Flight Training Articles

5 Tips for Preparing a Resume as a Pilot

5 Tips for Preparing a Resume as a Pilot

You’ve reached the end of your training and are getting ready to interview for your first position with an airline.

In order to do this, you need to make sure your resume is top notch. A resume plays a big part in first impressions.

To help increase your hiring chances as much as possible, here are 5 tips to help you prepare a resume as a professional pilot.

Find a good template

Templates are a great way to show you the order in which information should be displayed and formatted. There are plenty of excellent templates you can find online to help make the writing process easier for you. You can also check out the template we, here at Thrust Flight, provide our students.

Appearance matters

When handing in your resume at an interview, make sure your resume is clean and unwrinkled. The appearance of your resume plays a big part in showing how professional you are in the industry.

If you have a separate page for references, make sure the paper, font, and size are all consistent between the documents.

Also, keep your resume in something that will protect it such as a folder, binder, or anything else you can acquire that will refrain it from being ruined.

Keep it professional

When writing out your experiences, make sure to stick strictly to “adult” job experience.

You have one piece of paper to convince the recruiter you’re the best person for the job, so make sure you’re using the experiences that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Show your relevant training

Your resume is the piece of paper you use to brag about yourself such as, any specific simulator training you’ve conducted, any degrees you’ve gotten (aviation related or not) and all your other flight training experience.

Show off something they wouldn’t know such as your mountain experience, spin training or declaring emergencies. These things make a great talking point during the interview. However, be sure to tailor the experience you’ve received to the job you’re applying for.

flight instructor and student doing preflight checkKeep it short and simple

Lastly, find a way to keep your resume at 1 page!

Recruiters have to go through hundreds and hundreds of resumes, and they likely won’t even bother reading yours if it’s 5 pages long.

Some suggestions to keeping it short would be to only put relevant information and organize it in a clean way by using:

  • 10-12 point font
  • Arial or Times New Roman font
  • Adjust your margins as needed


These are just some tips you can use to help you write your professional pilot resume. 

You can play with different styles as long as it is one page, simple, and highlights your experience. 

You want to ensure your resume is predictive, meaning the recruiters don’t have to hunt for information.

 Make sure you are updating it at least once a month and update it right before an interview.

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

6 Tips for a CFI’s First Flight With New Students

6 Tips for a CFI’s First Flight With New Students

For the new flight student, the first flight can be an overwhelming experience.

Many students that come into your office may have never been in a small aircraft before. Even fewer have undertaken an exhaustive training program like pilot training.

What can a flight instructor do or say to put students at ease and help them get the most out of their experience? Here are a few tips to help you with any new student.

Take Time to Get to Know One Another

The business of flying an aircraft is a serious one. It’s even more serious when you consider how limited your time with students is and how much material you have to teach them.

But instructors and students have a close relationship, and that has to start somewhere. The most successful flight instructors are the ones that are liked on some level by their students. Contrary to the beliefs of some, flight instruction is a job that involves many “soft skills.”

This isn’t any different than many other professions. Even among airline pilots, crews usually spend a few minutes getting to know one another before getting to work.

Why spare the time?

Because you’re going to work together in close quarters for a while, and it makes sense to know who you’re working with.

For flight instructors, it’s essential to get to know a little about your students’ motivations.

Why are they taking lessons, and what is their history with aviation?

Keep an open mind and try to get to know them. Try to see things from their point of view, as a new person in a new place. What can you say that will make them feel that they can be successful here?

Perhaps most critically, the key is to understand how important it is to listen.

Tips for flight instructorsYou’ll learn a lot about the person you’re going to be teaching if you take the time to listen to them. Knowing your student better allows you to find points of common reference and understanding.

Establish an “Open Door, Safe Space” Policy

You want your students to feel comfortable coming to you with their aviation-related questions.

Never put down students or make them feel like you don’t have time for their questions.

It’s one thing to say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” but it’s a more challenging thing to live by this philosophy.

It can often help to find some common ground with your students. Relating your experiences as a new flight student can be an excellent place to start.

Calibrate Their Expectations

Maybe the most productive thing a flight instructor can do on their first meeting with a new student is to set realistic expectations.

Incoming students do not know what to expect. Primary students don’t know what flight training is like at all. Advanced students won’t know what you’re like, or what the new school is like.

Set expectations in the macro and micro.

  • Ensure your student knows when and where they should be for flight lessons, and what to expect if the weather is bad for a flight.
  • Lay out the school’s no-show or cancellation policies.
  • And finally, make sure they understand how much they’ll be expected to prepare for each flight lesson.

