So you want to become a pilot? Well using the knowledge provided here at you will have a step-by-step plan of how to become a pilot.


Step 1: Cost of Training

Step 2: Age

Step 3: Medical Certificate

Step 4: English Proficiency Exam

Step 5: Selecting a Flight School

Step 6: Selecting a Ground School

Step 7: Building Hours and Experience

Step 8: Staying Motivated


The process of obtaining a pilot license is similar to that of obtaining a drivers license. One must: pass written exams, complete a driving school course with a recognized school, spend a minimum amount of time at various stages of their license and pass practical tests along the way. The result of the process is a licensed and safe driver & that same training model produces a licensed and safe pilot as well.


Step 1: Cost of Training


Below are the generic costs to complete various phases of your training in the minimum time required.

-       Private Pilot License:

a.     $11,000 USD,

b.     Teaches a pilot the fundamentals of aviation. One may fly the aircraft approved by their license (i.e. a car drivers license only allows one to operate a car and not a motorcycle) with passengers, but not for reward or hire.

-       Night Rating:

a.     $3,000 USD,

b.     Allows a pilot to fly at night.

-       Multi-Engine Rating:

a.     $5000 USD,

b.     Become qualified to fly an aircraft with two engines.

-       Instrument (IFR) Rating:

a.     13,000 USD

b.     Learn how to fly in the clouds and other poor weather conditions. This may be learnt using a single or multi-engine aircraft depending on if you’re a hobby pilot or professional one.

-       Commercial Pilot License:

a.     $20,000 USD

b.     Begins your professional pilot career and fly for reward or hire.


There are many variables that will effect the cost of training such as:

-       The rental cost of the aircraft,

-       The cost to hire an instructor,

-       How long it takes to complete each phase of training,

-       Books and study materials; and,

-       Fees for written & medical exams.


It is recommended to have slightly more in reserve incase it takes extra time to complete a particular phase.


Step 2: Age


The minimum age one must be to obtain a certain license are:

-       Student Pilot: 16

-       Private Pilot License: 17

-       Commercial Pilot License: 18

-       Airline Transport Pilot License: 21 or 23 depending on the country


Step 3: Medical Certificate


Before flying a candidate must meet certain medical requirements. Aviation medical exams must be scheduled with an aviation medical examiner. A list of examiners may be found online or by asking a local flight school for recommendations.


There are typically different types/categories of medical certificates. A pilot must get at least the minimum medical type/category that is required for their license. (i.e. An ATPL pilot requires a Cat 1 medical vs. a private pilot requires a lower Cat 3 medical). Getting a medical that covers a higher license will also cover the licenses below it. (i.e. Cat 1 medical will cover Cat 3 medicals, but not vice versa).


Furthermore, the aviation medical exam process is simple. There is typically a form to complete regarding your general health. After they will take a urine sample followed by an ear & blood pressure test. A brief eye test proving one has no color blindness and at least 20/20 vision with or without glasses will also be required. Other tests such as an ECG test may be conducted as required. The candidate will be informed of all required test for their type/category of medical.


One may wonder: “what happens if I can't get an aviation medical certificate?”. Generally people go through the process without issue, however in some cases further testing may be required before granting a medical. In rare cases a medical may be denied, but the aviation medical, examiner will inform the individual of the reason. If the condition can be improved then another examination can be conducted once the person is healthy.


Step 4: English Proficiency Exam


An English proficiency exam may be required to prove the student can speak to a certain standard of English. This is important for talking on the radio to ensure clear communications which is an integral part of aviation safety. The flight school you join should take you through the steps required to complete this step.


Step 5: Selecting a Flight School


This is a very important step because the quality & pace of your training will depend on the quality of the flight school. Some students may determine to accomplish their flight training either through a University or College program or privately through a local flight school. Each method is unique and one should think about which method best suits their needs:

-       University or College program:

a.     Structured environment,

b.     Students graduate in 1-4 years depending on the complexity of their course,

c.     May graduate with a degree which is an asset to some companies, but is not a requirement to most companies; and,

d.     May have graduate job placements at certain airlines for the top students.

-       Privately:

a.     Flexible to your schedule,

b.     Accomplish training at your own pace,

c.     The ability to easily move to other schools for different phases if it become more convenient,

d.     There may be flight school around your area versus relocating to a different city to attend a specific flight school; and,

e.     Work with the instructor to finish each portion in the minimum time required depending on the students ability and not be put into additional mandatory requirements required by a university program.


