What is the best way to get started in flight training? There are many paths, but this article will outline a few basic things you should consider when getting started in the flight training process. Flight training can be one of the most rewarding endeavors of your lifetime, so it is important to educate yourself and get a good start.
Many people have a lifelong dream of learning to fly. Unfortunately, for most people who are genuinely interested in learning to fly, the perception is that it's too expensive, too time consuming, or too difficult. Undoubtedly, these are certainly very real considerations when deciding to take up flight training. For example, one notion is that flying is an expensive endeavor. It is expensive, however, is it more expensive than other hobbies or toys that many adults get involved in like boating, motorcycles, or RV'ing? You may be surprised to hear that flying can less expensive than some of those hobbies. Well then, is it too time consuming? I once took a student from no experience to a private pilot in eighteen days from start to finish, including the written exam. I generally suggest spreading the training out over more time to experience more weather, etc, but the point is, with the right mindset, a private pilots license can by achieved relatively quickly. What about being too difficult? None of the knowledge required is necessarily difficult, it's just a lot of information from many different subject areas. With the right study plan, it's not too difficult. Here are some tips to follow if you are truly interested in earning a pilots license.
First, go to your local airport and visit your local flight school. I recommend that you start with a "discovery" flight. Most flight schools offer some version of this flight as an orientation into flight training and it's relatively inexpensive, usually between $100-$200 depending on the type of aircraft you fly. This is the best way to determine if flying is a good fit for you. Please understand that if it is your first time in a small airplane, you will most likely be nervous. This doesn't mean you aren't cut out to be a pilot. Most students are nervous on those first few flights, and I was terrified on my first flight. However, once the flight is over and you reflect on your experience, you will most likely know if you at least want to try it again. You may even get the opportunity to fly the airplane and do some basic maneuvering. Trust your instructor, they will not let you get into a situation where you could put yourself or them in danger. It is also a good idea to visit several nearby flight schools as pricing, aircraft, and staff personalities can vary greatly from airport to airport.
Second, try to find a mentor who is already a pilot that you can reach out to during the process. In my experience, student pilots that go through training with someone else or have a mentor pilot, have a much better overall experience and success rate than the average student. I was fortunate enough to have an old friend that owned a Cessna 150 who gave me advice when I needed it. Also, make sure to choose an instructor that you have a good rapport with, and you can call or contact outside of the flight school to get advice and get questions answered. I was also fortunate to have very compassionate instructors that I could call any time and get questions and concerns addressed promptly. If you can't find a mentor, message me through Pilots League and I will be glad to help you any way I can, schedule permitting.
Third, once you have chosen the best flight school for you, determine the total cost of the training. I DO NOT recommend getting started in actual flying with an instructor until you have budged for the entire amount necessary to finish the training. I learned this the hard way. I would save up for 5 or 6 hours and then have to sit our for a month or two to save up for another block of 5-10 hours. The result was that it took me much longer to complete and it ended up being much more expensive than it would have been if i'd been able to train continuously with no interruptions. I ended up having to re-learn skills I had lost during my breaks and it got extremely frustrating. After the discovery flight, if you still have a burning desire to become a pilot but can't afford the entire flight training course, purchase the books and gain as much of the knowledge as you can, but don't start the flying portion until you have enough saved or financed to finish it completely.
Lastly, remember that many airports also have flying clubs that you can join that can greatly reduce your flying/rental costs. Most flying clubs require you to pay a fee to join and a monthly membership fee, but the hourly costs of the actual aircraft can be 1/3 to 1/2 of comparable rates of nearby flight schools. Additionally, most flying clubs have a list of quality instructors that would be willing to give you the training you need. If your budget is a big concern, this is certainly something to consider.
If becoming a pilot is your dream, go for it! I started my flight training over 12 years ago, and believe me, I learned all of the tips above the hard way. Becoming a pilot has been a life changing endeavor for me and it's become my passion. After my initial few months of flight training at a local flight school and after becoming very frustrated, I bought that little Cessna 150 from my friend and finished my license in my own airplane with a local instructor(If aircraft ownership is your dream, check out my article on Aircraft Ownership for more lessons learned the hard way:)). Most importantly, once you get started and even after you finish, never stop learning. As pilots, we have a tremendous responsibility in terms of safety to ourselves and those around us, and when we pursue our goal of becoming a pilot, I believe we also have a duty to be the best pilots we can be, for ourselves, our passengers, and those around us.
Author: Kevin Moberly, Commercial Pilot, CFII, MEI
Kevin Moberly is a Commercial Pilot and a Flight Instructor for Private, Instrument, and Multi-Engine Flight. He has logged thousands of hours of instruction, has owned several aircraft, and currently owns a Piper PA28-151 Warrior. Kevin has a passion for teaching and is also a black belt instructor in Taekwondo, a blue belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu, and an advanced Krav Maga instructor.