All of those hours you’ve spent playing flight simulation games can be brought to life. Plus, pilot gear just looks cool.
Although you can’t get a pilot’s certificate until you turn 16, you can start flight training at any age. So while your peers are bragging about driving a car, you can brag about flying a plane.
There’s still a need for qualified professionals in the aviation industry, and not just pilots. We need engineers,tower controllers, mechanics, aerial photographers, and other specialized positions, making this industry an attractive career option.
John asks: I'm interested in getting my private pilot’s license this summer before my senior year of high school. If I do it now, can getting my pilots license give me college credit towards a degree at a university like Embry Riddle? Also, what job can you pursue with a degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle?
John, depending which degree you decide to pursue at ERAU your private license may count towards your credit hours required for graduation. The Aeronautical Science degree has a couple areas of concentration, airline and military pilot being two. The degree requires that you take various courses including turbines, safety, and aerodynamics. This can open the door for a minor or a double major, if it’s something that interests you. The core degree really only “qualifies” you to be a professional pilot, but there are lots of jobs out there that require a pilot background that you may be qualified for. These jobs could span from working at an airline’s training or safety department all the way to working as a UAV operator for a military contractor.
-Paul Feldmeyer, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Chris asks: Have any of you gurus been to the Air Force Academy, or been in the military? Because I am considering the academy and was just wondering what you guys think.
Thanks for your question Chris. I served for one term in the Air Force and worked with people who came from the Air Force Academy and also with people who came from Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). The Air Force Academy will provide you with a great college education and set you on course for a successful career in the Air Force. Not only is it free, but cadets are paid a small stipend while attending. The Air Force expects you to work very hard for these benefits and the Academy is not for everyone.
Alternatively, completing an ROTC program will also leave with a college degree and an Air Force commission but you’ll have more choices on where to attend college and a less stringent set of rules to follow. You’ll want to seek out as much information as possible on the Academy and ROTC programs before deciding if either track is right for you.
Adam Williams, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Rosemary asks: I am at a college with a program FAA approved for the 250 hour reduced ATP mins. I only need 3 classes to finish the AAS not including the flight classes. I already have my instrument, com, multi and CFI but all are part 61. Is there any way to qualify for the R-ATP? Is there anyone looking to allow for credit for ratings already held by myself and other pilots in the same situation? I took the ATP written 07/27/14 and have 720 hrs.
You’ve asked a great question. You’re looking to obtain a Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) certificate with reduced flight experience by completing a degree program. That would allow you earn the R-ATP with 1,250 flight hours instead of 1,500 flight hours. In the Federal Aviation Regulations, § 61.160 specifies that to qualify for the R-ATP with reduced flight times the flight training must be accomplished under an approved part 141 flight training program. Your flight training was accomplished under part 61 which leaves you ineligible for the R-ATP at reduced flight hours. The FAA is concerned about the integration of the flight training with the overall curriculum, which cannot be evaluated if a pilot’s flight training is completed outside of that curriculum. From Advisory Circular 61-139, here is the explanation.
Integrated Flight Training Requirement
“The purpose of this requirement is to have comprehensive flight training curricula integrated with a student’s ground training as part of an FAA-approved part 141 program. It also ensures the ground and flight training are integrated into the student’s broader academic education as part of a degree program with an aviation major.”
Unfortunately, there is no alternative in sight. These changes were debated during the formal rulemaking process which ended in 2013.
Lorene asks: Does getting a private pilot license help with my career goal of becoming an aerospace engineer. I am 14 and have started flying.
Earning your pilot’s certificate not only will help you understand the concepts you’ll learn during your studies to become an engineer, it may even earn you college credit towards your degree. I know several aeronautical engineers and a good number of them have their pilot certificates. They did this both to receive college credit and to reach a higher level of understanding of the concepts they were learning in the classroom.
If you have the time and finances I can’t think of any downside to getting your pilot’s certificate. Having a flying background may open the door to opportunities that may not available to you otherwise. I would also encourage you to research scholarships that may be able to help you out with the cost of training.
- Harold Richard, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Jarahson asks: Hi, I'm 14 and I had a couple questions about becoming an Airline pilot. Like - is it a good job? How hard is it to get into? How long does it take to get into? And if I go to Embry Riddle and get my ATPL what are the chances of getting a job?
