I want to become a pilot. Where do I start?

find-a-flight-school-1First things first, you need to make sure you’re going to love flying.  If you have never flown in a small airplane, I suggest that you schedule an introductory flight lesson with a flight school at your local airport.  (You can find a list of flight schools here: www.flightschoollist.com.)  An introductory flight is basically your very first flight lesson.  The flight instructor will explain the basics about flying and then you will actually get to fly the airplane with the flight instructor.   This flight time will also count towards your 40 hours to get your Private Pilot’s License. 

Depending on the type of airplane you will be flying, a typical introductory flight costs around $99 to $200.  From my experience, 99% of people that fly a small airplane for the first time, fall in love with it.  Go ahead and click here to find a flight school near you.  Give the flight school a call and schedule your introductory flight.  It’s that simple.  

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a pilot, I would recommend that you read the “FAA Student Pilots Guide“, this is a free PDF available to you courtesy of the FAA.  If you need help funding your flight training, head on over to our aviation scholarships page and check out some aviation scholarships.

The Two Types of FAA Flight Schools

Most airports in the United States offer some type of flight training either by a flight school or a freelance flight instructor. A flight school will usually provide a wider variety of flight training aids, special facilities and a greater flexibility in scheduling. A number of colleges and universities also provide flight training as a part of their curriculum.

There are two different types of FAA Flight Schools that you can attend to complete your flight training.


FAA Part-141 Flight Schools also known as FAA-Approved Flight Schools:

Enrollment at a FAA part-141 flight school usually ensures a higher quality of flight training, but not always. FAA-Approved part 141 flight schools have to meet certain standards with respect to equipment, facilities personnel and curriculum. However, many excellent part-61 flight schools find it impractical to qualify for the FAA part 141 approved flight school certification. One of the differences between a part-141 flight school and a part-61 flight school is that fewer flight hours are required to qualify for a pilot certificate at a part-141 flight school. The flight hour requirements for a private pilot certificate are 40 hours at a Part-61 flight school, and 35 hours at a Part-141 flight school. However, since the national average is between 60 to 75 flight hours, this difference may be insignificant. Part-141 flight schools are not always job friendly. If you plan on working full time and training you are probably better off doing your training at a part-61 flight school.

FAA Part-61 Flight Schools also known as Non-Approved Flight Schools:

FAA part-61 flight schools are not governed as much by the FAA as are part-141 flight school. Part-61 flight schools still offer the same type of training but they can provide their own training program that can meet or sometimes exceed the programs of a part 141 flight school. Another great benefit about part-61 flight schools is that you can schedule your training at any time. You do not have to attend classes at a certain time everyday like you would at a part 141 flight schools. Training at a Part-61 flight school is great for people that have full time jobs or a family that they have to take care off.

So now you know a little bit more about FAA part-141 and FAA part-61 flight schools. Start your search for a flight school now.  Visit FlightSchoolList.Com to find a flight school near you.

Cross Country Flight Planning

Cross-country flight planning is often the first big post-solo hurdle flight students will overcome in their flight training. Planning a cross-country flight requires tedious planning and calculations if done properly which can seem overwhelming at first, but taking everything one step at a time can greatly ease the process.

The first step is to take a look at the weather along the route of flight. A good place to start for this is to look at the Area Forecast for the region the flight is going to take place. The Area Forecast gives general weather conditions over a region with outlook VFR or outlook IFR at the end of each regional breakdown. So after taking a look at the Area Forecast and confirming conditions say VFR, we’re good to go right? Not so fast, this only a quick overview. Following the Area Forecast cross-country-flight-planning-1a student should take a look at several different weather products offered on the aviation weather website. A surface prognostic chart will show areas of any fronts at a forecasted time as well as areas of precipitation, type of precipitation, and intensity. Take special attention to any cold fronts or warm fronts moving through as this could indicate bad weather or significant changes in the wind speed. After verifying everything looks good on the surface prognostic chart we can look at airport specific forecasts. These forecasts include a METAR (Meteorological Aerodrome Report) and TAF (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast). A METAR will give current weather information at a specific airport while a TAF will give weather information forecast for a certain time at that airport within 5 miles of that airport. After checking these products you can get a general idea on what the weather will be for the flight. If the flight looks like a go from these products ask yourself if it’s within YOUR limitations. Don’t base make a go-no-go decision based on your planes limitations. Of course these are only just a few of the basic weather tools that can be used in cross-country planning, and should never be substituted for a standard weather briefing, which can be obtained by calling 1-800-WX-BRIEF.

After confirming the weather will be suitable for the flight it’s time to start planning the actual flight. Up until this point you probably haven’t spent too much time reading those interesting top of climb and descent charts in that trusty POH of yours. For a cross-country flight determining these values is critical in order to ensure accurate fuel planning for the flight. You will also become new friends with that E-6B flight computer to determine fuel burn, time en-route, and density altitude. These topics are much more in depth and require one on one time with your CFI.

This is just a basic overview intended to give you an idea of what to expect on your first cross-country flight. You should always first consult with your CFI on any questions you have regarding weather or determining airplane performance.

Cross Country Flight Planning by Joe Romanko

Mastering The Crosswind Landing

Crosswind landings are one of the more challenging skills in the private pilot curriculum. To consistently land properly in a crosswind, a pilot must understand all of the forces acting on the aircraft, and how to counter them. When flying the aircraft on final approach with a prevailing crosswind, the first thing a pilot notices is that he or she must crab the aircraft into the wind in order to maintain a ground track that aligns with the runway. Of course, the aircraft cannot land with a crab, it’s longitudinal axis must be oriented parallel to the runway before touchdown. To do otherwise would put excess stress on the aircraft’s landing gear and tires while making the aircraft difficult to control.

Once the aircraft is on short final, the pilot must begin the process of correcting for the crosswind. The first step is to apply rudder align the aircraft’s longitudinal axis with the runway. Once the nose of the aircraft is pointing straight down the centerline, the aircraft will begin to drift downwind. To correct for this, use mastering-crosswing-landings-1aileron to bank the aircraft into the wind. Once the pilot has corrected for drift, the combination of aileron and rudder inputs will create substantial additional drag. Again, the pilot must correct for the aerodynamic changes inherent in this new configuration. In order to maintain the proper airspeed and glide path, it will be necessary to gently apply additional power.

As the aircraft enters ground effect, the surface of the earth will generate friction, reducing the effective crosswind. The pilot will need to reduce rudder slightly in order to compensate. At the same time, the pilot must reduce power and flare just as he or she would during a normal landing. The upwind wheel should touch down first, followed by the downwind wheel. The nose wheel should touch down gently after the two main wheels are on the runway.

There are two other things to consider when preparing for a crosswind landing. First, you should know your aircraft’s maximum demonstrated crosswind component. This information is available in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) of all aircraft. This figure represents the best efforts of the manufacturer’s test pilot during the certification process, and not all pilots will be able to safely match this performance. Another thing to consider is a technique that will help you to land in a strong crosswind; using less than full flaps. Adding full flaps will contribute to the increased drag presented by both the rudder and aileron inputs. Full flaps will also make the aircraft more susceptible to the influence of the crosswind, requiring additional control inputs. It is for this reason that pilots will reduce flap inputs in a strong crosswind, in accordance with the aircraft’s POH.

By properly correcting for crosswind conditions, private pilots can safely land their aircraft while demonstrating their knowledge of the forces involved and how to correct for them.