Learn to Fly


Milestone Hours
PPL: Private Pilot License 40 Hours
IR: INSTRUMENT RATING cross-country >= 50 hours
Commercial Pilot Certificate 250 Hours
CFI 250 hours
ATP: Airline Transport Pilot 1,500 Hours
Type Ratings

Multie-ngine: an addon, no written tests.


  • Airplane Single-Engine Seaplane (ASES)
  • Airplane Multi-Engine Seaplane (AMES)

Documents and Books

  • Regulation and official guide:
    • FAR: Federal Aviation Regulations.
    • AIM: Aeronautical Information Manual. Basically a textbook with further information to FAR.
  • Learn to fly:
    • ACS: Airman Certification Standards (ACS) replaces the Practical Test Standards (PTS) for the Private Pilot Airplane certificate and the Instrument-Airplane rating.
    • AFH: Airplane Flying Handbook.
    • PHAK: Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
  • Per aircraft:
    • POH: Pilot’s Operating Handbook.
    • AFM: Airplane Flight Manual.

ACS only lists the items for certification; the handbooks are based on ACS to provide more details; then there are many non official test prep books.

ACS (the standard) => PHAK (the handbook) => Test Prep Books



Airplane Flight Manual / Pilot’s Operating Handbook (AFM/POH)

Each aircraft has its own POH.

The POH is the official book of rules for that specific serial number airplane. The AFM is the unofficial/generic one for a type of airplane that may or may not match the one it's in. On occasion you'll run into a book labeled "AFM" that is in fact actually the "POH" (often due to an STC requirement).

Private Pilot License

PPL 4 phases:

  • intro
  • solo
  • cross country / night
  • checkride


The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours flight time to undertake the practical test for getting your private pilot certificate.

  • 20 hrs with CFI
  • 3 hrs cross-country
  • 3 hrs night
    • 1 cross-country over 100 nm
    • 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop
  • 3 hrs IFR
  • 3 hrs prep for the practical test with CFI
  • 10 hrs solo
    • 5 hrs solo cross-country
    • 1 solo cross-country of 150 nm, with full-stop landings at 3 points, one segment of flight consisting of a straight-line distance of >50 nm
    • 3 takeoffs and 3 landings to a full stop with an operating control tower

"night time":

  • night time: sunset to sunrise; nav lights on
  • night time when taking passengers: 1hr after sunset to 1hr before sunrise


  • 3rd class for training, valid for 5 years.
  • 2nd class for commercial flights
  • 1st class for airlines, valid for half year if over 40

How long it takes

The average total flight time for private pilot training in the U.S. is approximately 55 to 70 hours. National average is 65 hours.


Airplane rental (2-4 seats), wet, per hour: $100-250

Instructor fee per hour: $40-90

How to save time and money?

Written Exam

  • Books
    • Rod Machados Private Pilot Handbook
    • Private Pilot Test Prep
    • The Student Pilot's Flight Manual
  • ASAs Color E6B Flight Computer
  • CX-3 Flight Computer

Questions when shopping flight schools

  • Fees: What are the initiation and monthly fees? Most clubs charge a monthly fee, a few also charge an initiation/application fee. Also, some clubs charge you a monthly fee even in months you don't fly.
  • Ground school: What are the options for ground school? Do you need to attend a class or can you self study?
  • Rental: are they rented wet (with fuel) or dry (without fuel)?
    • Cross Country / Overnight: If you plan to use aircraft for longer trips, what are the daily minimums when booking the aircraft for a full day?
  • Insurance: What insurance is provided to you? What are the deductibles?
  • Instructors: Find an instructor that teaches the way you learn the best.
    • Do instructors charge by wall time or Hobbes + N?
  • Fleet: Is the fleet primarily glass or steam gauge? (Either can work, some people have a preference.) Only 172 / Piper or does it have some step-up options? Which years?
  • Schedule: How far out do you have to look on the schedule to find time? 2 weeks or so is typical, try to avoid places where you have to book a month out. Make sure the school is not oversubscribed.
  • Part 61 or Part 141? 141 is a much more structured curriculum but has lower hour minimums. 141 may be recommended for Instrument, but for Private, you can go either way.
  • Blocktime: Can you buy flight time in bulk to get a discount?

Instrument Rating

  • 50 hours of Pilot in Command cross country
  • 40 hours of simulated or actual instrument time
  • 15 hours of flight instruction towards instrument rating

cross country >= 250nm (e.g. SF to LA ~300nm)

Log time: Safety pilot can log the time.

Online Resources


Free online ground school: https://www.slingpilotacademy.com/free-online-ground-school/

Things to buy to learn to fly

  • Logbook
    • Physical
    • Electronic: LogTen, ForeFlight
  • Headset (e.g. Bose A20 / A30)

Getting Started

  • For non-citizen: get TSA approval
  • apply for your student pilot certificate: make an account on the FAA’s IACRA website (https://iacra.faa.gov/)
    • IACRA: Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application
    • get a FTN (FAA Tracking Number). It will stay with you throughout the course of your aviation career. FTN is required for FAA Airman Knowledge Test (AKT).
    • your FTN is a different number than your certificate number.

Jobs requiring less than 1500 hours

CapeAir: 500 hours https://www.capeairpilots.com/requirements

Southern Airways/Mokulele: 500 hours

PlaneSense: PC-12, 750 Hours