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
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:
- Meet all eligibility requirements - 17 years old (16 for student), proficient in English, pass a medical
- Pass the FAA Private Pilot Airplane knowledge written test - 70% or better on 60 question test in 2.5 hours
- Receive and log the required aeronautical knowledge - ground instruction time with your CFI
- Receive and log the required aeronautical experience - 40 hr min, 80-100 hr typical; flight time w/ CFI and solo
- Pass the practical test - oral and flight test, typically all day
The training is done in three phases, with a specific milestone at the end of each phase:
- Phase I - Solo
- Phase II - Cross-country solo
- Phase III - Checkride practical test
A phase is complete when you meet all of the
flight training requirements,
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
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.
- Reading list materials (see previous FAQ item)
- Sectional Chart - San Francisco (paper)
- Terminal Area Chart - San Francisco (paper)
- Chart Supplement (formerly the Airport/Facility Directory, aka AFD) - Southwest (paper)
- Checklist ("compact" (kneeboard) size, appropriate for your make & model of aircraft)
- OPTIONAL -
iPad (mini or air, but with cellular for GPS! - see * below) w/
ForeFlight Mobile EFB (Electronic Flight Bag)
- Headset -
I recommend a good one, such as a
Lightspeed Zulu 3,
or the Quiet Technologies Halo
(for low clearance cockpits such as the DA40)
- Kneeboard, Pen/Pencil, Notepaper
- Chart Plotter
- E6B and/or
* 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
(Federal Aviation Regulations
These and other details
can be found in FAR
with the basic hours (aeronautical experience) specified in
and the flight proficiency specified in
Additionally, there is a flight training related aeronautical knowledge requirement which is specified in
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
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
How do I choose which model of aircraft to train in?
There are a number of aircraft suitable for Private Pilot training,
(I also like the
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
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
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.