FAA Data Shows Student Pilot Numbers on the Rise

Student certificates issued in 2023 jumped 24 percent compared to the year before, according to agency data.

The FAA issued 69,503 student pilot certificates in 2023, up 24 percent from 2022. [Credit: iStock]

Does it seem like there are more student pilots in the air these days? According to FAA data, there are.

The agency issued 69,503 student pilot certificates in 2023, up 24 percent from 2022.

A deeper dive of FAA's civil airmen data shows the bulk of the certificates were issued in June (7,162) and August (7,813).

The June starts are no surprise. Student pilot starts usually increase in the spring as the weather improves. People receive introductory flights as graduation presents, Mother or Father's Day gifts, or they decide to use their tax return to check that item off their bucket list or begin a new career.

The August figure may be associated with the beginning of the academic year at Part 141 colleges and universities.

Tips for Finding a School

You cannot control the weather, maintenance issues, or scheduling, but you can manage the amount of effort put into learning. To expedite your training, you will want to fly at least twice a week, although three times is better to make steady progress. Ensure the school has an adequate fleet and enough instructors to go around. 

When you do your research, find out how many learners (the FAA's official term for student pilots) and renters the school has as well as how many airworthy airplanes and active instructors are on staff. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where there are 40 student pilots and seven instructors and only three airworthy aircraft. 

Don’t be surprised if there is a waiting list for training. Many programs at both Part 141 and Part 61 schools cap their enrollment to protect the limited resources of instructors and aircraft.

Also, find out if you can rent aircraft for solo flight after you have obtained your certificate. Some schools are so busy that they only allow active students to rent for solo flights. Find out in advance so there are no unwelcome surprises.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter