Become A Pilot

You can become a pilot!

Whether you are interested in flying for recreation or you want an aviation career, you can become a pilot. There are different types of pilot’s licenses, depending on what kind of aircraft you want to fly and what kind of flying you want to do. If you want to fly for fun, you only need a private pilot certificate. If you want to fly for a job, you will need a commercial pilot certificate. If you want to fly large jets for the airlines, you will need an airline transport pilot certificate. No matter why you want to start flight training, Flex Air can help! Everyone starts with a private pilot certificate, which allows you to fly most single-engine airplanes under visual flight rules (VFR), meaning you can only fly in good weather conditions. It is the first step to a commercial license as well. The process involves classroom education, self-study, and practical flight training, but as long as you are healthy and willing to put in the time it is an achievable goal!


Becoming an Airline Pilot

If you want to become a commercial pilot and have a career in aviation, here is an overview of the whole process. To become an airline pilot you must first become a private pilot. Then you will need an instrument rating. After your instrument rating you’ll get a commercial pilot certificate. Most people them become certified flight instructors to accumulate the required flight hours. Then you’ll need to add a multi-engine rating. With a commercial pilot certificate and a multi engine rating you may begin working for a charter operator, and air cargo operator or a regional carrier. Finally, when you have enough experience you’ll get an air transport pilot certificate. Then you can apply for airline pilot jobs at major airline.


How to Become a Private Pilot, step by step

Eligibility Requirements

  • According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), before starting training, you must:
  • Be at least 16 years old (14 for a glider or balloon rating).
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English.
  • Pass a physical examination to obtain a Third-Class Medical Certificate.
    Read more about Medical Certificates.

Once you have met these requirements you can get a student pilot certificate from the FAA and will be a student pilot. To begin your pilot training you’ll need to find a flight school.

Choose a Flight School

Next, you’ll need to find a flight school. There are two types of FAA-approved flight schools: Part 141 and Part 61. Neither is better or worse and all pilots have to meet the same standards. The best choice depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you want to use the GI Bill and VR&E benefits you’ll generally want a part 141 school or a university program associated with a flight school. If you want maximum flexibility part 61 is generally a better choice. Flex Air operates both Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools. For most people, the major considerations are:

Quality of Training

Not all training is the same! No matter what school you pick, make sure they care about what they are teaching you. Flex Air has been recognized as an AOPA Distinguished and Military Friendly® Flight School. Our CEO, Paul Wynns, a retired Naval Aviator with a master's from Stanford in Aerospace engineering, worked at Boeing for many years. He loves flying, he loves aviation and he cares deeply about process, safety, and training great pilots. Paul and everyone at Flex Air want you to embrace that aviation culture. We want you to pass your FAA tests, but not just to pass your test, we want you to learn about aviation in a way that makes you a great pilot. We measure our success in great outcomes for our students!


Do you need a flight school where you live or are you willing to relocate? You may be able to accelerate your training and, reduce your costs or get higher-quality training if you are willing to relocate. But if you have a job and a family and you want to fly for fun, you are going to choose a school where you live.

Flex Air currently offers:

Cost & Financing

Costs vary, for example, there are meaningful differences based on geography. But they don’t vary as much as it might seem. Sometimes flight schools will give you cost based on the minimum number of hours required to get your FAA license. For example, a private pilot’s license, under part 61, requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight training. So a school can give you a quote with 40 hours of flight time and instructor time. They aren’t lying, but they also know that the national average is close to 60 hours of flight time and that it is pretty unusual for a pilot to pass his or her check ride (the FAA test that awards you a pilot’s license) with less than 50 hours.

If you are a Veteran Flex Air is VA Approved Learn more about how we can help you with the GI Bill for flight training as well as VR&E for Flight Training. We all offer a SkillBridge Flight Program

If you need financing we have several loan providers that can help Finance your flight training.

Begin Ground School

Once you have chosen a flight school, the next step is to enroll in ground school. Ground school covers all theoretical aspects of flying, including navigation, meteorology, and aviation regulations. This training can be completed in person, online, or through a home study course. At Flex Air we do all our ground school training as 1-on-1 teaching, we think this is the best way to learn and it shows in our above-average check-ride pass percentages!

Start Flight Lessons

Begin your practical flight training, this is an exciting moment when you get to actually begin flying! This will include a minimum of 40 flight hours (but for most people, it takes at least 50 hours) in a variety of conditions and tasks, split between solo and instructor-led flights.

Pass the FAA Written Exam:

To obtain your private pilot certificate, you must pass the FAA written exam. This exam tests your knowledge of aviation regulations, flight planning, and aircraft operations. Check out the FAA’s sample questions to help you prepare.

Complete Solo Flights

As you progress in your flight training, you will eventually fly solo, without your flight instructor onboard. Most people are nervous for their first solo flights, but your instructor will only let you solo when he or she is confident in your ability to fly alone This milestone demonstrates your ability to safely operate an aircraft and is an exciting step towards becoming a licensed pilot. You’ll complete many solo flights. These flights are an opportunity to gain confidence and demonstrate your piloting skills.

