Answers to common questions about learning to fly

How long does learning to fly take?
How much does it cost to learn to fly?
How can I get financing?
Why does it cost more if it takes longer?
Which should come first, flight training or ground training?
What subject areas are covered in ground school?
How long does a lesson last?
How do I pick a flight school and flight instructor?
Can I carry passengers as a student pilot?
Do I need a medical exam?
How safe is flying?
Will I get airsick?
Is there a cancellation policy for lessons?
Do I need special insurance?
What is the check ride like?
Once I earn it, what can I do with my certificate?
I'm a U.S. citizen, what are the TSA (Transportation Safety Agency) requirements?
I'm a non U.S. citizen, what are the TSA (Transportation Safety Agency) requirements?


How long does learning to fly take?

Learning to fly is not difficult, but it does require study and practice. Completion time of the private pilot certificate depends on the frequency of training. Students training 2-3 times per week can expect to spend 3-5 months in training. Students training 5-6 days per week can complete it in 4-8 weeks. In actual flight hours, most people require 45-60 hours of flight training. The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight training to earn a pilot license. However, few people complete their training in the minimum time, because flying is more complicated today than 35 years ago when the minimum was set.

Many flight schools will quote you a price based on the 40 hour minimum, so beware.

How much does it cost to learn to fly?

The cost of each flight lesson is based on the price of aircraft rental and your instructor’s fee.

The total average cost of earning a license can vary from $13,000 to $15,000, depending upon the length of time for completion of the course and your own ability to learn. A person who can devote full time to training can end up paying as little as $13,000. We do our best to keep your costs to a minimum. You can pay for each flight lesson individually or have a block account. While the cost of pilot training is significant, you’ll find most pilots agree that the benefits of learning to fly are well worth the expense.

(view: cost breakdown)

How can I get financing?

AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) can help you with getting a loan up to $25,000 at a decent interest rate. For more information see link below:
AOPA Loan Information

Why does it cost more if it takes longer?

The longer the time period between lessons, the less information you retain, and the more time you spend reviewing during each lesson. If you are able to fly at least several times a week, your training will be more cost-effective.

Which should come first, flight training or ground training?

A parallel program of flight and ground training is very efficient, allowing each portion to complement the other in a balanced approach to learning. However, if your time is limited, ground school first may be a viable option.

What subject areas are covered in ground school?

Ground school will prepare you for the FAA written examination as well as the FAA oral exam. Topics covered are:

Aviation opportunities, powerplant and related systems, flight instruments, aerodynamic principles, safety of flight, airports, aeronautical charts, airspace, radar and air traffic control services, radio procedures, sources of flight information, basic weather theory, weather patterns, weather hazards, Federal Aviation Regulations, interpreting weather reports and forecasts, reading graphic weather products, sources of weather information, predicting aircraft performance, weight and balance, flight computers, navigation, aviation physiology, planning and organizing flights, factors affecting decision making, Airman’s Information Manual and FAA Advisory Circulars.

How long does a lesson last?

A flight lesson normally takes two hours. One hour of ground instruction (classroom instruction) and then one hour of flight instruction.

How do I pick a flight school and a flight instructor?

First, find the schools in your area and then call and visit them. Look around and have an instructor explain the school’s training program. Ask a lot of questions. Ask students how they feel about their training experiences. Are they happy with the school? Have they had scheduling problems with either instructors or airplanes. An introductory flight is very beneficial, because you’re able to observe how the flight instructor teaches, get a sense for his/her personality and a feel for the airplane you may be flying.

Can I carry passengers as a student pilot?

Student pilots cannot carry passengers when flying solo. Friends may ride along on dual lessons (when your instructor is in the airplane). Once you earn your private pilot’s license, then you’ll be able to carry passengers and share expenses with them.

Do I need a medical exam?

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires all pilots to pass a medical exam. The exam is not rigorous. It begins by filling out an FAA application/medical history form at an Aviation Medical Examiner office followed by a physical exam. If you think you may have a medical condition that may delay its issuance, it’s a good idea to get it before you start training.

How safe is flying?

Flying is safer than many other modes of transportation. The most dangerous part of flight training is your drive to the airport. Two-thirds of aviation accidents are because of pilot error. If you receive excellent flight training, take your studies seriously and continue to improve your base of knowledge after earning your license, you will increase safety even further. In other words, flying is as safe as you make it. The rare emergencies that are beyond the pilot’s control, will be covered in your training.

Will I get airsick?

The air is smooth most of the time with occasional light turbulence. Most students do not get airsick during flight training. If you do get airsick, it will most likely come early in training, when you’re getting used to the new sensations of flying. Let your instructor know how you feel, look out the window, and open an air vent. Eventually you should build up a tolerance against it.

Is there a cancellation policy for lessons?

Yes, if a customer does not advise us of a cancellation at least 24 hours prior to the beginning of the lesson, a $90.00 cancellation fee will be applied. If the customer is a "no show," a $150 fee will be applied.

Do I need special insurance?

When you begin to do solo flights, "Renter's Insurance" is recommended, which costs approximately $500 per year from AOPA or Avemco insurance companies.

What is the check ride like?

