How to Become a Pilot – Simple Steps

Pilots · 6 min read · Sep 09, 2021
How to Become a Pilot

For many of us aviation lovers, becoming a pilot has been a goal since we saw our first plane flying above us as children. Sometimes we imagined becoming a certified commercial pilot in airlines as our career goal for the rest of our lives and sometimes we imagined being a private pilot.

Dreaming is the first step toward developing the abilities necessary to operate an airplane as a solo or airline pilot.

A backview of two pilots sitting in an aircraft's cockpit, preparing to take off.

To become a commercial pilot for major airlines and operate a multi-engine aircraft, or to have hours of flight time as a single-engine plane pilot, much more than dreaming is required.

First, you should pick what you wish to fly. Depending on the type of aircraft, you must obtain a different license. That is, of course, to demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills required to fly the aircraft using the instruments onboard.

The pilot’s license is awarded by countries’ aviation authorities after completion of the requisite training, and the responsible authority in the United States is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Choose Your Path

You must choose between the following options:

  1. Flying a single-engine plane for recreational purposes only. (PPL)
  2. Commercial piloting of a small aircraft. (CPL)
  3. Flying a commercial airliner. (ATPL)

Flight School-Part 61 and Part 141

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is a codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the Federal Government’s executive departments and agencies.

Part 61 of the CFR regulations govern the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors. Part 141, on the other hand, governs pilot schools.

A small personal aircraft controlled by one pilot from Switzerland flying over a mountain top.

Differences in Pilot Training

When choosing a flight school it is important based on which 14 CFR parts that flight school is operating.

A flight school operating based on 141 should seek and maintain FAA approval for its training curriculum which results in them having well-structured training.

A flying school operating under Part 61, on the other hand, will be much more flexible in creating plans, allowing students to organize their own training.

Part 141 flight schools have the primary advantage of allowing students to progress more quickly (less flight time necessary) in a professional training setting with a consistent curriculum.

Part 61 flight schools allow them to be more flexible about their training and complete their flight hours as they wish.

To obtain various sorts of licenses, you must fulfill the FAA-mandated flight hours as well as the required test.

Student Pilot Certificate

When you begin your training in a flight school, you will fly with a flight instructor. You do not need a student certificate to fly with a flight instructor.

When you are ready to fly solo without a flight instructor, you need to take a student pilot certificate from the FAA.

What are The Requirements for a Student Pilot Certificate?

The requirements are set by the FAA. The application is free if made directly to the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). However, if the application is made through a flight school, it may not be free.

  • Be at least 16 years old. If you plan to pilot a glider or balloon, you must be at least 14 years old.
  • Be able to read, speak, and understand English.

It is necessary to have an FAA medical certificate issued by the Aviation Medical Examiners (AME). You will benefit from obtaining an FAA medical certificate quicker.

Private Pilot Certificate (PPL)

To become a private pilot, flying training begins with a flight instructor and continues with solo flights. A small non-commercial plane can be flown by a private pilot. During training, the student should gain the essential aeronautical abilities and experience to get a PPL.

A back view of a helicopter pilot wearing a headset and flying over a large city by the sea.

Private Pilot Certificates Based on CFR Part

Part 141:

  • A total of 35 hours of flight time is required to become a pilot and get a private pilot certificate.
  • Solo flight time of 5 hours, including cross-country flying.  (ten hours for Part 61)

Part 61:

  • A total of 40 hours of flight time is required to become a pilot and get a private pilot certificate.
  • The FAA requires a one-hour final solo pilot flight to pass the test.

A total of 30 flight hours are completed with the flight instructor.

Theoretical Exam and Test Flight

To show your knowledge as a pilot, you must pass an FAA exam. You will become a private pilot if you pass the exam and the test flight with the FAA examiner.

Commercial Pilot Certificate (CPL)

Pilots to be commercial ones, which wants to be paid should obtain a commercial pilot certificate. Depending on your professional career objectives, you may require additional certificates, which will be specified.

