Making It Happen
Connecting You to the Right Training Resources, Instructors and Funding Sources
So now that you’ve determined the goal, you can figure out the path to take to become a pilot. Based on the qualifications you need to get your certificate—or pursue a career, your next step is to select the right flight school near enough to you to suit your schedule.
Just as important: You need to find a good flight instructor to guide you on your mission—the mentorship that’s possible from the right instructor goes beyond training.
Once you have a grasp of these two key elements, you can calculate how much it will cost you to achieve your goal—and seek the funding or gather your resources to cover that amount.
Next, you need to ensure that you are physically and mentally fit to fly—and we can help you not only understand the medical certification process, but also find a quality medical professional to conduct your flight physical. We’ll also introduce you to the tools pilots use to measure their readiness to fly, both overall, and on a given day.
To determine the right flight school that’s near you and can serve you best, you need to understand the difference between how training organizations are approved (Part 61 vs. Part 141, for example) and how they conduct their training. What are the school’s core philosophies? How many aircraft and instructors do they have to cover their students’ needs? What does the syllabus for your training look like? These are just a few of the questions to ask as you research flight schools in your area.
If you’ve served in the military, you may also be able to take advantage of VA programs for continuing education that will cover at least a portion of your cost of training—and certain flight schools have approval to deliver this training.
It’s a wise move to approach your selection of a flight instructor in the same manner that you would choose any professional with whom you do business. Even more so, as you’ll spend quite a bit of time, often in close quarters, directly working with this person. You need to not only trust their capabilities, knowledge, and dedication, but also find a person whose personality meshes reasonably well with your own.
Flight schools will often assign a flight instructor to you, based on your goals and other factors. You take the next step by interviewing this person, through a ground school lesson and a flight, optimally, to make sure of the match. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, both of the instructor and the training organization, to determine the right fit.
The freedom of flight isn’t, unfortunately, free, but you have a number of ways to cover the cost. Depending on the flight school you choose, you may have access to flight training financing, with an educational loan similar to that which you’d take out for other vocational programs.
A wide variety of flight training scholarships are available too, depending on where you live, and any special qualifications you may have. Organizations such as AOPA, Women in Aviation, NBAA, and others gather scholarship offers from their participating donors and sponsors to help you find a way to fund your training.
We recommend that you secure the funds to complete at least through your first solo flight—the first 15 to 20 hours of training—before you begin, whether it’s through savings, financing, or scholarships, to help keep you on track.
You need to ensure that you are fit to fly, both in your general health and on any given day. Before you can fly by yourself, you will need a student pilot certificate, and to pass a basic medical exam.
If you’re flying recreationally, you can utilize the BasicMed program, whereby you pass a medical exam given by your state-licensed physician. If you plan to make aviation your career, you will need to pass an advanced exam, given by an aviation medical examiner. Certain physical conditions can be disqualifying, as can certain medications you may take.
When you prepare for each flight, you will need to assess your readiness to fly, taking into consideration any illness you have, medicine you’re taking, the stress in your life, your fatigue level, and any other concerns.