A career as an airline pilot can be a very rewarding and exciting. However, you will be required to spend a significant time away from home when you first start your career. Current projections indicate there will be a significant pilot shortage by the time you would have the training and experience to fill a seat in an airline cockpit. Therefore, as soon as you meet the minimum qualifications you stand a very good chance of getting hired. You will need to have an Airline Transport Pilot certificate (ATP) before you can fly for an airline. You must have at least 1,500 hours of flight time unless you qualify for a restricted ATP.
If you attend an approved aviation college or complete military pilot training you would qualify for an ATP rating with 750-1250 flying hours. The FAA authorizes colleges to certify graduates of specific aviation degree programs for an ATP certificate with reduced experience. If you are very conscious with your education and training plan, you could be flying with an airline in three to four years after graduating from college. Aeronautical Universities such as Embry Riddle qualify for these reduced minimums.
You will need to build you time by instructing or flying for another type of operation to gain the minimum experience for your ATP rating. I want to encourage you to get good grades in high school and start flight training as soon as you can. Becoming an airline pilot is not necessarily any more difficult than any other technical career, but it will take some effort on your part. I applaud your initiative to seek out our advice. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions as you progress through you pilot career.
- Harold Richard, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Lena Adams asks: What are the differences between a Part 61 and a Part 141 flight school?
The biggest differences between Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools are the amount of FAA oversight, lesson flexibility, and flight hours required for certification. Part 141 schools are required to go through an initial certification process which includes an application to the FAA and having every page of their manuals and courses reviewed and certified. They also have more stringent record keeping requirements, quality standards, and have to renew their Part 141 certification on a regular basis. The benefit to this is that Part 141 schools have lower hour minimums for pilot certification. Though a downside is that their courses are more rigid and lessons need to be completed in a certain order. In contrast, Part 61 schools do not have any certification or quality standards to maintain, but have the option to be more flexible with which order they do their lessons. This can be a benefit for students who like a bit more customization in their lessons with the tradeoff that the FAA will require higher hour minimums for pilot certification.
- Sarah Staudt, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Daniel Yun asks: What do you think the future of aviation is and why?
Daniel, I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of aviation. There are so many cool things currently being developed, I can’t imagine feeling any other way. Of course, there is no way for sure to know how aviation will change and evolve over the next 20, 30, 40, or 50 years or what new technology will become available during that time. However, just looking at a few things that are presently being researched gets me excited; from flying cars to electric planes to fully automated airports. There are also aerodynamic breakthroughs just around the corner that could fundamentally change how aircraft look and how they fly. It really is an amazing time in aviation. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
- Patrick Timmerman, AOPA, Pilot Information Center
Alexander Yaney asks: The FAA no longer requires in-the-cockpit spin training. Although ground training on spin awareness and avoidance is required. Even though it is not required do you believe it would be beneficial for a student pilot to experience what a spin is actually like first hand with an instructor before he or she takes the practical flight test for a full pilot’s license?
Hi Alexander. Yes. I believe it is very beneficial pilot training to experience a spin entry, spin, and spin recovery first-hand with your flight instructor. Knowledge is power, and knowing how to recognize and recover from spins can very well save your life in the future. A word of advice, however – many training airplanes today are not approved for intentional spins. Your instructor will know if your training airplane is approved or not. If that is the case, reviewing situations where spins may be entered is a good substitute to actual spin practice.
- Craig Brown, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Shelby Scorse asks: "I have trouble telling the difference between various common aircraft - the ones I see at my local airport. Do you have any suggestions to learn aircraft better? Perhaps a website that allows you to practice distinguishing aircraft. Or some tips for common aircraft in general. Thank you!"
Shelby, I try to identify an aircraft by looking at the major features first. I look at the placement of the wings, landing gear, engine(s) and tail. Then I try to categorize the airplane by using its distinguishing characteristics. Generally, single engine high wing aircraft are manufactured by Cessna but that is not always the case. Vintage Piper, Aeronca, Taylorcraft and Luscombe airplanes also have high wings. Low wing aircraft are generally manufactured by Piper, Cirrus or Socata. You can further classify an airplane by its type of landing gear. Tricycle, conventional (tail-wheel), amphibian or float landing gear arrangements all can be used to help identify the airplane. The book “A Field Guide to Airplanes” is a very good resource for basic aircraft identification. Additionally, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has a detailed site for aircraft recognition.
Eric Heigis asks: What limitations are there for US private pilots flying to different countries like Mexico or in the Caribbean?
