While it may seem that personal flying is an activity restricted to a privileged few, the fact is that just about anyone in good health can become a certified pilot if they are willing to make the investment of time, finances, personal commitment, and a dash of old-fashioned courage. Of course, if it were simple then more people would be aviators. But thousands of men and women earn their Private Pilot Certificates every year with a structured, regulated course of study and training. At Willamette Aviation, we offer flight instruction from our team of FAA Certified Flight Instructors, as well as study materials, pilot supplies, and aircraft rental. Our goal is to ensure our students successfully transition from novice flyers to certified Private Pilots in a safe, efficient manner.
What does it take to become a Private Pilot?
- First, it will take time. The FAA requires that student pilots log a minimum of 40 hours of instruction before taking a checkride for a Private Pilot Certificate, but normally it will require 60 hours or more of flight training. The total hours will depend on both your time available for instruction and your personal aptitude. In general, the more time you dedicate will get you faster certification. We recommend that new students plan to fly at least once a week, but scheduling two lessons per week (or more) will deliver better, faster results.
- You will have to pass a routine medical examination to confirm that you are in reasonably good health and have acceptable eyesight — with corrective lenses if necessary, so it's fine if you wear eyeglasses. If you have a hearing impediment, the conditions of your license may be restricted. Please see our FAA Medicals page to learn how you can schedule an exam on our campus at the Aurora State Airport.
- Becoming a pilot certainly requires study, as you will have to become knowledgeable about FAA regulations, aerodynamics, aircraft systems, flight planning, airspace, meteorology, and more. This study can be done independently or through a structured ground school course.
- Becoming a pilot will cost you some of your hard-earned money — expect to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $14,000 (or more) to complete your training, which can take six months to a year or even longer, depending on your choice of training aircraft, personal progress, and available time. In our opinion, no reputable flight school should guarantee a fixed time or cost — our fleet, instructors, and facilities will be your primary resources, but your commitment to training will make the difference. Visit us and we can help you arrive at a reasonable estimate based on your circumstances.
- Finally, you will have to pass examinations — an uncomplicated written exam before your first solo; a formal, computer-based knowledge exam that allows you proceed to your checkride; and the checkride itself with an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, which your instructor will prepare you for before recommending you. The checkride includes both an informal oral examination and the actual flight test, based on the published FAA Airman Certification Standards (ACS). And don't worry — once recommended, you should be able to pass the checkride with confidence, or complete one or two outstanding ACS requirements on a later flight if you commit any errors, with review training. We're here to make sure you get that hard-earned ticket, and we want you to earn your certification.
As we said, everybody would do it if it came easy. But certified pilots understand the practical benefits of flight, and they never outgrow the sheer delight of soaring aloft in command of a private aircraft. Schedule a Discovery Flight today with one of our instructors to see if a Private Pilot certificate is in your future.
What can you do with your pilot's license?
Make no mistake — becoming a certified pilot may be the toughest job you ever do, but we also know it's the most fun and rewarding. Here are a few things you can do after you earn the privilege to fly as a Pilot in Command:
- When the weather is clear and calm, you can reserve an airplane (using our online scheduling system) and take friends and family on scenic flights in the local area. Several Oregon and Washington airports have restaurants on the field or nearby, and there are plenty of other destinations that are worth visiting for a short hike or picnic lunch. Or you can just take off for an hour to enjoy stunning views from Mt. Rainier to the Three Sisters on a clear day. You also can ask your passengers to chip in on the rental fee, although pilots are required by law to pay a pro rata portion of all rental expenses.
- You can buy your own airplane. Many pilots take a pride in ownership, and the majority of aircraft for sale are "pre-owned," which means they are far more affordable than brand-new airplanes. Additionally, many airplanes are owned by private partnerships involving anywhere from two to six pilots (or even more), making ownership even more cost-effective. Flying clubs also distribute the costs of ownership among several pilots and aircraft.
- You can take a vacation. An FAA Private Pilot Certificate is valid throughout the United States, which means you can fly to your next vacation spot, or even build an entire vacation around a flying journey. Popular getaways such as Sunriver, Coeur d'Alene, and the San Juan Islands are just one to three hours from the Portland metro area by air, while most of California and Nevada are in easy reach with one or two well-planned fuel stops. Many pilots have flown coast-to-coast, and we even know of one Oregon pilot who touched wheels in 48 states on an extended getaway. You can even fly to Canada for a short visit.
- You can get more ratings. The initial rating on your your FAA Pilot Certificate is just the first step on the journey to becoming a skilled aviator. An Instrument Rating increases flying flexibility (you can fly through clouds, for example), while the Commercial Certificate allows pilots to fly for fun and profit. You also can explore flying different kinds of aircraft, including multi-engine, high-performance/complex, seaplanes, gliders, helicopters, aerobats, and taildraggers, all of which require specific ratings or endorsements.
- You can consider flying as a career. Most professional pilots start out as Certified Flight Instructors, which allows them to share their expertise with new pilots while building time and experience. From there, any number of career paths are worth investigating, from airlines to private charters, and even industrial or agricultural work.
- And, perhaps most important of all, don't forget to practice, practice, practice. You will be a comfortable, confident pilot as you build hours, but you'll never be "perfect," and if you don't have plans on a clear afternoon to take passengers or pursue additional training, you probably will find yourself taking an hour for touch-and-go's, reviewing procedures when flying into nearby airports (with and without control towers), and polishing up the maneuvers you mastered when you first earned your certificate. Most pilots enjoy reviewing their skills to find room for improvement and challenging themselves to "always be better." You should expect to be passionate about your airmanship for the duration of your life in the sky.
Been there, done that? You may have your Private Pilot certificate, but you know that's just the beginning to becoming a proficient, expert aviator. Our team of flight instructors at Willamette Aviation offer training for Instrument, Commercial, Multi-Engine and CFI/CFII ratings/certificates, as well as complex and high-performance endorsements. Our community partners at the Aurora State Airport also offer spin endorsements and training in aerobatics. Call us at (503) 678-2252 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our advanced flight training programs.