It also helps to lay out what their flight training will look like overall. How many hours will it take them, and how much will it all cost? Try to answer the questions that they might not want to bring up right off the bat.

Cost to get a sport pilot licenseSome new flight students have done quite a lot of research about flying before they land in your office.

It’s important to gauge where they’ve gotten their information and how accurate it is. There’s a lot of crazy stuff on the internet, and as the paid professional, it lands on you to fix any bizarre ideas they might have come across.

Beware of Hidden Fears (and Airsickness)

Some students will come right out and tell you what scares them or makes them anxious.

Other students will not. But every student you fly with has something that they aren’t keen on, just like you had when you started flying.

Maybe it’s stalls, or maybe it’s talking on the radio. Or maybe it’s the fact that they get airsick every time they leave the ground.

As the flight instructor, pressing for the information isn’t the best tactic. If the student comes out and says something, talk it through and give them the facts. If they don’t talk about it, you’ll have to gauge their reactions to figure out what’s going on.

This is all part of setting realistic expectations and making sure that they’re comfortable telling you anything that’s bothering them.

Airsickness is the perfect example.

It’s an embarrassing situation for the student, who claims to want to be a pilot, to become airsick. It’s up to their instructor to put them at ease and to make them understand that many pilots experience airsickness in the beginning.

It’s also up to their instructor to help them mitigate its effects and help them overcome it. Furthermore, it’s up to their instructor to minimize any uneasiness or embarrassment they feel about it.

Be Supportive

Flight instructors have a role to play in the lives of their flight students.

They not only teach them how to fly a plane, but they also teach them how to be pilots. Instructors are mentors and role models.

It’s up to instructors to make sure their students fly safely, and many of the habits learned in early training will stick with them for years. Some will last a lifetime.

But instructors are also coaches. You have to show them how to study and what to study. Give them tips for success, like the things that helped you get through your training.

On their first lesson, spend time going over all of the resources available to them.

Walk them through the school’s syllabus and flight lessons, as well as all of their textbooks and supplies.

Then show them any websites you think might help them. Are there any student groups at your school? Is there any tutoring available? Make sure they’re aware of all the opportunities available to them at the school.

Remember the Law of Primacy

On the first flight, a new student’s attention is being diverted everywhere.

Since they aren’t used to the environment, they don’t know what to focus on. The result is an overwhelming, tiring experience. Remember how tired you felt after your first flight lessons?

Very little of what you say on day one will be remembered, so keep it short and sweet.

But above all, remember how hard it is to untrain bad habits. In your flight instructor academy, you learned about the Law of Primacy.

It states that things learned first make the most powerful impressions. From day one, make sure your students are steeped in safety culture.

Use the checklist every time, do a thorough pre-flight, and follow your company OpSecs to the letter. In other words, make a good impression.


Flight instructors are many things–they’re teachers, coaches, role models, and mentors. Sometimes, they’re good friends too.

It doesn’t always happen, but keeping your relationship professional and friendly keeps your student at ease and keeps them excited about coming to the airport to fly.

It also fosters an environment where they’re comfortable speaking up more often, which is vital in the student-centered learning process.

The first flight should be viewed as an opportunity for the flight instructor and student to connect. Remember, they aren’t you.

They’ve got an entirely different background, and to work with them, you’ll need to find a little common ground to build from.

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

Flight Instructor Supplies Every CFI Should Have

Flight Instructor Supplies Every CFI Should Have

As a job, flight instruction straddles a fuzzy zone between professional pilot and professor.

You need to have a flight bag full of goodies to do your job correctly. Some of that stuff you will have been carrying around since day one of your pilot training, while other things are new tools you need to teach.

Here’s a look at some of the supplies you might want to consider purchasing for your CFI training, which you’ll use every day while teaching students.

You can find a lot of flight instructor supplies lying around your flight school or FBO. Some flight schools have built up a collection of old instruments, classroom aides, and various props that instructors can grab when they need them.

Other times, you’ll be working on your own in an empty hanger. In those cases, you’ll need to think ahead and figure out what you need when.

flight instructors and students talking at the airportAn Organization and Note System

If there’s one constant in flight instruction, it’s the need to take copious notes. You’ll take notes in the plane, on the ground, before and after the flight, and during ground lessons.

The key to your success will depend on how organized you can keep those notes. Of all of the instructor tools you can have, a clean and tidy note system is the one that will pay for itself first.

