How Long it Takes to Become a Pilot

This article will attempt to help you understand some of the basics of the process of becoming a pilot and pilot training.  It is a very basic conversation and one that will probably only interest people in the beginning phases of their quest to learn aviation. In covering the basics it will answer the question of how long does it take to become a pilot.


Everything about going from zero flight experience to a private pilot rating is about time. (and we do not mean flight hours) It takes a lot of work to become a pilot and you have to put some time into it.  You will be going into a new realm of understanding that you have to master, so it is going to take some time to become a pilot.

how a student pilot can become a commercial pilot

Time Breakdown

If you could study every single day, and take flying lessons every single day, you would get your private pilot license much quicker than someone who cannot.  The time between flight lessons is the key.  If you let too much time get between lessons, the chances grow that you will start to forget the previous learning points that you need to build on.  (which means it will take longer and cost more to become a pilot).

Money verses Time

If money is an issue and you can only fly as much as you can set aside for extra time, you will take longer than average to complete the mission.  The most ideal scenario is to have a big stack of cash ready and then the time to dive into the studies.  This however is not always the case, and that fact determines the amount of time it will take you.  Flying once a week is most likely not enough either.  Learning to fly is a hands on concept, much like when you learned to drive a car.  The more often you were in the car, the more experience you acquired.  Time has a direct factor on how long does it take to get your pilot training completed.

Split Time

There is an equal amount of time you will spend on the ground either studying for the test or getting ground school or instruction from your flight instructor.  This is very important and should not be ignored.  If you can devote a regular scheduled time to study, to take the course, and to prepare for flight lessons, the more disciplined you will be.  This is about discipline.

Ok, so now that we got that out of the way

Do some research once you have your time problem organized.

You will want to do some basic research on flight schools to find a program that suits your needs for time.  Just because you worked it out that you have a lot of time to devote to the task, does not mean your flight instructor does.  Make sure you find a flight instructor that has enough availability to meet your needs.  This can be more challenging as the pilot shortage increases and flight instructors move up and out of the flight training business model.

Don't be afraid to interview your instructor, after all he is going to be working for you and not the other way around. It's a contract or a commitment to one another, make sure that your pilot training meets your agreed upon expectations. If you decide to use a school, print out the time frame or pilot training plan and use it to measure your progress.

how a student pilot can get a commercial pilot certificate

Ground School

In the past ground school use to be in a classroom environment that you had to attend for the required ground instruction to take the written exam.  Today thanks to the internet, courses come in a variety of stay at home options that include DVD or online instruction.  These courses satisfy the federal regulations for a certified ground school and are part of your pilot training.  You can find or buy them online.  Once your ground school is complete, take the written exam.

How long does it take to become a pilot of a plane?

So the regulations require 20 hours of solo experience and 20 hours of dual instruction to get your rating at a minimum.  Honestly because of the time issue, this rarely happens and tends to take a bit longer.  When you first start flying, you will learn the basics of maneuvers and then move to the takeoff and landing phase.  This is to prepare you for your first solo.  The first solo is the day that you take off and land all by yourself.  This is the day you become a student pilot.  This can be around the 5-7 hour mark. and its very exciting.

 What is next?

After you solo, you will then move on to some more exciting parts of the lessons which involve less maneuvers work and more flying to other airports.  This is where you learn the basics of navigation in vfr weather (visual flight rules)  Eventually you will learn to fly cross country by yourself (solo) and build your confidence.  Once you complete that you will start to review what is needed to pass your check ride.

Check ride Preparation

Like any pilot rating the process of getting your pilots license is broken up into two parts.  The written exam and the actual flight test.  If you took your written test you would simply hand that to the examiner and that part is complete.  You will most likely have an oral exam that solidifies your knowledge of getting your private pilot license.  Your flight instructor will brief you and prepare you for this and he should know what your particular examiner is looking for or likes his candidates to know.

In preparing for the flight test you will also do some dual instruction again with your flight instructor to make sure your knowledge meets with the scrutiny for the check ride.  Its kind of like football practice; you know how to play, you just get your last minute pointers on how to do it better.  Remember this point, getting your private pilot license is about getting a ticket to learn, no one is going to be the ace of the base with 40 or 50 flight hours. You will be always be getting better.

student pilot and flight training

Check Rides

The flying portions of pilot license check rides usually last about an hour.  The oral exam for a private pilot certificate can last longer, it all depends on the person in charge.

Frequently asked questions:

You should now have some good ideas on what it takes to become a pilot and getting your pilot certificate.

How fast can you become a pilot?

  • Everything is about time, re read that section and do some planning before you ever go to the airport

Is it hard to become a pilot?

  • It all depends on your work ethic, if you work hard and be consistent you will be successful in your first steps to becoming a pilot.  If your work ethic is weak, ask yourself how bad you want to make this goal.

How much does a pilot earn?

  • Private pilots earn nothing and are prohibited from being compensated for flying.

How much does pilot school cost?

  • The costs for programs vary from school to school, it used to be that you could get a private pilot rating for about $5,000 USD.  Costs today are much higher and can easily double that or more.  You will save money, if you fly more frequently.

What would be the average flight hours it would take to get the private pilot certificate?

  • I would plan between 50-55 hours to become a private pilot.

Is the pilot certificate or pilot license different for a commercial pilot or airline transport pilot?

  • Yes the qualifications for each are very different. Make sure you are reading or understanding the correct curriculum for the pilot certificate that you are seeking. Everyone starts out at the private pilot license first.

Quick Review

  1. Figure out your time constraints

  2. Do your research

  3. Get a 3rd class medical

  4. Take the written exam

  5. Fly Solo

  6. Prepare for the exam by fine tuning your skills

  7. Schedule your check ride

flight training


Here are several links to really good and interesting alternatives for ground school. Most are designed to work at your own pace and can be fact checked by your certified flight instructor.

  1. Private pilot certificate online class. Cost is $249 and it is for a lifetime of access and continually updated.

  2. King Schools. King has been around forever and has an established track record of knowledge and authority when it comes to ground instruction for anyone wanting to become a private pilot.

  3. Aviation Seminars has a quick course if you want to spend a little more money but knock out the ground school for your pilot certificate in two days. Its a little more money, but fast which shortens the question of how long does it take.

flight training
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    1 comment

    Elle Jones

    Elle Jones

    It has always been my brother’s desire to become a pilot and operate an aircraft since he has liked them since he was a little boy. It’s great that this article discussed how you should conduct some fundamental research on aviation schools to pick a course that meets your schedule requirements. It does not follow that your flight instructor has as much time to dedicate to the assignment as you do just because you calculated this. Make sure the flying instructor you choose is available for your needs. I’ll be sure to follow your recommendations as I hunt for a reputable flight training facility to sign up my brother for.

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