Blog How to Get a Private Pilot License

A lot of people fantasize about taking to the wide open skies as a pilot. However, just like with driving a car, you’re going to need a license to do that. What you need is called a private pilot license (PPL) and it is the most popular certification in the world of aviation.

What Can I Do with a Private Pilot License?

First things first, what does a private pilot license (PPL) actually allow you to do? Well, you won’t be flying a massive plane for an airline. A PPL simply allows you to fly recreationally. Think along the lines of flying just for the fun of it, or transporting yourself, friends, and family. The PPL grants you the ability to fly in and out of all civil airports, but it does not allow you to find gainful employment as a pilot.

Prerequisites for Private Pilot Training

Before you can begin training for your PPL, there are some prerequisites to consider. If you don’t meet these then you’ll never even get your wheels off the ground. You must:

  • Be at least 17 years of age. While you can begin training before this age, you will not be able to receive your license until you are 17.
  • Be proficient in the English language. This includes reading, writing, and speaking.
  • Have basic math skills.
  • Obtain a third class medical certificate.
  • Obtain your student pilot certificate. This allows you to fly by yourself when the time comes. This is easy to obtain and only requires submitting an application, usually done through your flight instructor. While training can begin before you have your student pilot certificate, you must have it before you reach the solo flying section of your training.

If you meet all of these requirements then you’re ready to begin your pilot training. All you have to do is find a reputable flight school to teach you.

Choosing a Flight School

Choosing your flight school is a decision that should not be made lightly. Almost all airports have a flight school of some sort available, but not all flight schools are created equal. If you are learning to fly in your spare time, it is wise to choose a school relatively close to your home, as you don’t want to have to drive hours every week just to get a couple hours of flight time in.

You should also make sure that the flight school you are considering is FAA certified. This means that the school meets FAA standards when it comes to equipment, facilities, personnel, and curriculum. In general, if a flight school is FAA certified you can expect to receive a high caliber of training there.

Finally, look into the school’s reputation. Do this by looking up online reviews and talking with pilots in your area. If the school is FAA certified and seems to have positive reviews, you’re likely in good hands.


Once you have chosen your flight school, the real fun can begin. It is finally time to start your training. Training to receive your PPL consists of multiple parts which will help you become a well-rounded pilot. F.A.R. Part 141 and Part 61 are both courses that you can take for a private pilot license, though they both offer their own training programs. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you know which training program is best for you and your interests in becoming a pilot.

Private Pilot Ground Training

Female student and female instructor doing ground lesson hold model cessna 172 with aircraft cockpit mockups in the backgroundSafety is of the utmost importance when it comes to learning to fly, and for this reason your training will start with both feet on the ground. Ground training takes place in a classroom, your flight instructor will go over all of the basics of flying, including:

  • Navigation
  • Aerodynamics
  • Weather
  • Flight planning

Your ground training is the foundation on which all of your flying skills will be built on. Make sure to pay attention, and you will find that you have a much easier time when you move on to learning in an actual aircraft.

Flight Training

Flight training is what most potential pilots look forward to the most. This is where you’ll be allowed behind the controls of a plane and start really learning how to fly. Don’t worry, when you first start, your flight instructor will be right there to guide you and take control if anything goes wrong. You will be taught the basics of cross-country flying, the difference between night and day flying, and the basic maneuvers needed to be a competent pilot. You will need to complete a minimum of 40 flight hours to earn your private pilot license, though most trainees do more than this to ensure they are completely comfortable flying. These 40 hours must consist of different types of flying as laid out by the FAA.

Solo Flight

Of your 40 required flight hours, 10 must be during a solo flight. A solo flight means you are completely alone in the aircraft with no instructor to take the controls if you get in over your head. To begin taking solo flights, your instructor will need to give you their endorsement. They will only do this when they feel your flying skills have progressed enough that you can safely fly alone.

Female student preflighting cessna 172 for solo flight


At some point in your training, and once you have completed ground school, you will have to take and pass the FAA-administered written exam. This test covers all of the knowledge you should have learned in ground school. If you fail, you will be provided with a report detailing which knowledge areas you were found to be deficient in, allowing you to know where to focus your studies before taking the test again.. Even if you pass, you will receive this report, and should be sure to seriously review any areas you are deficient in with your flight instructor.


The checkride is the final step to earning your private pilot license. This is when an FAA-designated examiner will test you to make sure you’re ready to be granted your PPL. Your checkride consists of an oral exam, and then a practical exam where the examiner has you demonstrate all of the necessary skills. Many would-be pilots are extremely nervous before their check ride, but there is nothing to worry about. As long as you have taken your training seriously, you are likely to pass without a problem. Once you have passed your checkride, you will officially be granted your private pilot license.

How Much Do Private Pilots Make?

Unfortunately, private pilots are not allowed to earn money from flying. Your private pilot license only allows you to fly recreationally, not commercially. If you would like to earn money as a pilot, you will have to continue your training and earn your commercial pilot certificate.