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Flight training is much different than learning how to drive a car. Yes, you will earn a certificate stating that you’re capable of operating a means of transportation, but a pilot certificate is much more nuanced and, in many cases, will take longer with a more significant time and monetary investment. Beyond time and money, there are many more elements to consider before beginning training. These are five topics that I always like to discuss with potential flight students to help build a plan for success.
We can all admit, getting into aviation can be a significant financial investment. Flight training itself will typically require between $9,500 for a sport or recreational certificate, likely $12,000 to $14000 for Private pilot and all the way to around $60,000 for a commercial single and multiengine certification with instrument privileges. The financial side of training is certainly one to look deeply into before beginning training. If you’re able to pay for your training out of pocket, it eases the stress of finding other methods of funding. If you need financial assistance, there’s plenty of ways to go about that whether scholarships or loans. AOPA and the FAA have lists of scholarships available. If necessary, you can contact your bank and discuss different options for private loans. Some schools partner with loan companies which can make the process easier and may offer better interest rates than banks. It’s highly advised to avoid beginning your training without a well thought-out budget plan to complete all of your planned certifications.
Flight training can occupy a lot of your extra time, and sometimes you may not have extra time to give. This is something which must be taken into consideration, as it’s not something that you can efficiently do only once a week or less. The suggested amount of flight lesson frequency is a minimum of two or three per week, as it allows for a more “wallet-friendly” approach compared to more lessons. That frequency still allows for steady progress and less time between lessons which means you forget less of the information provided to you. If flight training is something you’re genuinely interested in, you will need to carve out enough time in your schedule to allow for not only your two or three lessons a week, but also for studying material as necessary.
One major requirement of all pilots is a medical exam (maybe). Or do you even need a medical exam – read more!
If you do require an actual exam, it’s no more than an average sports physical, there are many additional restrictions placed on pilots. Certain medications, diseases, mental health issues, sleep problems, and more may cause issues with your ability to earn a medical. If you currently take any medication or have some health concern, it is advisable to reach out to an aviation medical examiner (AME) in your area to have a consultation before proceeding with an entire exam or even flight training.
There is more to flight training than simply flying. There’s always more knowledge to be learned and studying to be done in preparation for your next lesson or even your checkride. It is imperative that you continue studying on your personal time, commit to your schedule with your instructor, and give 110% on each lesson. By dedicating yourself to completing your certificate, you have a high chance of completing your certificate faster than the national average ultimately saving you money and time. Your dedication doesn’t go unnoticed either – instructors pick up on a student’s interest and dedication and are likely to go above and beyond for a one who gives more effort.
What do you expect out of aviation? Are you looking to make it a simple hobby, flying around with one friend within your local area, or are you looking to earn your spot flying big iron in the airlines? These are some things which must be thought about before beginning your training to help plan out your time and financial investments. If you’re looking for a career change, you may want to consider a program which allows you to complete your training at a faster pace than someone who’s only looking for a private pilot certificate may deem necessary. If you’re only interested in private flying, consider if an instrument rating would be beneficial to you and your travel. For instance, if you’re only looking to fly locally for a $100 hamburger on a nice Saturday, then it may not suit your needs, but if you are considering using your certificate to take long, extended trips where weather may become a hindrance, then an instrument rating would certainly be useful.
These topics are only a few of the many things anyone looking to begin flight training should consider. Every individual has their own specific influences which need to be considered as they may affect different people in different ways. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in aviation takes each one of these topics into consideration as they will ultimately lead to the success or failure of your flight training.