How to become a Pilot in the USA

USA

USA has a large number of flight schools including those premier pilot training centers in the world

Entry Requirements

At least 17 years of old, High School Diploma, FAA Medical Certificate, Proficient in English

With its population of over 328 million, the United States of America (USA) has over 10 airlines in operation. It is also important to note at this point that USA has no national airline.

USA is known for its dominant economic power, hence, by far the most famous country in the world. One of the stimulus for its great economy is the aviation industry that generates around 10 million jobs in the entire federal republic. US aviation industry is well founded and maintained, marked by the most advanced and latest technology.

The country has a huge number of flight schools, most of which are one of the oldest and/or best flight training centers in the world. Given this, Americans need not to go abroad to do their pilot training. In fact, the USA is where most foreign nationalities do their pilot training.

One of the main questions we usually received is How to become a Pilot in the USA. Hence, we've created the below Step by Step Guide to assist aspiring pilots from the USA and those from other countries.

 

Step by Step Guide on How to become a Pilot in the USA

 

Step 1. Research

Research the different options you have to become a Pilot in the USA. Start of by researching online thru Aviationfly.com, Google, YouTube, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Facebook Pilot Groups and others. The more research you do initially, the more you will know all your options and the process of how to become a pilot in the USA.

  • Different Pilot Training Options
    • Flight School: Take your flight training with a Flight School in the USA (if you want to learn more about the options of doing your flight training, please send us a message).
    • Aviation related College Degree Program: This allows you to combine a college degree with flight training.
    • Airline Cadet Pilot Program: These are flight training programs which include guaranteed employment with the airline upon successful graduation (and some of these programs are sponsored by the airline).
    • Join the Military (U.S. Air Force): Get your flight training sponsored by joining the Military - you will have to stay with the Military for around 12 years after completing your training before you are allowed to apply to commercial airlines.

 

Step 2. Basic Requirements

  • Age: The minimum age to start your pilot training is 17 years old when you can receive a Student Pilot License and the retirement age for airline pilots actively flying is 65 years old.
  • Medical Certificate: In order to start your pilot training, you will need to secure a Medical Certificate - in order to get this, it is best to speak with the Flight School you want to start with and they will help arrange it for you.
  • Educational requirement: It is important to note at this point that you can get a Student Pilot License, Private Pilot License, and Commercial Pilot License, with a High School Degree.
  • English Proficiency: The language of Aviation internationally is English and it is recommended to meet a Level 4 English standard before receiving your Commercial Pilot License - if you are looking to improve your English, you can send us a message and we will give you tips on what courses to take.

 

Step 3. Training Stages

  • Student Pilot License (SPL): Allows you to start your flight training. For you to get a Student Pilot License, you must be at least 16 years old; holds a current FAA medical certificate and; be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
  • Private Pilot License (PPL): This license will allow you to fly solo or fly passengers or cargo but without receiving any money for it. For you to get a Private Pilot License, you must be at least 17 years old; holds a current FAA medical certificate; holds a Student Pilot Certificate; be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language; and

A. For an airplane single-engine rating, must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight training and the training must include at least:

(1) 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a single-engine airplane;

(2) 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane that includes:

(i) One cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance; and

(ii) 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.

(3) 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight;

(4) 3 hours of flight training with an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test, which must have been performed within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test; and

(5) 10 hours of solo flight time in a single-engine airplane, consisting of at least:

(i) 5 hours of solo cross-country time;

(ii) One solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations; and

(iii) Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

B. For an airplane multiengine rating, must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight training and and the training must include at least:

(1) 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a multiengine airplane;

(2) 3 hours of night flight training in a multiengine airplane that includes:

(i) One cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance; and

(ii) 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.

(3) 3 hours of flight training in a multiengine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight;

(4) 3 hours of flight training with an authorized instructor in a multiengine airplane in preparation for the practical test, which must have been performed within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test; and

(5) 10 hours of solo flight time in an airplane consisting of at least—

(i) 5 hours of solo cross-country time;

(ii) One solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations; and

(iii) Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

  • Commercial Pilot License (CPL): License will allow you to earn from flying and be a paid professional pilot. For you to get a Commercial Pilot License, you must be at least 18 years old; holds a current FAA medical certificate; holds a Private Pilot Certificate; be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language; and

(A) For an airplane single-engine rating, must log at least at least 250 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least:

(1) 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in airplanes.

(2) 100 hours of pilot-in-command flight time, which includes at least:

(i) 50 hours in airplanes; and

(ii) 50 hours in cross-country flight of which at least 10 hours must be in airplanes.

(3) 20 hours of training on the areas of operation that includes at least:

(i) Ten hours of instrument training using a view-limiting device including attitude instrument flying, partial panel skills, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, and intercepting and tracking navigational systems. Five hours of the 10 hours required on instrument training must be in a single engine airplane;

(ii) 10 hours of training in a complex airplane, a turbine-powered airplane, or a technically advanced airplane (TAA) that meets the requirements or any combination thereof. The airplane must be appropriate to land or sea for the rating sought;

(iii) One 2-hour cross country flight in a single engine airplane in daytime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure;

(iv) One 2-hour cross country flight in a single engine airplane in nighttime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and

(v) Three hours in a single-engine airplane with an authorized instructor in preparation for the practical test within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.

