How to Get a Private Pilot License


There is a lot of information out there when starting to research what it takes to earn your private pilot license. This can leave one feeling skeptical and questioning what is the most accurate information out there. Spend the next 4 minutes reading this and we’ll make you an expert!

Here is Everything You Need to Know About Getting Your Private Pilot’s License

What is a Private Pilot License?

A Private pilot license (PPL or more appropriately referred to as a Private Pilot Certificate) allows an individual to be the Pilot in Command (PIC) of an aircraft they are certified to fly. For some people, this license might be the first step in their aviation journey to becoming a commercial pilot. For others, this might be to enhance one’s lifestyle in order to access more unique experiences. It is the first necessary step for a pilot and with this license, you can enjoy the freedom of the sky on your own. You can also share the gift of flight with your family and friends and will have the ability to take them from place to place. A private pilot license does NOT allow for a pilot to be paid for flying.

Earning your PPL is rigorous, time-consuming, and expensive. For those that are willing to show dedication and perseverance, earning a private pilot license is one of the most rewarding outcomes that will open many doors and opportunities. 

Requirements to Become a Pilot:

  • You must be 17 years old or older
  • You must be able to read, speak, write, and understand English
  • Receive a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor
  • Pass the required knowledge test on these aeronautical knowledge areas
  • Pass an aviation medical exam (minimum 3rd class)
    • Certain conditions may disqualify you from being able to fly solo, thus it is recommended to complete this early in your training.
  • Meet the aeronautical experience requirements of this part that apply to the aircraft rating sought before applying for the practical test.
  • Pass a practical test (Checkride with a DPE)
  • Hold a U.S. student pilot certificate, sport pilot certificate, or recreational pilot certificate.

If you meet these eligibility requirements, then you can obtain a private pilot license!

What is a Discovery Flight?

If becoming a pilot is something you’re not sure about, contact your local flight school for a discovery flight before you begin any lessons. A Discovery Flight will generally consist of 30 minutes of preflight and/or ground instruction with a 30-40 minute flight in a training aircraft around the local area.  You can expect to pay around $150 for a discovery flight (they make great birthday and Christmas gifts). If you want to be a commercial or airline pilot, you will first need to obtain your PPL. On the other hand, if you catch the “flying bug” during a discovery flight but don’t necessarily want to fly commercially, getting your PPL for enjoyment sake is an option too. Regardless, a discovery flight is the first flight you will take to introduce you to what flying a plane feels like.

What Can You Do with a Private Pilot License?

  • Fly friends and family
  • Rent and/or buy an airplane
  • Fly yourself to your plans and arrive in style!
  • Volunteer for a charity or something you are passionate. 
    • Many pilots like to get involved with Pilots n Paws for instance
  • Travel, sightsee, take pictures

Time To Get Private Pilot License

This will vary from student to student depending on the training frequency, study ethic, and pace of the student. Some are able to complete training in a couple months and for others it may take a couple years. The more time you are able to spend studying on the ground, the more prepared for your flight lessons you will be.  Expect to fly 30-50 flight lessons total to earn your license.  The magic number to maximize growth and traction is 2-3 flight lessons per week. If you only take one flight lesson per month, it may take much longer to earn a license.  Most students require more than the 40 hour minimum to be ready for your checkride — the national average is 73.1 hours.

How To Get a Private Pilot License?  

Check out the chart below. Do you have more questions that come up after looking it over? Contact to get your questions answered about the process from an instructor.


Should I start with Ground School or Flight Training?

Ground School:

Every pilot should start with ground school. Ground school is where you learn the basic fundamentals, required knowledge, and best practices of aviation as well as diving into deeper and more complex topics (weather, airspace, aerodynamics, systems, regulations).  The topics you cover in ground school are what you will be tested on the FAA written exam. And what are some of the topics covered in ground school? 

Airport Environment
Aircraft Performance
Human Factors

We recommend completing both ground school and the written exam before starting flight training. Check out our Online ground school, an affordable option to supplement your flight training. 

Flight training:

Once you have completed a ground school and are ready to begin flight training, you will be assigned an instructor. Some Flight schools have multiple instructors. If possible, try to work with the same instructor throughout your training.  Changing instructors regularly will likely lead to you repeating lessons and cost more time and money.

Your instructor will teach you the basics of operating the aircraft, as time goes on you will become less dependent on your instructor. Eventually your instructor will entrust you with your first solo flight! After you have built enough solo time, you will complete the rest of the requirements to be ready to take your checkride.

The regulations lay out the specific number of flight training, solo, cross-country, solo cross-country, and night flying hours you must complete to be eligible to take your PPL check ride. Check out the requirements here (

40 hours  of total flight time: 
20 Hours Dual instruction that must include:

  • 3 hours  cross country flying
  • 3 hours night training; must include 100nm flight and 10 takeoff and landings.
  • 3 hours training under the hood
  • 3 hours prep for practical test
10 Hours Solo Flights

  • 5 hours cross-country
  • 150 nm (minimum) cross-country flight w/ 3 full stop landings at separate points and at least one leg must be 50 nm
  • 3 take offs/landings to full stop at a towered airport.

But that’s only 30 hours!?

The 40 hours is the minimum time that will allow you to take the check ride exam to earn your PPL. The national average is much more than that. The extra time generally comes from more time needed with your instructor in the airplane mastering landings, radio-work, cross country navigation, and developing other important skills in order to be a safe pilot for yourself and those around you. Once you have completed your necessary requirements, continue to fly as often as possible until you are comfortable taking your check ride. Your instructor will give you the required endorsements when they are confident in your flying abilities across all necessary knowledge themes and skills. 


Okay so you’ve completed ground school, received adequate instruction and built enough flight time, congrats! The final phase of your training is scheduling your checkride. A checkride is like a driver’s test.  The FAA examiner will spend about 2 hours talking with you on the ground asking you scenario based questions to test your thinking process and aeronautical decision making skills.  After the oral questioning on the ground, you will fly with the examiner for about two hours showing you have mastered control of the aircraft (no parallel parking required, but expect to demonstrate your cross country planning, required flight maneuvers, several landings and emergency procedures). 

 If all goes well the whole process takes about 4-5 hours. Checkrides cost money and can become expensive if you are unprepared (expect to pay $650-$1,200 for the test depending on your area of the country) Check our Checkride Bootcamp here.


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