Tablets like the Apple iPad offer fantastic versatility for flight instructors. There are hundreds of apps you can browse that will help you teach, both on the ground and in the air.

Notability is a great app that can help you organize your notes into binders for each student. Notes can consist of handwriting, typed text, photos, or video.

You can even make PDF templates to make all of your notes match the same format or your school’s lesson plans.

Most pilots already know about Foreflight and the wonderful tools it has for pilots. Foreflight has some great options for instructors, too, including route recording and having any chart at your fingertips. Since many of your students will want to use it, it helps to be knowledgeable about this app yourself.

Also, give some consideration to the power of your tablet and how it can help organize the rest of your flying life. Look for apps that educators use in the classroom.

Explain Everything is a great one. It allows you to create multimedia slideshows that can be projected and presented. During the presentation, you can quickly annotate, draw, and point to things.

There’s another great app that shows a wind tunnel simulator. You can put in different shapes and airfoils, and you can change the angle of attack right on the screen.

One of the handiest accessories you can have for your tablet is a high-quality stylus. Even though many tablets don’t come with them, they are available as an accessory.

With the iPad, most are now compatible with the Apple Pencil, but you can still find many generic styluses online for older units.

Some people don’t like taking notes or record-keeping on a tablet, which is fine too. But it’s still just as essential to have a dedicated note-taking and organization system.

Demonstration Props

As a CFI teaching students, you’re going to spend your time trying to convey some pretty abstract and complicated subjects. In the process, it helps to have something physical to point at and talk about.

For every lesson plan that you can think of, try to find something you could have on hand to relate it to.

Gyroscopes are a great example. It’s one thing to read about rigidity in space and gyroscopic precession in the book, but it’s an entirely different thing to feel it in your hands or see it before your eyes. How can you make that happen?

Pick up an antique-style toy gyroscope top. You pull the string, and with the top spinning on a book, you can easily show rigidity in space. Tap the side with a pencil, and precession comes to life.

Another excellent prop for the gyroscope discussion is a custom-built bicycle wheel. This one doesn’t fit in your flight bag easily. With a handle mounted on the hub that the student can hold, you can make enough force to surprise them when gyroscopic precession hits in a place they might not be looking.

Any airplane parts you can get your hands on, be it from real planes or model ones, are helpful.

You can use a small propeller from an RC model plane to talk about P-factor and washout. A small model plane with control surfaces helps show stability, the directions of motion, and types of controls.


You might already have a collection of aviation books, but it is convenient to have your references and sources close at hand. And while all of these publications are available on your tablet, having paper copies in the classroom is handy for finding things quickly while discussing with your students.

The most important books to have around are the FAR/AIM, the FAA handbooks, and your aircraft’s POH/AFM.

Old Paper Charts

On that same note, it’s handy to have a collection of old charts around. On the one hand, many students are no longer buying physical charts and relying solely on their tablets.

Their instructor’s paper charts might be the only time they get to hold paper examples, which is a shame.

You can learn a lot about a chart just by studying the publication in its entirety. When was the last time you looked at a chart and perused the legend?

The new digital equivalents are outstanding, but for beginners, they sometimes don’t make a lot of sense and can seem ad hoc in their structure.

Primary instructors should keep a drawer full of old sectionals, especially ones from other parts of the country with features their students don’t see in the local area.

Flatland students will especially enjoy looking at sectionals from mountainous areas. Don’t forget to have a TAC and a WAC for reference, too.

Instrument instructors will need even more options. Like the VFR sectionals and chart supplements, instrument charts are best learned initially from the paper examples. Students learn on either Jeppsen or government charts, and as the CFII, you should have a set of both to teach the differences between the two systems.

Classroom Supplies

Some flight instructors use shared classrooms, while others use their own space all the time. Their preparation will largely depend on the overall organization of their flight school.

If space is shared, you should assume that what you need to teach will not be there when you need it. Bring your own supplies. The biggest thing missing nearly every flight lesson–functional dry erase markers.

If you teach from a tablet, you might want to make sure you have access to a compatible projector in your classroom.

A poster of the cockpit of your training plane is handy for chair-flying activities. If you can find one that matches exactly, you’ll increase your student’s positive learning between the classroom and the cockpit.

Instrument Training Tools

Never count on your students to have their own supplies, either.

It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them; the time will eventually come when even the best-prepared student has forgotten something.