To obtain a commercial pilot certificate, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language.
  • Have 250 hours of flight time. This should include 100 hours of pilot-in-command flight time and 50 hours in airplanes.
  • Have 50 hours of cross-country flight time.
  • Pass the required knowledge test on aeronautical knowledge.
  • Receive the required pilot training.
  • Pass the necessary practical test.

As you become a commercial pilot, you can be paid.

A small private plane with its pilot in the cockpit, standing on the runway.

Instrument Rating

Pilots receive an instrument rating after completing the training required to fly under instrument flight rules. Pilots rely on their instruments to fly during IFR flights.

Pilots must meet the following requirements:

  • You must hold at least a current private pilot certificate.
  • Be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language.
  • Complete the required tests.
  • Have 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time on the listed operation areas.
  • Fly 15 hours of instrument flight training by the instructor.

Multi-engine Rating

It is the pilot training required to fly a multi-engine plane. Private pilots who want to fly with multi-engine planes should earn this license and prove their knowledge. Pilots must have a class medical 2 license and a good command of the English language.

If pilots wish to do this as a job and earn money, they must have a CPL. And if you wish to be an airline pilot, the ATP License is the pilot’s license you should get. An airline can hire a certified airline transport pilot (ATP).

Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)

To be eligible for a professional ATP License:

  • Pilots must have 1,500 hours of logged flight time.
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English.
  • Should be at 23 years age (under some experience requirements 21)
  • Be of a good moral character.
  • Should hold a CPL with needed ratings.
  • Accomplish required tests.
  • Have a class 1 medical certificate.
  • Pass the knowledge exam on the aeronautical knowledge areas of §61.155.
  • Pass the practical tests on the areas of operation listen in §61.157.

If you have logged hours from a military program or a college program the minimum required can be varied for you to become ATP certified.

Type Rating

After acquiring an ATPL, every pilot must obtain a type rating in order to fly a specific type of plane. For example, if a pilot wishes to work on a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A350, he or she must undergo additional training. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requires that type ratings be created with at least two pilots on the crew. If you have dreams to fly with a certain airplane you should also get the type rating of that plane.


What qualifications do you need to become a pilot?

Even though a college degree is not required (you need a high school program diploma) for obtaining an ATP License most airlines will look for a Bachelors’s degree. Yet it doesn’t matter very much if your education is in aviation or not to get a job. What is more important is the training you got.

If you want to become a pilot it is doesn’t have to be a career in a big airline. You might get basic training and fly with a small plane. Or you can achieve 250 hours to get your CPL with practical training.

But no matter which kind of plane you want to use or which kind of jobs you expect you should be ready to search for good training programs. Sometimes an airline flight school open programs to give education to students that want to be a pilot. Airlines often do this when they don’t have enough pilots.

How many years does it take to become a pilot?

It depends on which kind of license program or school you are going for. Practical experience will also play a big role in this. Private Pilot License Program can be obtained in a couple of months. But if you want to apply for jobs you will need CPL and it will take much more to obtain a license which usually lasts 6-9 months. On the other hand, obtaining ATPL can take up to 2 years.

Is it hard to become a pilot?

It is easier if you love flying. Most of the people working as a pilot are aviation enthusiasts since early ages. You should be successful academically and also have the skills to guide the plane.

Also based on the responsibility they take and the working environment it can be said, yes. Becoming a pilot and containing this career can be hard. One should search well at the beginning of the road.

Is becoming a pilot worth the cost?

Yes. Especially in important airlines, you can be paid very well. If you search through different sources you can see the median annual salary of pilots in the USA is around $120,000.

We answered the question of how to become a pilot.

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Aeroclass Team
A team of professionals with a deep passion for the aviation industry bringing you the newest and the most striking industry-related news and content.


  1. mawa moses says:

    My child want to become a pilot

  2. Eglė Bartaševičiūtė says:

    Dear John,

    Aeroclass does not offer any flight school scholarships. But you can definitely take a look at our courses and learn about various other topics in aviation.

  3. BAGUBYE JOHN says:

    do you have any fully funded scholarships for those who want to become pilots

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