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Wes Irish, ATP
Certified Flight Instructor / Professional Pilot

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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Unless otherwise stated, the following FAQ pertains to an FAA Private Pilot license for single-engine airplanes.

What are your rates and policies?

My avilability, rates and policies are listed on my Instruction & Services page.

What is required to earn my Private Pilot's License?

The details are spelled out in FAR Part 61, Subpart E, but here is a summary of the highlights.

To earn you private pilot's license you will need to:

The training is done in three phases, with a specific milestone at the end of each phase: A phase is complete when you meet all of the knowledge requirements, flight training requirements, proficiency standards, your instructor endorses your logbook as appropriate, and you pass the task defining that phase.

How long does it take to earn a Private Pilot's License?

The time that it takes to earn your pilot's license varies greatly from one person to the next. Most people seem to train about 1-2 times a week and take about a year from when they start to when they have their license in hand. In general, if you want to earn your license in a shorter period of time then you will need to train more often. Additionally, there is some added efficiency if you train more frequently since you will retain more between lessons. So, for example, if you train 3 times a week you might be able to finish in 6 months. But keep in mind that everybody is different; people learn different things at different rates, and have different levels of comprehension and retention. These rough estimates may seem high, but they include time for vacation, illness, personal scheduling issues, coordination of phase checks and checkrides, etc.

How much does it cost to earn my Private Pilot's license?

Based on 80-100 hours of flight instruction and solo flight, ground instruction, ground school, aircraft rental, club membership fees, testing fees, books, supplies, etc. obtaining your pilot's license in the Bay Area will probably cost you in the ballpark of $20K. Some clubs or instructors might give you a lower number, but I believe that this is a more realistic estimate of the total cost in the Bay Area.

Always keep this in mind: The more prepared you are for a lesson the more efficient and effective it will be. Being prepared for each flight lesson is often the single most effective thing that you can do to save time and money while training.

Do you have a recommended reading list for the student pilot?

NB: Many of these documents are available in PDF form for free, or in printed form for a nominal fee. Use whatever form works best for you.

Yes. I recommend that a student pilot read the following.

If you are flying an airraft with the Garming G1000 or Cirrus Perspective you should get and read this book: Recommended References (you should get these and refer to them when appropriate, but there is no need to read them cover to cover): Here are some additional but STRICTLY OPTIONAL FAA manuals that you may find helpful for particular topics: When it is time to prepare for your FAA Private Pilot Written Exam I recommend using: As you get closer to your checkride you should read the following:

What supplies will I need as a student pilot?

This is a non-exhaustive list of materials that my students will need to have. The links provided are to help you identify the item; they are not meant to endorse any particular reseller. * The iPad ONLY has GPS capability if you purchase it with a cellular option since they use the GPS functionality in the cellular chipset. But note that you do not have to activate cellular service to use the GPS.

Would you tell me more about the training and knowledge requirements?

The FAA minimum requirement is 40 hours of flight instruction, of which at least 20 hours must be flight training from an authorized instructor and at least 10 hours of which must be solo flight training. These minimum times are then broken down into further detail in the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations). These and other details can be found in FAR Part 61, Subpart C and Subpart E, with the basic hours (aeronautical experience) specified in 61.109 and the flight proficiency specified in 61.107. Additionally, there is a flight training related aeronautical knowledge requirement which is specified in 61.105.

With that said, most student pilots have more than the minimum number of hours before they are able to meet all of the specific requirements and are able to meet the level of proficiency required to pass the practical test. This is usually not so much a reflection on the student pilot, but on the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills that must be mastered, especially here in the complex and busy airspace of the Bay Area. In the Bay Area, 80-100 hours +/- of flight training is more typical of the hours required before you will be ready for your flight test. The upside of training in the Bay Area is that once you complete your training and earn your pilot's license you will be ready to fly virtually anywhere.

How do I choose which model of aircraft to train in?

There are a number of aircraft suitable for Private Pilot training, including the Cessna 172SP, Diamond DA40, and Cirrus SR20. (I also like the Piper Archer and Warrior, but there aren't many left in the training fleet these days and those that are left are getting pretty tired. I haven't seen a new Archer or Warrior in years.) All of these aircraft models are available with the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit.

The Cessna is the slowest of the three, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for with almost bullet-proof design that can take rough runways, or rough landings, with aplomb. It is a high-wing aircraft with a steerable nose wheel, which can make taxing a breeze. And it is also relatively inexpensive per hour.

The Diamond is a sleeker, faster, more modern design than the Cessna. It uses a control stick, rather than a flight yoke, giving you that jet fighter feel. The visibility from the cockpit is amazing. The castoring nose wheel takes more time and effort to master than the steerable nose wheel of the Cessna. The Diamond is typically a little more per hour than the Cessna.

The Cirrus is a sleek, fast, technical marvel. It has a larger engine than the Cessna or Diamond, and it is the fastest of the three. The interior is more like a high-end automobile than the utilitarian cockpit found in most training aircraft. Like the Diamond, the Cirrus has a castoring nose wheel that takes some time to master. Learning to land a Cirrus also takes a bit more time and effort than a Cessna or Diamond. The Cirrus is the most expensive, and least forgiving, of the three.

I recommend doing your training in a Garmin G1000 equiped aircraft since it is a modern and reliable platform, and when properly used it can greatly enhance your situational awareness and safety. (Cirrus calls their variation of the G1000 Perspective by Garmin.) The G1000 is also an excellent platform for when you decide to continue your training for your instrument rating, or when you are ready to move on to more advanced aircraft. The G1000 also provides a significant amount of uniformity between different aircraft makes and models, making it much easier to transition from one make and model aircraft to another.

Some students want to train in an aircraft with a more traditional cockpit based on mechanical flight instruments (these are often referred to as a 6-pack, or sometimes as steam gauges). Perhaps you own an aircraft with a 6-pack, or maybe you've been told by others that you should do your initial training in such an aircraft. I will train in these aircraft, as long as the instruments and avionics are in good working condition. This bar is particularly high for IFR flight.

(NB: Most manufactuers of certified aircraft stopped making their aircraft with traditional mechanical 6-pack cockpits 15-20 years ago because they could no longer compete favorably with glass cockpit reliabiliy, performance, or cost. As a result, all of the existing 6-pack cockpits are getting old and worn out, it's getting difficult to find good replacement parts, and the repair and replacements costs have skyrocketed. This in turn is impacting 6-pack aircraft aviability, dispatch reliability, flight reliability, and cost.)

Do you have a list of useful information and resources?

I certainly do. My Flying & Pilot Information page is a very basic web 1.0 style web page, but it is chock full of links and information about various aspects of aviation and instruction. It may take you some time to look through everything that is there but I am confident that you will learn something that you didn't know, or at least find something that catches your interest.

Wes Irish, ATP
Certified Flight Instructor / Professional Pilot