It is important to invest time researching various areas of a university/college or flight school particularly in the areas below:

-       Aircraft & Equipment:

a.     Well maintained both mechanically and esthetically with functioning equipment,

b.     Diverse fleet to complete different phases of each license:

§  Two seat planes (i.e. Cessna 150/152 or Diamond DA20) are excellent trainers because of their ease to learn basic flight skills on.

§  Four seat planes (i.e. Cessna 172 or Diamond DA40) are great for bringing friends and family along to share your new skill, time building & longer distance flights.

§  Instrument flying certified aircraft are important to obtaining either a multi-IFR or single-IFR rating

c.     An approved ground simulator to provide flight procedures training and especially IFR training.


-       Quality of Instructors:

a.     Knowledgable

b.     Professional

c.     Experienced by having successfully taught many students through the phase you want to learn. One may have a different instructors for each phase depending on the instructor’s abilities.

d.     Is cost and schedule conscious so as to help one progress on budget and on time as long as the student is putting in the work.


-       Availability:

a.     A flight school that have planes, instructors and ground school courses that are readily available is important to avoid delays,

b.     Avoid schools who don't have the type of aircraft you want to fly available due to constant maintenance or who have contracts with major companies and prioritize those students over you where it becomes difficult to book slots,

c.     Does your instructor have the time to teach you or are the constantly booked or unavailable?; and,

d.     There has to be some understanding on the student’s part, but dealing with too many inconveniences can make training more difficult.


-       Rental Costs

a.     Important for determining your budget.

b.     Compare prices with other flight schools in your area

c.     What do they charge for planes, instructors and ground school courses?


Step 6: Selecting a Ground School


The ground portion is the academic side of flying. Attending a good ground school is the best way of becoming a knowledgable pilot which keeps you safe and legal. Ground schools may be offered either through a flight school via classroom instruction or may be an online program approved by the government.


-       Should you go to a ground school or take an online program

a.     Ground School:

1.     Classroom environment with a teacher,

2.     Group setting,

3.     Set schedule; and

4.     Spend time and money to commute to a location.

5.     Great for those who may need extra assistance or those who are new students.

b.     Online:

1.     PowerPoint or online program,

2.     Independent setting,

3.     Study on your own schedule; and,

4.     Work from anywhere.

5.     Great for independent learners or those who may already have experience with the material being discussed.


Whichever is chosen the program must be a reputable ground school that will cover all of the material necessary to successfully pass the written exams and provide the student with the knowledge to be a safe and legal pilot.


Step 7: Building Hours and Experience


Obtaining a pilot certificate is rarely enough for a person to be hired as a commercial pilot. Most commercial pilot jobs, including airline and corporate pilot jobs, require a minimum number of hours just to apply.


Below is a list of several jobs one may do to build the required time. Each of these jobs will require different levels of experience. A pilot may move from one type of job to the next in order to climb the ladder and build experience.


-       Agricultural Pilot/Crop Duster

-       Airshow Pilot

-       Banner Towing Pilot

-       Charter Pilot

-       Corporate Pilot

-       Contract Pilot (for a private owner)

-       Demo Pilot (aircraft sales)

-       Ferry Pilot

-       Firefighting or Forestry Pilot

-       Flight Instructor

-       Freight/Cargo Pilot

-       Humanitarian/Charity Pilot

-       Major Airline Pilot

-       Medical Evacuation Pilot

-       National Defense or Border Patrol Pilot

-       News/Traffic Pilot

-       Photographer Pilot

-       Pipeline Patrol Pilot

-       Sight-Seeing/Tour Pilot

-       Skydiver Pilot

-       Regional Airline Pilot


If one is focused on obtaining a particular pilot job they must be familiar with those requirements so they can chart the right path through all the options (i.e. Instructor -> Charter Pilot -> Regional Airline Pilot -> Major Airline Pilot.)


This is the most trying time for new pilots, but with a positive attitude one will eventually emerge from this phase with enough hours to obtain their dream job. From there one may continue along that path upgrading in position, aircraft, salary & schedule.


Step 8: Staying Motivated


Whether flying as a professional or for a thrilling hobby becoming a becoming a pilot will take discipline, hard work and commitment, but know that all that effort is worth it as the skill and career is extremely rewarding.