The sensation of soaring above the clouds is something many people only experience in their dreams. However, those interested in becoming pilots often don’t know that the dream is more attainable and affordable than they think. This guide will help you understand the steps and costs associated with receiving the certifications you need to take to the skies — whether it’s on a short-day flight or flying professionally as a commercial airline pilot.
Types of Pilot Certifications
Aspiring pilots can gain a number of certifications, ranging from sport certification to airline transport pilot certification. The prices for each certification vary, but the following are the average costs as well as how long each certification takes to achieve.
- Sport: Sport pilots perform day flights in light aircraft. The average cost of certification is $3,000, and the process takes roughly three months.
- Private: Private pilots fly for personal or business travel and only in clear weather. The average cost of certification is $7,000, and the process takes about four months.
- Instrument: Instrument pilots fly for personal travel or business. They can operate in clear or cloudy weather. The average cost of certification is $10,000, and the process takes about six months.
- Multi-engine: Multi-engine pilots are able to fly aircraft with two engines. The average cost of certification is $10,000, and the process takes about three months once you receive your private certification.
- Commercial: Commercial pilots fly professionally. The average cost of certification is $20,000, and the process takes roughly eight months to complete.
- Flight instructor: Flight instructors can teach others to fly. This certification costs about $22,000 and requires roughly one full year to complete.
- Airline transport pilot: An airline transport pilot is an airline captain. Airlines often pay for this training, and the process can take as littles as four months and as much as four years to complete, depending on the airline.
Requirements for Certification
Receiving your certification, whether it’s to be a sport pilot or airline transport pilot, is a major accomplishment. All pilots must meet a number of requirements to be considered for any certification.
- Pilots must be at least 16 years old to fly alone. You will also need a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Student Pilot Certificate, issued through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application website, to fly solo during your training. Your flight instructor can help with the application process.
- Pilots must pass the FAA’s computer-based private pilot knowledge test to complete private pilot training. You’ll need an endorsement from your flight instructor to be eligible to take the test. Private pilots must also complete the Designated Pilot Examiner practical exam to receive certification.
- Pilots must be at least 17 years old to receive any pilot certificate.
- Pilots must have at least a third-class medical certificate to attain recreational or private certificates.
- Pilots must have a valid and current U.S. driver’s license to become a sport pilot.
- All pilots must be able to speak, read and understand English to attain certification.
Find a Flight School and Start Flying
You’ve researched the requirements of becoming a pilot, because you want to learn to fly. While the list of requirements appears long, a quality instructor and flight school can help you achieve your goal as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
It’s important to visit nearby schools and instructors to discuss their rates, the cost of aircraft rental, and any additional taxes and fees. Find out what your entire certification costs will be, so you can fully understand how much money you’ll need to set aside to reach your goal of taking to the skies. It’s also essential to assess whether you’re comfortable with the school’s instructors, planes and learning steps.
Once you’ve found a suitable flight school, it’s time to fasten your seat belt, prepare for takeoff, and start working toward your dream.
Author bio: Jannette Tucker is Vice President for Aero Marine Interior, Inc., a 145 aviation repair station. She holds degrees in business administration and human resources and has more than 18 years’ experience in various positions within the aviation industry.