(4) Ten hours of solo flight time in a single engine airplane or 10 hours of flight time performing the duties of pilot in command in a single engine airplane with an authorized instructor on board (either of which may be credited towards the flight time requirement, on the areas of operation that include:

(i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point. However, if this requirement is being met in Hawaii, the longest segment need only have a straight-line distance of at least 150 nautical miles; and

(ii) 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

(B) For an airplane multiengine rating, must log at least 250 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least:

(1) 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in airplanes;

(2) 100 hours of pilot-in-command flight time, which includes at least:

(i) 50 hours in airplanes; and

(ii) 50 hours in cross-country flight of which at least 10 hours must be in airplanes.

(3) 20 hours of training on the areas of operation that includes at least:

(i) Ten hours of instrument training using a view-limiting device including attitude instrument flying, partial panel skills, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, and intercepting and tracking navigational systems. Five hours of the 10 hours required on instrument training must be in a multiengine airplane;

(ii) 10 hours of training in a multiengine complex or turbine-powered airplane; or for an applicant seeking a multiengine seaplane rating, 10 hours of training in a multiengine seaplane that has flaps and a controllable pitch propeller, including seaplanes equipped with an engine control system consisting of a digital computer and associated accessories for controlling the engine and propeller, such as a full authority digital engine control;

(iii) One 2-hour cross country flight in a multiengine airplane in daytime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure;

(iv) One 2-hour cross country flight in a multiengine airplane in nighttime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and

(v) Three hours in a multiengine airplane with an authorized instructor in preparation for the practical test within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.

(4) 10 hours of solo flight time in a multiengine airplane or 10 hours of flight time performing the duties of pilot in command in a multiengine airplane with an authorized instructor (either of which may be credited towards the flight time requirement, on the areas of operation that includes at least:

(i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point. However, if this requirement is being met in Hawaii, the longest segment need only have a straight-line distance of at least 150 nautical miles; and

(ii) 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight with a traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

  • Instrument Rating: Being Instrument Rated means that you can fly the aircraft in any weather condition (example low or zero visibility) using just the instruments.
  • Multi-Engine Rating: License which allows you to fly multi-engine aircraft.
  • Airline Transport Pilot License: Is the highest level of Aircraft Pilot Certificate that allows you to act as pilot in command on scheduled air carriers. For you to get an Airline Transport Pilot License, you must be at least 21 years old; holds a current FAA medical certificate; holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate; be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language; and must log at least 1,500 hours of total time as a pilot that includes at least:

(1) 500 hours of cross-country flight time.

(2) 100 hours of night flight time.

(3) 50 hours of flight time in the class of airplane for the rating sought. A maximum of 25 hours of training in a full flight simulator representing the class of airplane for the rating sought may be credited toward the flight time requirement of this paragraph if the training was accomplished as part of an approved training course. A flight training device or aviation training device may not be used to satisfy this requirement.

(4) 75 hours of instrument flight time, in actual or simulated instrument conditions, subject to the following:

(i) An applicant may not receive credit for more than a total of 25 hours of simulated instrument time in a full flight simulator or flight training device.

(ii) A maximum of 50 hours of training in a full flight simulator or flight training device may be credited toward the instrument flight time requirements if the training was accomplished in a course conducted by a certified training center.

(iii) Training in a full flight simulator or flight training device must be accomplished in a full flight simulator or flight training device, representing an airplane.

(5) 250 hours of flight time in an airplane as a pilot in command, or when serving as a required second in command flightcrew member performing the duties of pilot in command while under the supervision of a pilot in command, or any combination thereof, which includes at least:

(i) 100 hours of cross-country flight time; and

(ii) 25 hours of night flight time.

(6) Not more than 100 hours of the total aeronautical experience requirements may be obtained in a full flight simulator or flight training device provided the device represents an airplane and the aeronautical experience was accomplished as part of an approved training course.

 

If you have any questions so far, please do send us a message or check out all the Flight Schools in the USA.

 

Step 4. Career Options

  • Airline Pilot for the large airlines or smaller regional ones
  • Corporate or Business Aviation Pilot
  • Cargo Pilot
  • Charter / Air Taxi Pilot
  • Flight Instructor
  • Medical / Air Ambulance Pilots
  • Agricultural Pilot and many more options

As an Airline Captain you will earn around US$14,400 per month plus benefits!

 

Tips for picking a Flight School

 
  • Decide on your pilot goals - what are your long-term aspirations in aviation? Do you want to become a pilot in your free time (Private Pilot License)? Do you want to fly in General Aviation (Commercial Pilot License)? Do you want to become an airline pilot (airline program)? If you want to become an airline pilot which airlines are hiring? What aircraft are the airlines receiving over the next few years? Which flight schools do the airlines usually hire from? These are critical questions you should list and get answers to when asking yourself "how will I become a Pilot".
 
  • Determine how much you can afford to spend - different schools have different costs (due to location, number of students, aircraft type and a number of other factors), find out the reasons for the price difference. Do programs have financial assistance/loan programs? Might a part time program work for you?
 
  • How much free time do you have - different schools have different training schedules with some offering flexibility while others want the cadets to train full time and on campus (note that delaying flight training usually increases your training cost).
 
  • What equipment does the flight school use - this is important from a training but even more importantly from a safety aspect. Take into consideration as well the equipment preference of airlines which will want new pilots to have trained on certain equipment. Find out what the difference is between training aircraft (both from a training and cost perspective). Aircraft age does not always relate to safety, this is dependent on the aircraft maintenance - ask the flight school in detail about their aircraft maintenance department? Safety features of the aircraft?