I want to be a pilot, but how do I get started?

Fascinated by airplanes and flying? Wish you could take to the skies on your own? Don’t know what you need to do to earn your wings?

At MIT Flying Club we are here to help you reach your flying goals. Below is a quick overview of the typical process of getting a pilot license.

The most popular route to earning your flying credentials is to get a private pilot license. A private pilot license lets you fly as a hobby, rent an aircraft for private travel or take a passenger or two with you (but you cannot be compensated for it). As a private pilot, you are trained to navigate a small aircraft through different air spaces while learning various aircraft maneuvers, emergency procedures, cross-country flying, and flight planning.

Here is a quick checklist to becoming a private pilot:

  1. Make sure you are eligible. According to Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR), a private pilot should be at least 17 years old and be able to read, speak and understand English.
  2. Find a flight instructor or flight school. A good place to check is a local flying club such as MITFC or your local airport. At MITFC we help you connect with flight instructors at Avier Flight School at Beverly airport (KBVY) to help you get started. Also, be sure to check out the club resources for other airports in our local area.
  3. Apply for a student license. While you don’t need a license to start training, a student pilot license is required to solo in an aircraft. Register online with the FAA at the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application portal (better known as IACRA) and fill out Form 8710-1. A Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), flight school or Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) can verify your identity. Your student license will be mailed to the registered address on your application in about three weeks.
  4. The next step to soloing is to pass a Third-Class Aviation Medical Exam.
  5. The FAA written exam is another important milestone towards earning your wings. While some flight schools and instructors require student pilots to successfully complete the written exam before stepping foot in an airplane, others will let you fly while you study at home for the test. MIT offers ground school training during IAP for students interested in preparing for the written exam. The exam must be successfully completed before your check-ride. Preparing for the written test gives you knowledge that will make flying easier.
  6. Of course, the most important component which is what got you started is to gain the actual experience flying a plane, performing maneuvers, takeoffs, landing, turns, climbs and descents. Most students need about 10 hours or more to solo in an aircraft. While flying, be prepared to learn many cool things like emergency procedures, radio communication, cross-country flight planning, flight navigation techniques and more.
  7. Prior to your check-ride, you will need to log the mandatory cross-country, instructional, night and solo flight hours. The FAA requires a private pilot applicant to have at least 40 hours of flight hours logged. Twenty of these hours should be with an instructor, while 10 hours should be flying solo. 3 hours of cross-country training should be logged with an instructor, along with 3 hours of night flying and one cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles. A private pilot should also have completed 3 hours of basic instrument training and 10 takeoffs and landing. Of the solo flying hours, 5 hours should be cross-country flights one of which should be over 150 nautical miles with landings at three different airports.
  8. The check-ride includes an oral exam followed by a practical exam (actually flying the plane) and is administered by a designated FAA examiner (DPE).
  9. After successful completion of the check-ride, the examiner will complete the paperwork on IACRA to ensure you get your official private pilot license. The license usually arrives within three weeks in the mail.

Don’t let all these details bog you down. Your instructors and MITFC are here to help you as you go through the process!