Home | Dreaming of Flying? | Ready to Start? | Already in Training?

This is the new Let's Go Flying site.

How It All Works

Flying an airplane can seem mysterious and challenging, but in reality, it’s actually pretty simple.

On the ground

In the aviation world, driving an airplane on the ground is called “taxiing.” Unlike driving on the left side of the road, you taxi an airplane down the center of a path called a taxiway.

Steering and power are set up opposite that of a car. You steer with your feet and control the power with your hand by pushing or pulling on a knob called the throttle. It’s more intuitive than it sounds. In fact, after a few flight lessons at the airport, you might catch yourself driving down the middle of the road in your car!

In the air

Flying through the air can be very smooth and graceful. Making the airplane climb, descend, and turn involves an elegant interaction between your hands and feet. A control wheel or stick works much like a steering wheel. You turn it to the side in which you want to turn. You simultaneously use your feet to control “rudder pedals,” which help you make a proper turn. Push on the rudder pedal that is on the side in which you want to turn. You also use the control wheel to climb and descend. Just pull back gently on the wheel to climb and push forward to descend.

Early in your flight training, you will learn about the different parts of an airplane and the “four forces of flight.” Learning about these forces and how the airplane works will help you understand why the airplane turns, climbs, and descends when you move the control stick.

From Point A to Point B

Navigating on the ground at airports isn’t much different than driving around a city. Airports have signs, similar to road signs, and lights to guide you. At some airports, you can even talk to a “ground controller,” who will give you step-by-step taxi instructions.

Getting from here to there in the air is the fun part! You will learn how to use GPS, maps, and radios to navigate. Cities, rivers, and large bodies of water depicted on maps will become your checkpoints from the air. You can also follow roads, which can be particularly rewarding as you look down on traffic jams while flying freely through the wild blue yonder!

Find a flight school

Use our database of over 3,500 flight schools to find one near you. Search now >>

Ask a pilot

Click here to have your flight training questions answered by a pilot. Get your questions answered >>

Free magazine subscription

Sign up to receive 6 months of AOPA Flight Training magazine - FREE! Sign up today >>