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Private Pilot Path ↓

Climb into a plane and fly off for a weekend visit with family and friends. Soar above your hometown, seeing streets and landmarks in entirely new ways. Or simply enjoy the serenity and silence of your own high-altitude “Zen.” Whatever inspires you to fly, AOPA has the resources you need to get the training and experience to earn your pilot’s license. We are a community of people who share a passion for aviation and we welcome the opportunity to get you onboard with us. Let’s chart your course.


Discover New Heights

Wanting to fly and actually being able to fly are two different things. Before you commit to training, take a demonstration flight (Don't forget to have your pilot fill out your First Flight Certificate). This will give you a sense of what it is like to fly in a small airplane. You may even be invited to take the controls yourself. We bet that once you’ve caught the bug, you’ll never look back!

Download Your Plan →

Choose a flight school

Before you can take off, you’ve got to take in: becoming a pilot requires mastering a lot of information and skills. And it is not something that can be self-taught. You need to attend flight school or learn from an independent instructor. Here are some tips on how to choose the right school for you, including your budget and your timeline. Think of this as your first of many “checklists,” one that will ensure you learn to fly successfully and safely.

How to pick a Flight School →

Land Your Medical Certificate

Before you invest time and money in pursuit of your private, student or recreational pilot certificate, you must pass a basic medical exam. Since you must have your medical certificate before you can solo, it is smart to do this first, so you can discover early whether or not you have health issues that could impact your ability to fly. Students pursuing a sport pilot, balloon, or glider certificate do not need to take the medical exam.

AOPA’s Medical Certification specialists are available to assist you with questions regarding obtaining medicals or waivers. Call 800-USA-AOPA or log on to the AOPA website to chat with a representative.

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Hit the Books (or Computer)

This is where you learn flight and aircraft operation procedures, as well as aeronautical knowledge. It can be done simultaneously during your flight school training. You’ll study subjects such as flight planning, aerodynamics, aircraft systems, weather avoidance, FAA regulations, principles of navigation, aeromedical factors, stall/spin awareness, and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) incident/accident reporting requirements.

You can complete ground school as part of your flight school training or if you are a self-starter, on your own through self-paced, home-study using online programs. Many flight schools now offer hybrid programs that combine self-study with classroom training.

More Resources to Help You Chart Your Course →

Fly with an instructor

Flight school and ground school often occur concurrently, which enables you to apply your ground school knowledge in the aircraft. This is the flying part of flight school, where you’ll perform takeoffs, landings and performance maneuvers. You will handle radio communications and put your knowledge of airport operations, ground reference and emergency procedures into practice.

Flight Training Revealed →

Go Solo

Eventually, you will be “set free” and allowed to fly solo without your instructor, practicing takeoffs and landings as well as all your other skills on your own. Although every student learns at their own pace, it generally takes about 15-20 hours or so in the aircraft before most students are ready to safely solo.

7 Tips For Your First Solo Flight →
FAA Test counter 84 % CONGRATS, YOU PASSED! 84 %

Take Your Written Exam

Once you’ve completed ground school training, you will take the “written” FAA test, which is actually a computer-based multiple choice exam which assesses your knowledge of the theories covered in ground school.

You will be required to pass this test with a grade of 70 percent or better. You can study at home with the help of books, videos or computer training programs. Many flight schools offer ground school classes to help you learn the principles covered in the test. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your instructor and fellow pilots. AOPA’s aviation specialists are also available to answer training questions at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).

The Knowledge Test Explained →

Cross Country Training

When your instructor deems you’re ready, you will take cross country trips, including a solo cross country flight, that will test your ability to apply your aviation skills over longer distances with takeoffs and landings at unfamiliar airports. You will put your knowledge of flight planning, weather, navigation and communications to the test.

Prepare for your Cross Country Flight →

Do Your Check Ride

The checkride is an oral and practical test of your aviation skills that brings together elements from every aspect of your training. Before you can schedule your check ride, you must have a series of endorsements, including:

  • Solo flights, both on your student pilot certificate (one-time) and in your logbook (every 90 days)
  • Solo cross-countries
  • Written knowledge test
  • Practical test readiness

A designated pilot examiner will ask you questions to evaluate your aviation knowledge and measure your flying skills against FAA requirements and performance parameters known as the Airman Certification Standards (ACS).

Download Checkride checklist →

Congrats, you're a Pilot! Keep flying.

Welcome to the club! The flying community is one of the most welcoming and enthusiastic groups of people you’ll ever encounter. Pilots love sharing their love of aviation with fellow aviators. So whether you’re just starting out or you’ve a seasoned ace, AOPA can help connect you to pilots through its Pilot Hangar. Here you can:

  • Forge new friendships with fellow flyers through local flying clubs.
  • Explore exciting destinations you may want to discover on a cross-country.
  • See what aircraft have been posted to the AOPA Marketplace.
  • Get the latest information on aviation events, including fly-ins and the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the nation’s largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts.
  • Follow your fellow aviators on social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.


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