Hi Eric ! It’s both easier BUT more multiple detailed than you might think: first, know that any/every country in the world has published entry –or fly over- permission requirements with the FAA website under IFIMs (search the International Flight Information Manual). Most just require an official flight plan and Customs visit upon landing though you may need to either phone ahead to their customs and/or file electronically beforehand. The additional step for United States departures (and re-entries) is an electronic customs filing called eApis--- requiring just a 5-minute electronic registration with U.S.CBP/ TSA followed by a plan filing for each trip out and back in. (outside vendors now have software programs for smart phones to aid in this simple, but precise, filing.) A pilot will have some airspace and customs costs variable to the country of his/her visit, and must, of course, verify basic FAA aircraft ARROW documents, aircraft insurance, and passenger passports. Check AOPA’s website for bulleted checklists for each often-visited country to start your planning: http://www.aopa.org/Flight-Planning . Give us a call in the Pilot Information Center with specific questions or for a review of your understanding.
- Rodney Martz, AOPA Pilot Information Center
As the holder of a commercial Helicopter certificate, what legal requirements are there to get a commercial single and multi-add-on? I had my private pilot, ASEL, prior to completing Army flight training, and now am trying to add my commercial fixed wing ratings on. But I've gotten a handful of different answers on what I need to take the checkride (Eric Wilkins)
In order to get your commercial single and multi-add-ons it really comes down to 2 main components: 61.129(a)(3) and 61.129(a)(4) citing the 20 hours of training and 10 hours of solo. The same applies to the multi add-on: 61.129(b)(3) for the 20 hours of flight training portion and the solo time under 61.129(b)(4). All the other flight time that he already has prior can be counted towards the rating sought.
-Adam O’Hara, AOPA Pilot Information Center
I recently have taken a .5 hr. helicopter discovery flight. Will that time go towards my fixed wing pilot's license, also? (Jerry Franklin Moore)
Assuming that the half an hour discovery flight was logged in your logbook and signed off by the instructor, then you could use that time towards your Private Pilot Airplane Single Engine Land rating. 40 hours of flight time is required for your Private Single Engine, 30 of which need to be done in a single engine aircraft. The remaining 10 hours of flight time can be from another category or class.
Paul Feldmeyer, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Here is a good question for all student pilots. Recently I've heard talk about some ATP test due by August 1st in order to avoid mandatory participation in extra sim training for prospective airline pilots. As a private pilot with an instrument rating, am I eligible to take the ATP written now so I can avoid spending thousands of extra dollars in flight training in order to meet the FAA requirement to obtain an ATP certificate? I believe that if you take the written and pass you do not have to take part in this extra training as long as your ATP written is still valid and not expired and you take the check ride and pass. (Tommy Condon)
Hi Tommy, your description of the upcoming changes is correct. Before August 1, 2014, any person may take the ATP knowledge test as long as that person is at least 21 years old. If that person passes the test, they will then have 24 calendar months to complete the ATP practical test without the need for the training program described in 14 CFR Part 61.156. See this article for more information on the changes.
-Adam Williams, AOPA Pilot Information Center
I have a question for all the CFI's, as an instructor would you let your student pilot use GPS? Example let them use the GPS for their first solo flight away from the airport, or first long cross-country? I understand the reason we are taught pilotage, and dead reckoning; but with the rate technology is growing and taking over many of the analog instruments I am a bit surprised my instructor has never let me use a GPS system for my solos away from my airport. I want to hear what you would let your students do, take into fact, yes, we are taught the 'old fashioned' way to fly (which is and still how most of us fly in GA, and is more exciting in my opinion.)
Thank y'all for this amazing program.
-Mik (Mikaylah Loveless)
Hi Mik, as an instructor, I allowed my students to use the GPS, but in capacities that started in a very limited way and expanded use to other functions as I found to be appropriate for the individual student as they made progress. Generally around the 4th or 5th flight I would introduce using the GPS as a distance reference tool. As a student advanced through their training I would introduce other functions such as how to find the nearest airport or VOR, and how to program a flight plan. Near the end of training, and if the system was capable, I would introduce using some of the weather functions. Exactly when each GPS function was introduced and how much I permitted a student to use it would vary with the individual and how well they were progressing through the other basics of training. It’s my opinion that the GPS is a fantastic tool, but its limitations need to be understood and respected, which can take time to instill. This was simply my approach to teaching the GPS. There are many other techniques that instructors use to fit the needs of the student pilots.
Hopefully this works for you.
