How Long in Time Does It Take to Become an Airplane Pilot?

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To become a pilot in the U.S., you have to earn a "private pilot license," a certificate clearing you to fly airplanes for recreational or transportation purposes. Many people use this license as the first step in training for the more advanced commercial and airline-transport pilot licenses, while others choose not to further their certification. Regardless of your ultimate goals in aviation, you need to complete a specified amount of flying time to earn a private pilot license.

Pre-solo Flight Time

  • Before you can begin flying on your own, you need to undergo several airplane training exercises with a certified flight instructor. In this stage of training, known as "pre-solo" to aviators, you complete lessons on the fundamentals of airplane flying, including preflight inspection, takeoff, traffic patterns and landing, as well as instrument flying, steep turns, stall recovery and emergency procedures. After you complete this basic stage, your instructor sends you on your first solo flight. Although people take varying amounts of time to complete the pre-solo training stage, many generally finish in 10 to 20 flight hours.

Post-solo Flight Time

  • After your first solo flight, you will complete several local training flights by yourself. Additionally, you must complete a number of cross-country, or point-to-point, flights, both by yourself and with your instructor. If you are completing your airplane training at an informal "Part 61" flight school, you must complete at least 40 hours of total flying time, including at least 10 hours of solo time. If you elect to train at a curriculum-driven "Part 141" airplane flying school, you must complete a minimum of 35 hours of flying time,

Average Flight Time

  • Very few prospective pilots complete airplane flight training within the Federal Aviation Administration's minimum time frame. Instead, most put in about 50 to 70 hours of flight time to complete pilot training, according to information published in 2009 by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a U.S.-based aviation advocacy organization. Completion time varies based on a multitude of factors, such as weather, pilot skill and training frequency. Naturally, students who fly regularly finish training in fewer hours than those who train only occasionally.

Calendar Time Frame

  • Acquiring the necessary flight experience varies considerably time-wise. If you attend a career-focused, accelerated training program, you can earn an airplane private pilot certificate in as little as 30 days. By contrast, it will take you three to five months to complete a private pilot training course at a collegiate aviation training program If you attend an unstructured Part 61 flight school. How fast you finish depends on how often you make time to complete training flights.

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