it is again. Okay this isn't a real reason, but fact of the matter is, it's pleasurable. The beaches
are only a few short hours away. Sunshine not your thing? Head north and go camping in the Appalachians. It's
really only limited by your imagination.
This one seems kind of obvious, but if you want to be a commercial pilot, you probably ought to know how to fly.
Imagine having one of the greatest views from your office in the world, one from 30,000 ft above the ground - one
where you can take in all the beauty this great country has to offer from a perspective that few really see
(okay, you can stare out the window of an airliner, but that's just not the same. Trust us on this one).
Now try this one on for size. Your boss comes into your office and tells you to prepare slides for the pre-meeting
meeting kickoff event. Something about lean-kaizen-black belt-six sigma-paradigm shifting and the latest flavor
of the month. Wouldn't it be nice to cast of those corporate shackles (says the writer who works for the world's
largest defense contractor) and find your true calling in the sky?
This is a great place to start. Keep in mind too, that we're no pilot puppy mill like other places that shall
remain nameless. No two people are alike, so no two people will learn the same way. We'll customize the curriculum
to each and every individual to make sure you get the most out of your instruction.
Own a small business? Imagine how you can expand the your territory when any place in the southeast is just a
stone's throw away. Say you've got a sales meeting in Memphis. Your alternatives are to drive (8 hours minimum)
or fly commercial via Hartsfield (drive to the airport, go through security, wait for an hour, sit on the ramp,
make the actual flight, wade through the airport again. You're back at 7-8 hours again). Forget all of that. You
could fly yourself there in about 3 hours. Time is valuable and you've just made back 5 hours. Enough said.
Impressing that Special Someone
Okay, how impressive would it be to take someone on a date that's truly unique? The purpose of this two-fold:
you're all but guaranteed to do something that'll leave a lasting impression and that's also sure to wow. I
mean, how creative is to take someone to a dinner and a movie? Bar scene? Yawn. So, now you've got a hook.
Here's where the second purpose comes in. If she* comes to expect treatment like that every time, she's high
maintenance and probably a gold digger. You're better off with someone else anyway. See how much money and
grief you've just saved? You can spend that on more flying!
We've gone over just a few of the millions of reason to learn how to fly. If you still need convincing, try
an intro flight. That'll be all you need.
So, technically you've got to have more than just the desire to learn how to fly, but that's 9/10 of the
problem. There's a pesky little thing called the FAA that imposes minimums and requirements to obtain your
different ratings. It's all in an effort to ensure that the highest level of safety is achieved (that's a
good thing). You can find the requirements in FAR61 (FAR = Federal Aviation Regulations. The FARs are also
now known as CFR14), but lemme tell you, that's a real page-turner. Read through the latest IRS codes while
you're at it. We'll sum up some of the requirements below:
If you can read this web page, you can probably pass the first requirement - being able to read, write
and speak English. Private pilots must be at least 17 years of age. You must have at least a 3rd class
medical before your first solo, for which you have to be 16 years of age. This will serve as your student
pilot certificate. Before getting your license, you must also pass an FAA written exam within the past 24
months. Hourly requirements for some of the more common ratings are summed up in the following table:
• 40 total hours which must include at least
• 20 dual hours with an instructor
• 10 solo hours
• 3 hours of night dual to include:
• Night dual cross-country over 100 nm
• 10 takeoffs and landings performed to a full stop
• 3 hours of simulated or actual instrument flight
• 3 hours of practical test prep in the previous 60 days
• 1 solo cross-country at least 150nm long, with landings at 3 separate airports
• 125 total hours which must include at least
• 50 hours of cross country time as PIC of which 10 must be in an instrument rated plane
• 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time
• 15 hours of instrument flight training with an instructor, in the appropriate aircraft category
• 3 hours of practical test prep within the previous 60 days
• At least once cross country flight under an IFR flight plan
Don't know what all that means?
• A private pilot is someone who has met all the minimum requirements laid out in FAR61 and has also
passed an oral exam and checkride administered by an FAA examiner. You're allowed to fly without an
instructor and you can take passengers. A private pilot rating is only allowed to fly in clear weather
and must stay out of clouds unless they have an instrument rating.
• An instrument rating is an additional rating you get after you get your private pilot's license
that allows you to fly in inclement weather, without any visual references external to the cockpit. All
your situational awareness comes from the instruments in the cockpit.
• A commercial pilot is someone that can charge money for flying. You don't need an instrument rating,
but it's really recommended.
• Total time is the total time you've got logged (sometimes this doesn't all have to be in a plane.
Some of it can be in an instrument simulator, which just so happen to have)
• Dual time is time that you've logged with an instructor as well
• Solo time is time you've flown as the only person in the plane
• Night time is time flown between 1 hour after and 1 hour before civil daylight time
• Instrument time is time flown in either actual or simulated instrument meteorological conditions
• Cross country time is time spent flying to a destination greater than 50nm away from your departure
point (individual requirements may dictate a greater distance)
• PIC (pilot in command) time is time spent where you are the one responsible for the safety of flight
(time with an instructor counts too)
There's other ratings on top of this, such as CFI, multi-engine, ATP, etc, etc, but if you're interested
in those you're capable of looking up the requirements yourself. Or if you want, you can probably bribe
(it really doesn't take much - it's fun to talk aviation!) one of us into talking you through it.