The FAA check ride is broken down into two parts, an oral quiz and a flight test. The oral quiz covers the topics you will learn in ground school and the flight test is where you will demonstrate your ability to perform the skills you have learned in an airplane. You will be well prepared for both parts, so there’s no reason to be intimidated. The examiner is mainly checking to see if you’re a safe and knowledgeable pilot.

Once I earn it, what can I do with my certificate?

As a private pilot, you can act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers and share operating expenses, such as rental costs or fuel costs if you own the airplane. You may not carry passengers or property for compensation or hire. Under certain circumstances specified in the regulations you may operate an aircraft in connection with a business, as an aircraft salesperson, and during flights sponsored by charitable organizations.

I'm a U.S. citizen, what are the TSA (Transportation Safety Agency) requirements?

A U.S. citizen does not have to register with the TSA, however, you do need to prove your U.S. citizenship status prior to undertaking flight training. You must present either a valid U.S. passport or an original U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID (drivers license, valid passport, etc). Bring these with you to your first flight lesson. Skyward Aviation will copy these documents for your student folder.

I'm a non U.S. citizen, what are the TSA (Transportation Safety Agency) requirements?

A non U.S. citizen must obtain approval from the TSA, which is a process that can take as long as a week. Following are the steps to receive TSA’s approval for flight training:

(1) Let Skyward Aviation know that you want to begin flight instruction before contacting the TSA. Skyward Aviation needs all of your contact information for our records. You can email us at stuart@skyward-aviation.com or come by to see us.

(2) Go to this TSA website to login: TSA Flight School Candidates look for the “Create New Student Account” tab near the right top corner. Fill in all of your contact information here.

(3) Read through the TSA Application Guide: TSA Application Guide

(4) Read through the TSA FAQ's: TSA FAQ's

(5) You will receive a confirmation email from the TSA with your USER ID and PASSWORD. Please make sure to make a note of these for future reference.

(6) Go to: https://www.flightschoolcandidates.gov and login again with your USER ID and PASSWORD.

(7) Complete all of the requested information.

(8) You will need to list Skyward Aviation as your affiliated flight school, using the drop down list of approved schools.

(9) Then submit the following information:

(a) Full name, gender, current address and five-year address history, date and country of birth, and citizenship information.

(b) Passport and visa information — All applicants are required to have a passport.

(c) Training details as follows:

(i) Student ID: Use your full name

(ii) Course Number: one of the following

(1) "101" for Private Pilot’s License,

(2) IA for Instrument Airplane

(3) CPL for Commercial Pilot’s License

(4) CFI for Certified Flight Instructor Airplane

(5) CFII for Certified Flight Instructor Instrument

(iii). Aircraft Type: Piper Warrior PA28

(iv). Name of Course: one of the following

(1) Private Pilot Training

(2) Instrument Airplane Training

(3) Commercial Pilot Training

(4) Flight Instructor Airplane Training

(5) Flight Instructor Instrument Training

(d) IMPORTANT: Where the School Student Identification # is requested, leave it "clear".

(e) IMPORTANT: Where the Course Identification # is requested, designate "101".

(f) IMPORTANT: Where the type of training is requested, designate “Category 3”- not Category 1.

(g) The application fee is $130.00, payable on-line to the TSA, by credit card.

(h) IMPORTANT: Print out a copy of your TSA application. Bring this with you to Skyward Aviation, as it is a TSA requirement to have this in your student file.

(10). When your application is complete, Skyward Aviation will get an email from the TSA requesting confirmation that you will be taking lessons here. Once confirmed, they will send you authorization to get fingerprints, along with detailed instructions.

(11) Three options to get your fingerprints "live scanned" to the TSA:

"Live Scan and More" 310-499-5905 Call to schedule an appointment to have your fingerprints "live scanned" to the TSA. Be sure to ask what documents you need to have with you, such as Passport, TSA e-mail requesting fingerprints, second ID, maybe other documents? Ask for cost. 8685 Wilshire Blvd. Suite #13 Beverly Hills, CA 90211 MON. - FRI 10 AM - 5 PM SAT. 11 AM - 2 PM

"Finger Prints To Go" 800-728-4440 Call to schedule an appointment to have your fingerprints "live scanned" to the TSA. They are 24/7 and will come to your home or any location. Be sure to ask what documents you need to have with you, such as Passport, TSA e-mail requesting fingerprints, second ID, maybe other documents? Ask for cost.

"A1 Live Scan" Phone: 213-489-4559 Call to schedule an appointment to have your fingerprints "live scanned" to the TSA. Be sure to ask what documents you need to bring with you, such as Passport, TSA e-mail requesting fingerprints, second ID, maybe other documents? Ask for cost. 553 SOUTH OLIVE STREET, LOS ANGELES, CA 90013 MON. - FRI.: 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM & SAT.: 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

(12) Once TSA receives and screens the prints, they will send you and Skyward Aviation an email authorizing us to begin training. This usually occurs within one week of sending the fingerprints.

(13) When you come in to begin training, we will take a digital photo of you, which we will email to TSA. This is the final step in the process, but will not delay the start of your training. Please remember to bring with you a copy of your TSA registration.

If you have any additional questions about this process, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

3147 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 313-3450

Copyright © Skyward Aviation, Inc. 1998-