Whether you’ve always wanted to become a pilot or you’ve recently been intrigued by the wild blue yonder, there are several options and opportunities available to help you realize your dream of flight.
It’s no secret that learning to fly is exciting, but the majority of people who transform their lives through earning their wings are surprised at how much they learn about themselves through their training and experience, in addition to the skills they acquire to become a safe, consistent and competent pilot. So, whether you took a few classes years ago and you’re looking to finally complete your training, are at the beginning of your journey to learn to fly, or you are a current pilot looking to maintain your proficiency, the wonder of flight is most certainly within your reach.
However, before going too far, make sure you satisfy the requirements to earn a private pilot certificate, which include:
Take a Discovery Flight
If you’ve never experienced the thrill of flying in a small aircraft, we highly recommend reaching out to your local general aviation airport to schedule a discovery flight. If you’re unsure about who to contact, the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) website has several great resources to help you search for a flight school and connect you to a discovery flight in your area.
During your discovery flight, you can expect to experience the thrill of flying – courtesy of a certified flight instructor – while getting to know some of the staff and aircraft that contribute to the school’s overall pilot training experience. If you really want to get the most out of your discovery flight, we suggest coming prepared with a list of questions you have about flying and flight training.
Secure Your Student Pilot Certificate and Pass Your Third-Class Aviation Medical Exam
If you don’t already have your student pilot, recreational pilot or sport pilot certificate, you’ll need to obtain a student pilot certificate, in addition to an aviation medical certificate before you begin your flight training. We recommend making an appointment at your nearest aviation medical examiner’s office, where you can receive both your student pilot and medical certificate at the same time. Additionally, you can go to an FAA Flight Standards District Office and submit an application, or you can submit an application for a student pilot certificate to an FAA examiner. However, a medical certificate is required before you can solo in any aircraft.
Choose Your Flight Training Program and Flight Instructor
Whether you want to become a sport pilot so you can enjoy flying in your spare time, or you are interested in earning your private pilot rating so you can fly yourself to business meetings without the hassle of commercial airport travel, we recommend conducting extensive research to ensure that you select a program that will prepare you for exactly the type of pilot you want to be.
The AOPA’s “Learn to Fly” site is a great resource, filled with useful information to help you weigh your options when it comes to the certificates and ratings available, in addition to exploring the variety of training options available to first-time pilots, pilots looking to earn advanced ratings, or those needing to continue their training in order to continue flying commercially.
In addition to conducting extensive research before committing to a flight school, we recommend talking with other pilots who have already received the level of training you seek and asking for their opinions and suggestions to help you determine the program and flight instructor who will be the best fit for you.
Take Your FAA Written Exam
Depending on your flight school and instructor, you may be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot Written Exam before you even sit in the cockpit of a training aircraft. Some programs will let you fly while you are reading materials and studying to take the test. We suggest taking the test as early as possible, because the task of flying is much easier when you have the background knowledge to be successful. Regardless, before you can take your private pilot checkride (a.k.a. the FAA Practical Exam), you will need to pass the written test.
Gain Flight Experience
Like many things in life, experience is the best teacher! That’s why it’s essential to get seat time with your instructor so you can learn basic maneuvers (takeoffs, landings, turns, climbs and descents) and work toward the minimum of 10 hours required to solo an aircraft. In addition to mastering the basics, you’ll learn how to land the aircraft, what to do in the event of an emergency, how to communicate using the radios and more.
Take Your FAA Practical Exam
Depending on the type of certificate or rating you wish to achieve, you may need to accumulate a certain number of hours of experience in order to be eligible to take the FAA Practical Exam, or checkride. The exam, which is administered by a designated FAA examiner, consists of a verbal exam and a flight exam. The ground, or verbal, portion is usually conducted first and can last from 30 minutes to a few hours. With successful completion of the verbal exam, you will conduct the flight portion of the exam, which typically lasts between one to two hours. The entire testing process can last anywhere from two to six hours, depending on the examiner’s methods and your level of knowledge.
Receive Your License
After successfully completing your checkride, your FAA examiner will assist you in completing the required paperwork from the FAA and issue you a temporary certificate to use while you await your official FAA certificate to arrive in the mail.
As you become comfortable and confident with your piloting skills, the focus of your flight training will shift to fine-tuning those skills for your final exam. If possible, gain experience in the aircraft that you will not only take your checkride in, as well as the type of aircraft that you will be piloting in the initial phase of your flying.
Let’s Do This!
If you’re ready to turn your dream of flight into reality, the Waukesha County Airport is fortunate to have two great flight schools on the airfield. Additionally, we are affiliated Carroll University’s Aviation Science Major, a unique program designed to prepare students for careers in general and professional aviation while pursuing their degree. Whatever path you choose, our supportive aviation community is here to guide you on your journey and prepare you for a life of flight.