Sarah, AOPA Pilot Information Center
Is it prudent to practice spins? (Juan Novoa)
Yes and no, but allow me to explain. I believe it is wise to learn how spins may be encountered, what they look like, and how to recover from them. So, to answer your question, yes, with your instructor but not on your own. I believe it is difficult to argue against this type of training being beneficial to all airplane pilots. I don’t think student pilots should be out practicing spins while flying solo, and most flight instructors and flight schools would agree on that point. If you are training in an airplane that has not been approved for intentional spins, then spin recognition and avoidance should be practiced instead.
Craig Brown, AOPA Pilot Information Center
What are some important new flight lessons to do when my solo is in October and have about 20 logged hours and over 50 landings, along with navigation (VOR hood and VFR training), slow flight, steep turns, regular turns and emergency procedures such as different engine out scenarios, stalls, and recognition of emergencies? (Jason Preston)
Jason, thanks for your question. I wouldn’t focus too much on exactly when you expect to solo. Your flight instructor will know when you are ready even if you don’t. My suggestion would be to work on mastering what you have already gone over in previous lessons and continue to improve your flying in those areas. I assume you are working from a syllabus so all of your flights and the tasks to work on will be laid out in the pre-solo lessons. Continue to hone your skills and your solo flight will be a breeze.
Patrick Timmerman, AOPA Pilot Information Center
How popular is the PP/IA check ride combo? Is it on the rise? I've seen more applicants combine their Private Pilot and Instrument Airplane check rides.
That combination has been allowed since 2011 and the latest published U.S. Civil Airmen Statistics end with 2012. Although it seems to be gaining popularity, we simply do not have enough data to conclude anything about the trend.
-Adam Williams, AOPA
What are the factors affecting BMC?
There are several factors that affect VMC (I’m assuming that that’s what you meant) on a multiengine aircraft.
If while I'm flying as a private pilot and some of the pictures I take turn out really cool...can I sell them if people want copies?
Tayler – As cool as those photos may be, the FAA views aerial photography as a business and any revenue received from the sale of photographs as receiving compensation for the operation. Receiving compensation is a limitation on the Private Pilot Certificate and not permitted. You are still allowed to take photos while flying for personal use or enjoyment, just be sure it doesn’t interfere with safety of flight.
Here is a link to the Letter of Interpretation from the FAA prohibiting the business of aerial photography for Private Pilots.
-Sarah Staudt, AOPA
I recently finished army flight training and I have my private pilot ASEL, and a commercial helicopter certificate with instrument rating. What are the times necessary to take that commercial rotary wing and do my commercial multi transition? I have around 150 hours fixed wing time, around 10 hours complex and high performance, and 6 hours of multi-engine instruction
Thanks for your question. The issue really comes down to how much of your previous flying and training time can be applied towards applying for a commercial AMEL certificate. Referencing FAR 61.129, you would satisfy the majority of the requirements except for the multiengine airplane training time: FAR 61.129 requires 20 hours of training on the areas of operation listed in §61.127(b)(2) of this part . This line item in the regulations refers specifically to multiengine training time. The only other thing to note would be that you do not need to take a commercial written since you already hold a commercial pilot certificate, as per FAR 61.63(b). You would, however, have to take a full AMEL practical test.
-Adam O’Hara, AOPA
How hard is it to become a professional aerobatic pilot once you have the experience? And how do you gain such experience after your instructional courses?
To fly at airshows a pilot must have a Commercial Pilot Certificate. For low-level aerobatics, they must also get a FAA “waiver” administered by the International Council of Airshows (ICAS). Getting a waiver involves the pilot performing his or her aerobatic routine and being judged by an ACEs or “aerobatic competency evaluator”.
Pilots new to airshows are typically assigned an authorized minimum altitude of 800 feet agl(above ground level). As they gain experience, that floor can be lowered to 500 feet, 250 feet, and finally “unrestricted.” Getting to the unrestricted or surface level typically takes years of airshow flying and dozens of performances.
For example, moving from 800 feet to 500 feet requires performing in at least eight airshows at five different sites. Dropping from 500 feet to 250 requires a dozen performances at a minimum of six locations, and getting an unrestricted waiver means flying at least 16 performances at eight different places.
An airshow performer, who violates minimum altitudes, flies too close to spectators, or is deemed unsafe, can be grounded at any time.
There are 62 ACEs (Aerobatic Competency Evaluators) in the United States for sport aerobatics, 29 covering jet warbirds, and 10 for wing walkers. The 80-page ACE manual is available on the Web (www.airshows.aero) and covers the entire evaluation process.
