Q: What is the ideal age to start flying?
A: If your offspring has an interest in aviation, you may be wondering, “What is the ideal age to learn to fly?” The answer is, it depends on their maturity level.
Flying is great fun, but it is also a great responsibility. Certificate age requirements notwithstanding, if they’re capable of following directions, scheduling lessons, taking constructive criticism, and they have the discipline to study, they are ready to take instruction.
If they cannot do these things, perhaps they are not ready. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a pilot, they just need a little time to grow into themselves.
Sometimes it is a good idea to delay flight training until the minimum age requirements as set forth by the FAA have been met or are close to being met. If the learner wants to fly gliders or free balloons, certification can be achieved at the age of 14. If they wish to fly airplanes, 16 is the minimum age to solo, and they must be 17 to qualify for a private pilot certificate.
There is no rule that says that someone can’t start lessons when they are underage—once the hours are recorded in their logbook they are there to stay—but as flying is a very perishable skill, there is a good chance they will have to relearn things before they are eligible to take a checkride. That can be both frustrating and expensive, and for this reason, many wannabe airline pilots wait to start their training until they are close to 16, then after solo, they build their experience in the aircraft while waiting for the birthdays to catch up.
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