Steps to become a pilot in 2024

Last updated: April 25, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Steps to become a pilot in 2024
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Do you dream of becoming a pilot? Can you imagine the thrill of soaring above the clouds in an airplane? If so, then a career as a pilot may be for you.

Being a pilot is a gratifying and lucrative career requiring dedication, training, and hard work. However, this dream can become a reality with the right resources and guidance.

This guide will provide you with information on how to become a pilot, including the different types of pilot licenses, costs, prerequisites, and steps you need to take to start working as a pilot.

What is a pilot?

A pilot is a professional airman who operates an aircraft to safely transport passengers and cargo. Pilots are responsible for the overall safety of their passengers and crew and for ensuring the plane arrives at its destination on time.

They use instruments, radios, and global positioning systems (GPS) to navigate the plane. These trained professionals also maintain communication with air traffic control and adhere to any regulations or laws regarding the operation of their aircraft.

Pilots must have excellent vision, physical coordination, and problem-solving skills to carry out their duties successfully. They also need to be able to remain calm under pressure and be highly organized. It's an excellent career path for detail-oriented people with good communication skills and a passion for aviation.

There were over 691,000 pilots in the United States as of 2020, making it one of the most popular aviation jobs in the world. With advances in technology and increased international travel, the demand for pilots is only expected to grow in the coming years.

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It's also considered a high-paying job in the public transportation industry and opens up many exciting opportunities for those passionate about aviation.

Most common types of pilot licenses

The six most common types of pilot licenses are student, sport, recreational, private, commercial, and Airline Transport Pilot (ATP). Each license type has unique requirements and is suited for different purposes. Let's take a closer look at each license in detail to help you decide which is the best for you.

Student pilot

This license is for those new to the industry who want to begin their flight training. Those interested in obtaining a student pilot license must be at least 16 years old and submit an application on the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website.

There are limitations to this type of licensing, including how far you can fly from an airport. It's important to note that you do not need a student pilot's license to take flying lessons, only to obtain permission to fly in an aircraft independently.

Sport pilot

A sport pilot license is a wonderful option for those looking to operate light-sport aircraft. It requires fewer hours of flight time and significantly lower costs than other types of licenses. To qualify for a sport pilot license, you have to be at least 17 years of age, pass the sport pilot knowledge test, receive 20 hours of flight training, and complete a practical flight test with an FAA instructor.

Recreational pilot

A recreational pilot license is specifically designed for pilots who want to fly in the United States but do not require a commercial license for work. It's ideal for those who want to fly recreationally and within a limited area. One major perk of obtaining a recreational pilot license is that it requires only 30 hours of training instead of the 40 needed with a private pilot's license.

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Private pilot

A private pilot's license is the most common general aviation piloting permit type. It enables you to fly an aircraft for non-commercial purposes and functions similarly to a standard driver's license. A private pilot license allows an individual to fly at any civil airport. These pilots can fly appropriately rated aircraft, such as single-engine aircraft. Many people obtain private pilot licenses to fulfill a personal dream or passion.

Commercial pilot

A commercial pilot's license is required for those looking to make a career out of flying. It allows the holder to be paid for their services and enables them to fly larger aircraft, such as multi-engine planes. The requirements to obtain a commercial pilot's license are more stringent than other licenses and require a minimum of 250 hours of flight time.

Airline transport pilot

An airline transport pilot (ATP) license is needed if you want to be an aircraft captain or first officer. ATP licenses are the highest level of certification and require a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience. It also requires passing the ATP written exam as well as completing a comprehensive airman knowledge test and an ATP practical exam.

Cost and prerequisites for pilot school

In order to become a licensed commercial pilot, you must first complete the necessary training from an accredited flight school. The cost of this varies depending on whether you have previous flying experience. For those without prior experience, the price is typically around $91,995. This includes the theory and practical training, as well as the fees associated with getting your license.

For those starting with a private pilot certificate, the cost is typically around $71,995. This includes the fees associated with the license, as well as additional training to raise your skill level.

In addition to the cost, some prerequisites must be met to qualify for pilot school. These include:

High school diploma

One of the most important prerequisites is having a high school diploma. Without it, you will not be eligible for a pilot license. You can also obtain a GED, which the FAA recognizes in place of a high school diploma.

College degree

While the FAA does not require a college degree, some airlines may require it as part of the hiring process. Therefore, a college degree can be beneficial if you are hoping to pursue a career in aviation.

Medical clearance

All pilots must pass a medical exam in order to obtain their license. This exam is very detailed and must be completed by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). The exam includes tests to check for hearing, vision, and heart health.