Complete Cross-Country Flights

Part of the flight training curriculum includes completing cross-country flights, which involve flying at least 50 miles from your starting airport. These flights will test your navigation and planning skills. There is also a chance to gain experience navigating between different airports and dealing with various airspace restrictions.

Pass the FAA Checkride

This is the final step in earning your private pilot’s license. The FAA checkride is a two-part examination that includes an oral quiz and a flight test with a designated pilot examiner. The FAA’s Private Pilot–Airplane Airman Certification Standards outline what you’ll be tested on. Once you’ve passed your checkride, you’ll receive a temporary pilot’s certificate while waiting for your official license to arrive in the mail. You’re now a private pilot!

How to Become a Commercial Pilot, step by step

Requirements to Become a Commercial Pilot

To become a commercial pilot you’ll need to first become a private pilot, earning a private pilot certificate, additionally, you will need a Second-Class medical license. With those in hand, you’ll begin the steps to becoming a commercial pilot.

Instrument Rating

The next step you’ll take to become a commercial pilot is to earn an instrument rating which allows a pilot to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). The instrument rating allows you to operate an aircraft solely by using instruments, this means a pilot can fly when there is limited visibility. This is essential for flying at night and in adverse weather conditions.

Commercial Pilot Certificate

To become an airline pilot, you need to earn a commercial pilot certificate. This certificate allows you to get paid for flying aircraft.

This requires additional flight training to meet the FAA pilot requirements:

  • You must have 250 hours of flight time.
  • You also need 100 hours of pilot-in-command time
  • You need 50 hours of cross-country time.
  • You need 10 hours of instrument training.
  • You need 10 hours of complex aircraft flight time.
  • You need 10 hours of solo flight time.
  • You need to pass the FAA commercial pilot test
  • You need to pass a checkride with an FAA-designated pilot examiner.

How to Become an Airline Pilot, step by step

Requirements to Become an Airline Pilot

To become an airline pilot you’ll need to first a private pilot certificate and a commercial pilot certificate. Additionally, you will need a First-Class medical license. With those in hand, you begin the next step to become an airline pilot.

Certified Flight Instructor Certificate

Once you have a commercial pilot certificate you can become a certified flight instructor. This is not technically a requirement for becoming an airline pilot, but most pilots find it is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to gain experience and build flight hours. To obtain a CFI certificate:

  • You must have either a commercial pilot certificate with an aircraft category and class rating that is appropriate to the flight instructor rating sought.
  • Receive a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor on the fundamentals of instructing listed in § 61.185 appropriate to the required knowledge test.
  • You must pass the appropriate FAA’s knowledge test.
  • You must take a check ride with an FAA-designated pilot examiner.

Pilot Ratings

In addition to the commercial pilot certificate, several pilot ratings can enhance your qualifications and career prospects. Some common pilot ratings most pilots earn as commercial pilots are listed below.

Multi-Engine Rating

The multi-engine rating is a qualification that enables pilots to fly aircraft with more than one engine. This rating is essential for pilots who want to pursue a career in commercial aviation, as most airliners have multiple engines. To obtain the multi-engine rating, pilots must complete additional ground and flight training, demonstrate proficiency in handling engine failures and emergencies, and pass a practical test.

Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument

The certified flight instructor – instrument (CFII) rating is a qualification that allows pilots to teach instrument flying to other pilots. Instrument flying is the ability to fly an aircraft solely by reference to the instruments, without visual cues from the outside environment. This skill is crucial for flying in poor weather conditions or under instrument flight rules (IFR). To obtain the CFII rating, pilots must have an instrument rating, complete additional ground and flight training, demonstrate competence in teaching instrument procedures and regulations, and pass a practical test.

Multi-Engine Instructor

The multi-engine instructor (MEI) rating is a qualification that allows pilots to teach multi-engine flying to other pilots. Multi-engine flying involves operating aircraft with more than one engine, which requires additional skills and knowledge. To obtain the MEI rating, pilots must have a multi-engine rating, complete additional ground and flight training, demonstrate competence in teaching multi-engine maneuvers and systems, and pass a practical test.

Complex Endorsement

A complex endorsement is a qualification that allows pilots to fly aircraft with complex features. These features include retractable landing gear, which can be raised or lowered during flight; controllable-pitch propellers, which can change the angle of the blades to optimize performance; and flaps, which are movable surfaces on the wings that increase lift and drag. These features enhance the performance and versatility of the aircraft but also require more training and experience to operate safely. To obtain a complex endorsement, pilots must receive instruction from a qualified instructor and log at least 10 hours of flight time in a complex aircraft.


Become an Airline Pilot, step by step

Requirements to become an Airline Transport Pilot

The final step in becoming an airline pilot is earning your Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP). The ATP certificate is the highest level of aircraft pilot certification and is required to serve as a pilot-in-command for an airline.