Flight evaluations for pilots seeking to perform in state-of-the-art aerobatic airplanes (such as an Extra, Edge, Pitts, or Sukhoi) include such maneuvers such as: a pair of 180-degree inverted turns, a 3-turn inverted spin, vertical rolls, and gyroscopic maneuvers. Pilots seeking to perform in less capable airplanes (such as a stock Stearman biplane or a clipped-wing Piper Cub) must perform ailerons rolls, point rolls, loops, and hammerheads.
Airshow pilots must renew their waivers annually.
--Dave Hirshman, AOPA
How low can one legally fly?
Chris, that depends on several factors. For the purpose of this question, we will assume we are discussing airplanes. FAR 91.119 specifies minimum safe altitudes. Generally, it breaks it down into three categories; anywhere, over congested areas and over other than congested areas.
Anywhere: An altitude, that if you had a power failure, an emergency landing could be made without undue hazard to people or property.
Over congested areas: 1000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2000 feet of the airplane.
Over other than congested areas: An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.
--Pete Arnold, AOPA
What have you learned since your first flying lesson?
Hi Andrew, I soloed on September 6, 1963 at the ripe old age of 16. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a pilot. Since that first solo I have accumulated nearly 15,000 hours and have 5 type ratings on an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. My type ratings are in both transport category turboprops and jets. I flew both airline and corporate.
Aviation is a very fluid industry. It is constantly changing and evolving. This is true of all areas of the industry. The aircraft are becoming more and more complex. The avionics are becoming more capable and thus more complex. The airspace system is also becoming more restrictive and complex. All of this complexity means that there is always something new to learn. The most important lesson I have learned in my career, is that you had better not ever stop learning.
How hard is it to be hired by an airline once you have enough hours?
Billy – This can be a challenging question to answer. Many factors play into how, when, and how many pilots the airlines hire. The biggest factor is the economy. In a strong economy where people have more money to spend going on vacation or traveling for business, flying is in higher demand, so airlines need pilots and hiring increases. When the economy is slow, people spend less money on vacation, and the airlines hire fewer people and demand higher qualifications. Other big factors include FAA policy and corporate finances. A few years ago the FAA extended the age pilots were forced to retire at, allowing pilots to stay on the job longer, which resulted in the airlines hiring fewer pilots. The hiring process has caught up to that rule change, but the rules are always subject to change. The financial health of an airline plays a big role as well. An airline having a hard time earning a profit isn’t likely to hire more pilots. In summary, how hard it is to get hired by an airline depends on how well you are prepared/experienced/educated and a combination of these other factors.
I just want to spend time flying, lots and lots of time. Is it possible to work at my local airport and get paid in flying time, not money?
It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask! Working for flight time is about as old as aviation itself. I would recommend that you ask your flight school about doing this, as they are the ones renting the airplane to you, and the ones you will pay for that rental. See if they need help on line service, fueling, front desk, or in the maintenance shop. If they can do it, it would likely be in some form of credit on your flying account, equal to your pay otherwise, and you could then fly each time your account has enough for a typical one hour rental or training flight, for example. Good luck, and enjoy your training.
-Craig Brown, AOPA
What's flying corporate like, and is it a good career field to go into? Also what ratings are good to have before applying for a job?
Luke McCurdy; Corporate flying is wonderful career. You will fly some of the finest equipment in the air. Your trips will be to cities served by both major airlines as well as smaller general aviation airports not served by the airlines. The constant challenge of going into different airports keeps you sharp.
Corporate pilots must be very flexible. Their schedules are very fluid and subject to change on a moments notice. To be a corporate pilot you need to be somewhat of a jack of all trades. In smaller corporations, you will be responsible for all aspects of the trip. From planning the flight, booking ground transportation, onboard catering, overnight accommodation for the crew and in some cases passengers. Coordinating maintenance when necessary.
In larger corporations, everything but the flight planning and actually flying the trip is done by other members of the flight department. Those situations are more akin to airline flying.
-Pete Arnold, AOPA
How much experience is needed to be an airline manager?
Andrew Taylor: That really depends on what area of management you want to go into. Most airline management positions require a college education. After you have received the requisite education, you can expect to spend 3 to 5 years before your first promotion to a true management position. To reach senior level management can take between 10 and 30 years depending upon your ability, education, drive, desire and the airlines needs.
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