How Long Will It Take?

A question that often arises here at the flight school is, “How long will it take me to earn my pilot’s certificate?” Our answer to this question is a less than definitive, “It depends.”

Factors in the Timeline

The length of time it takes to earn a pilot’s certificate varies widely (anywhere from a few weeks to a year). There are a number of factors that play into this timeline but one of the biggest is how spread out a student’s training schedule is. Student, instructor, and airplane availability can all contribute to how spread out the training is. Weather and finances can also contribute to spreading.

While most people can learn to fly, there are some that take to it more naturally than others. This can also be a contributing factor on the timeline.

Some of these factors are outside of our control. Others can be controlled with proper planning, preparation, and having a source for the finances (savings, loans, scholarships, benefactors, etc).


A major milestone in your training is your first solo. This is when you fly the plane without your instructor. Most students reach this point after 15-20 hours of flight instruction.

From there, you will train for the Sport, Recreational or Private Pilot Certificate. Each has advantages and limitations which are worth exploring with a flight instructor. Federal Aviation Regulations require a minimum of 20 hours of training for the Sport Pilot Certificate, although many students need more time. The requirement is 30 hours for the Recreational Pilot Certificate, and most students complete this certificate in 30-40 hours. For the Private, the minimum is 40 hours – 20 must be with an instructor and 10 must be solo – but most students take 60-80 hours. Note that these figures represent only flight time, and do not include time spent on ground school or personal study. It should be noted that additional time spent on the ground in personal study can reduce the number of hours that you need to spend in the air and shorten your timeline.

But How Long?

When it comes to determining how long training will take, how often you fly plays a big part as mentioned before. If you fly only once a week, you will spend half of each lesson “relearning” concepts that you have forgotten. This approach will take longer. It is best to try to fly at least twice a week. In that case, you could earn your certificate in only a few months.

The more that you fly, the faster you will learn and the faster you can get that certificate. Certificate in hand, you can start to enjoy the benefits and freedoms that personal flying brings!

How long will it take? That depends, on you.