To become an Airline Transport Pilot, in the US,  you need to:

  • Be at least 23 years old
  • Have a good moral character
  • Hold a commercial pilot certificate and an instrument rating.
  • Have 1500 hours of flight time, including 500 hours of cross-country time, 100 hours of night time, 50 hours in the class of airplane for the rating, 75 hours of instrument time, and 250 hours as a pilot in command.
  • Pass the ATP written knowledge test
  • Pass a check ride with a designated pilot examiner.
  • Meet the minimum flight hour requirements specified by the aviation authority.

Type Ratings

For certain aircraft models, pilots must obtain a type rating. These ratings are specific to the type of aircraft and require additional training and exams. Type ratings are usually required for large or complex aircraft, such as jets, turboprops, or helicopters. Some examples of type ratings are Boeing 737, Airbus A320, or Cessna Citation X. To obtain a type rating, pilots must complete ground school, simulator training, and flight training in the specific aircraft model. They must also pass a written exam and a checkride.

High-Performance Endorsement

The high-performance endorsement is a qualification that allows pilots to fly aircraft with high-performance engines. These engines produce more than 200 horsepower, which enables the aircraft to fly faster and climb higher. However, these engines also have more limitations and procedures that pilots must follow to avoid engine damage or failure. To obtain a high-performance endorsement, pilots must receive instruction from a qualified instructor and log at least 10 hours of flight time in a high-performance aircraft.

High Altitude Endorsement

The high altitude endorsement is a qualification that allows pilots to fly aircraft that can reach altitudes above 25,000 feet. At these altitudes, the air is thinner and colder, which affects the performance of the aircraft and the physiology of the pilot. Pilots must be familiar with the effects of hypoxia, decompression sickness, rapid decompression, and oxygen systems. They must also be able to use pressurized cabins and supplemental oxygen equipment. To obtain a high-altitude endorsement, pilots must receive instruction from a qualified instructor and log at least 5 hours of flight time in a high-altitude aircraft.

Preparing for a job at a Major Airlines

Becoming an airline pilot often starts with gaining experience at regional airlines or flight schools. Many major airlines require pilots to have a minimum number of flight hours and experience before considering them for employment.

Here are some tips to help you stand out and impress your potential employer.

  • Research the airline and the position you are applying for. Learn about their mission, values, culture, and expectations. Find out what skills and qualifications they are looking for. Demonstrate them with examples from your pilot training in your resume and cover letter.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific job. Highlight your relevant experience, education, and achievements. Use keywords and phrases from the job description and the airline’s website. Avoid generic or vague statements and focus on concrete examples of your accomplishments and contributions.
  • Prepare for the interview. Review common interview questions and practice your answers. Think of specific situations where you used your skills and abilities to solve problems, handle challenges, or achieve goals. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses. Dress professionally and arrive on time. Be confident, courteous, and enthusiastic. Show your interest in the airline and the job by asking thoughtful questions.
  • Follow up after the interview. Send a thank-you note to the interviewer within 24 hours. Express your appreciation for their time and restate your interest in the job. Mention one or two key points from the interview that demonstrate your interest in starting your pilot career with them. Keep it brief and polite.

Pilot Career Opportunities

Airline Pilot Careers

One of the most sought-after careers in aviation is that of an airline pilot. Airline pilots fly aircraft for commercial airlines, transporting passengers and cargo to destinations around the world. This career offers a competitive salary, job security, and the opportunity to travel.

According to Future and Active Pilot Advisors, 2022 was the best year on record for pilot hiring, with about 13,500 pilots hired by the 12 major airlines in the United States. CAE Forecasts that the airline industry will need 255,000 new pilots over the next 10 years. The median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $211,790 in May 2022.

Alternative Pilot Careers

While many pilots dream of flying for airlines, there are also alternative career paths in the world of aviation. Some of these alternative pilot careers include:

Corporate Pilot

Corporate pilots fly private aircraft owned by corporations, wealthy individuals, or government entities. They are responsible for transporting executives and providing safe, efficient, and comfortable travel.

Corporate pilots can earn more than airline pilots, depending on their experience and the type of aircraft they fly. The median annual wage for corporate pilots was $239,200 or more in May 2022. However, corporate pilots may have less predictable schedules and less job security than airline pilots.

Cargo Pilot

Cargo pilots transport goods and freight to various destinations. They play a vital role in the transportation industry, ensuring that goods are delivered efficiently and on time.

Cargo pilots have similar salaries and benefits as airline pilots, but they may face more challenging working conditions. They often fly at night or in bad weather, and they may have to deal with heavy or hazardous cargo. The median annual wage for cargo pilots was $221,160 in May 2022.

Charter Pilot

Charter pilots fly private aircraft for individuals or groups who hire the entire aircraft for their travel needs. This career path offers flexibility and the opportunity to visit a variety of destinations.

Charter pilots can enjoy more autonomy and variety than airline pilots, but they may also have less stability and income. They may have to deal with demanding clients and irregular schedules. The median annual wage for charter pilots was $107,080 in May 2022.

FAQ about becoming an Airline Pilot