Learn to Fly

Virtually anyone can learn to fly—a lot depends on what kind of flying you want to do. If you keep it simple, and fly a basic airplane for your own enjoyment, as a sport pilot or private pilot, the cost doesn’t have to be that much—you can pay for the training as you go. 


To learn to fly a light plane (like a piston single or a light sport airplane) takes a few hours each week for several months. If you commit to more time each week, you’ll learn to fly in less time overall. Learning to fly other kinds of aircraft will take about the same amount of time to get started.


If you want to pursue a career, your path is going to follow a vocational or college education program, and you’ll focus on achieving your flying goals for two to four years before you launch as a professional pilot.


You can start to fly here, and now—we can help you get into the air quickly.

How to Fly: Piston Aircraft

When most people think of a light aircraft, they picture a single-engine piston airplane because you’ll find them at every airport, just waiting to be flown. Names like Cessna, Piper, Beech, Cirrus, and Diamond come to mind—and these aircraft number in the thousands in the U.S. alone.


Most flight schools train pilots initially to fly in single-engine piston airplanes, preparing them to fly in good conditions and on short trips to other airports. But the usefulness of these airplanes stretches around the world—indeed, some pilots have circled the planet with just one engine out front turning a propeller. The piston airplane opens the door to a whole new world of flying.


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How to Fly: Turboprop Aircraft

More than just a bridge between pistons and jets: The turboprop airplane serves as a workhorse or an executive transport, depending on its assignment. Matching the ease of operation of the turbine engine with the driving force of the propeller means you can fly these aircraft into some of the most challenging airports—as well as up into the flight levels.


You may fly a turboprop as you ascend the aviation career ladder, as many small airlines and corporate flight departments use single- and multi-engine turboprops to connect their outlying stations and deliver economical operations along the way. You may also find a turboprop to be the right personal airplane for your needs.


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How to Fly: Jets

Ahhh…the smell of jet fuel in the morning! The appeal of flying a jet needs no explanation, whether you want to fly one for yourself or your business as a private pilot, or pursue a career that takes you into the flight levels—flying corporate or as an airline pilot. Flying jets generally leads to a higher salary, no matter what path you choose.


You’ll start with a private pilot’s license in a smaller airplane—even if you learn to fly a jet in the military. Then you’ll transition into a multiengine airplane—or a turboprop single or twin—before you take on your first jet type rating course. However, exceptions apply with the advent of single-engine jets.


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How to Fly: Light Sports/UL Aircraft

The world of Light Sport or Ultralight aircraft offers an incredible variety of flying experiences near to where you live—at a cost that’s considerably less than learning to fly normal category airplanes. As a sport pilot, you’ll go through flight training that teaches you all of the basics on how to fly these light aircraft in about half the time it takes you to become a private pilot.


One thing to know: Light sport aircraft in the United States are roughly equivalent in size and weight to certain Ultralight aircraft in Europe. A lot of personal flying in the EU is flown from ultralight airfields using Ultralights, carrying up to two people and the fuel required. 


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How to Fly: Gliders

When you think of a glider, think of the joy of nearly silent flight, the ability to soar without the power of an engine. Gliders form a great entry path to learning to fly, not only because of their general simplicity, but also because pilots can fly solo in a glider as early as their 14th birthday.


Glider flying takes on many different forms, but most use the earth’s natural ways of producing lift in order to fly. Airports that host glider flying operations can be found throughout the United States and around the world, so what are you waiting for?


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How to Fly: Rotorcraft

If rotor wings are your thing, you can learn to fly a helicopter in about the same amount of time it takes to learn to fly airplanes—plan to fly a few times every week for several months for the best results. With a rotorcraft rating, you can fly in and out of a lot of cool spots no airplane can—maybe not your backyard, depending on local laws—but close!


Because the price of equipment and insurance for helicopters runs a bit more than for light airplanes, the cost will be a few thousand dollars higher to get your license. However, the salary you command as a professional rotor pilot climbs higher as well—helicopter pilots seem to be forever in demand.


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How to Fly: Drones/UAS

You can become a drone pilot today—just order whatever your wallet can afford and take to the skies of your own backyard. You can watch a drone pilot tutorial online if you don't want to crash on your first flight. But there’s so much more to drone flying than that! Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and commercial drones offer a wide range of capabilities that we’re just beginning to tap into. 


So whether you’re into photography, surveying a large tract of land for real estate, agriculture, or conservation—or planning a career in the military—you can find a program at the right cost to train you hands on, from the start, on the skilled way to (remotely) fly drones.


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Making it Happen

With a flight training destination in mind, you can get started. First up: to find a flight school nearest to you—one that offers the best program, whether it’s conducted under normal training regulations (Part 61) or accelerated (Part 141). Also critical: to pick the right flight instructor that meets your needs and understands your goals. That person might work within a flight school, or as an independent consultant.


Yes, it’s going to cost some cash to learn to fly, but you can figure out how much you need, and how to secure the funding to achieve success. You’ll also assess your health and physical capabilities—a wide range of people have the ability to become pilots, but it helps to know what the restrictions are so that you can plan for your future. 


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So You've Started Your Training

Now that you’ve started flying lessons, you need support to help you achieve your goals. You could search for tools to enhance your flying, and apps for flight planning, watching the weather, and researching destination info. Or you can take a look at the best-in-show that we’ve gathered for you based on Flying’s experience as pilots—and professional aviation gadget testers.


You’ll want to find answers to questions you have—so we have a reference for you on regs. We can introduce you to the best flight forums out there, to help you find a mentor or an expert to assist—or as a way to meet aviation-minded friends.


And you want to have some fun along the way? We’ve got that too.


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