How Young is Too Young to Start Flying Lessons?

To answer the question this FLYING user asks, there are other important questions that have to be answered first.

What is the proper age to start flying lessons? It depends. [File Photo: Adobe Stock]

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.

Do you have a question about aviation that's been bugging you? Ask us anything you've ever wanted to know about aviation. Our experts in general aviation, training, aircraft, avionics, and more may attempt to answer your question in a future article.

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.

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