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Math skills

While there are no specific math requirements, those who want to become a pilot should have basic math skills. This includes knowledge of geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. Having a solid foundation in math will help you with the navigation and charting sections of your pilot training.

Steps you must take to become a pilot

Find a flight training school.

The first step in becoming a pilot is to find a reputable flight school. Seek out schools that offer the type of training you need and that are within your budget. Be sure to research each school thoroughly and make sure the instructors are experienced and highly qualified. Before you are able to start training at your flight school, you will need to take an admissions flight at one of the accredited testing locations.

Obtain your FAA medical certificate

In order to obtain your pilot's license, you must obtain an FAA medical certificate. This requires passing a physical exam and getting a sign-off from an AME. Those who wish to fly professionally will need to acquire a first-class medical certificate, which airline transport pilots typically utilize.

Apply for the student pilot certificate

Once you have passed your medical exam, the next step is applying for an FAA student pilot certificate. This certificate will enable you to fly solo and marks the beginning of your pilot training. This requires filling out a student pilot application and providing the necessary documentation on the FAA's Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website.

Complete flight lessons

The next step is to complete your flight lessons, which typically consist of a minimum of 40 hours. At least 20 hours must be flown with an instructor and 10 hours completed by the student pilot alone. There are a specific number of takeoffs and landings as well as a night flying requirement. This includes time spent in the air as well as ground instruction. During these lessons, you will learn about aircraft systems, basic aerodynamics, and navigation. You will also work on developing your flying skills and learning how to respond in different situations.

Pass the FAA private pilot test

Once you have logged the required number of flight hours, you will be ready to take the FAA private pilot test. This consists of a written exam, which tests knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. You must pass this exam with at least 70% accuracy in order to move on to the next step.

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Complete the FAA private pilot practical exam

One of the final steps in the process is to take an in-flight practical exam. This is also called the Private Pilot Checkride. The first portion is an oral exam which lasts about an hour and a half. If you pass the oral exam, you will move on to the one hour flight exam. If you don't pass the oral exam, you cannot take the flight test. You will have to wait for the opportunity to retake both. During the flight portion of the exam, you will fly with an FAA examiner who will assess your ability to demonstrate various maneuvers and procedures. It's important to note that students must provide their own aircraft for the exam.

Complete the instrument rating certification

Another crucial step one must take to become a commercial pilot is to obtain an instrument rating. This involves learning to fly the aircraft solely by reference to instruments, as opposed to visual navigation. This requires additional hours of training, which is sometimes accomplished in a flight simulator.

Once these steps have been completed, you can then move forward with obtaining a commercial pilot license. This occurs once you have secured at least 250 hours of flying time, per the FAA requirement.

The commercial pilot license then allows the individual to pursue a career as a pilot, such as becoming an airline pilot or working for charter companies and flight schools. There is also the option of becoming an aerial photographer, crop duster, or firefighting pilot.

On average, it takes those who wish to fly commercial airplanes a total of two years to complete the 1,500 hours of flight time that is required for this role. There is an incredible amount of dedication and hard work that is involved in becoming a pilot, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Becoming a pilot comes with the opportunity to explore the world from a bird's eye view and the satisfaction of contributing to an important industry. It is an enriching experience and one that will provide you with a lifetime of memories.

Licensing and job outlook for pilots

The path to becoming a licensed pilot can be lengthy, but once all of the necessary steps and requirements have been met, pilots will be able to pursue a wide range of job opportunities.

According to current data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 18,100 openings for airline pilots are projected each year, which equates to a 6% growth through 2031. This not only highlights the fact that the industry is growing but also indicates there are plenty of job opportunities for aspiring pilots.

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The average salary for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $202,180 in May 2021, while commercial pilots had a median yearly salary of $99,640. Of course, these numbers can vary depending on the type of job they have and their skill level.

Overall, becoming a pilot is an incredibly rewarding experience, with plenty of job opportunities available at companies like JetBlue. With dedication and hard work, pilots can make a successful career out of their passions.

It takes an immense amount of skill and the ability to respond in different situations, but with the right motivation and preparation, anyone can pursue a career as a pilot.

Start your journey to becoming a pilot today.

For those who have the ambition and enough dedication, becoming a pilot can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. With proper preparation and guidance, pilots can make their dreams of taking flight a reality. The job outlook for pilots is positive, and the salary can be lucrative.

If you're ready to start working as a pilot, you can find pilot jobs on the Jobcase job board.

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