For the CFII, it’s usually their instrument hood or goggles. Keep a spare set in your flight bag to save the lesson.

It’s also up to the instructor to have some form of instrument covers. There are simple suction-cupped rubber covers for steam gauges or cling-film covers for electronic displays.

Airplane Supplies

There’s an entire list of things that you may find handy to have when operating an aircraft as a flight instructor.

You’re teaching your student how to be a self-sufficient pilot, but at the same time, you’re operating as the school’s representative and as the veteran pilot onboard.

Some schools may keep their planes stocked with these items, but other places may put the responsibility onto the pilots.

Here are just a few items that you might want to keep in your flight bag or at least in your office.

  • Windscreen cleaner cloth and water in a spray bottle
  • Tire gauge
  • Manual fuel gauge
  • Fuel testing jar
  • Spare batteries for your headset
  • A backup battery for your tablet
  • A nice multitool with flat and Phillips-head screwdrivers

Instructor Go-Kit

Finally, think about the personal things you’d like to have handy after a long day on the job.

Think through some what-if scenarios. What if, at the apex of a long cross country, the plane breaks down at a distant airport?

It’s not out of the realm of possibility, and it might be a day or two until a mechanic can get to it. Should you pack a full overnight bag when you go on long trips?

That might be overkill, but if you’ve got a track record for this sort of diversion, no one will fault you for it.

Some in-between level of preparedness is likely sufficient. Throw a travel-sized toothpaste and toothbrush in your bag, along with some emergency snacks and a big water bottle.

It also can’t hurt to have sanitizer wipes and even a first aid kit if you fly in planes that don’t already have those supplies onboard.

And all flight instructors will benefit from a pack of gum or breath mints, even if you only have them to subtly offer your students.

What are your top recommended flight instructor supplies?

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

5 Ways to Help Flight Training Students Get Past Learning Plateaus

5 Ways to Help Flight Training Students Get Past Learning Plateaus


Flight instructors know that learning plateaus are a natural part of learning a new skill. It’s happened to all of us at one point during our training.

You’re progressing fine, until one day you just can’t get it. Maybe it’s nailing the flare for landing, or maybe it’s reading a specific type of performance chart (I’m looking at you, crosswind component chart).

Whatever it is, everyone else seems to get it except for you. It’s a terrible feeling, and you aren’t sure what to do about it when it’s happening.

A good flight instructor should have a few tools in their flight bag for dealing with inevitable learning blocks. With the right techniques, you can guide your students through these rough patches and start making positive progress again in no time.

All students will have the occasional hangup every once in a while, but it’s seldom a cause for concern.

Set Realistic Expectations

The best way to prevent learning blocks is to set your students up for a positive training experience early on in their flying careers.

If you train younger, career-path students, they are far more likely to worry about their progress and compare themselves to their peers than adult learners.

But no matter the age of your student, they will have a learning plateau at one point or another.

When you first meet with your students, plan a conversation about the phases of flight training and what they can expect. Point out that they will likely experience a plateau at some point and that it’s a natural part of the learning process.

Your goal is to set realistic expectations and reduce their anxiety before they ever even have any.

flight instructor checking the plane

An equally important point of this conversation is to convey that everyone learns these skills differently and that it’s perfectly normal for some to progress faster than others.

It may sound a small thing to the instructor, but what you’re doing is laying a foundation for a positive culture among your students. And, in case there was any doubt, your students are comparing notes and talking about their flying when you’re not around.

Accept the Challenge

The first thing to do when you see your student plateau is to tackle the thing head-on.

Start by ensuring that your student has a positive attitude about it; you do not want them giving up too quickly or getting discouraged early on. Break the task, maneuver, or ground lesson into smaller, more attainable goals.

Remember the building blocks you learned in the fundamentals of instruction? Start putting them to good use.

Make sure they’ve mastered all the skills leading up to this point, and break the problem-making task into as many baby steps as you can. The great thing about smaller goals is that they can help you transition a level plateau into a slow and steady ascent.

Try Something Completely Different

So you’ve tried explaining it every way you know how, you’ve taken the controls and demonstrated the task, but it’s still not clicking.

Try turning the table and make your student play flight instructor. Have them do more talking, and see if you can find in the gaps their understanding.

If none of this is working, starting asking senior instructors if they’ve ever had this same problem. You’d be amazed at how one innocuous little tip can completely change the entire scenario.

If nothing in your toolbox is working, it’s time to step back.

Your student can’t keep going up and doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. It’s time to take a break, so skip the lesson and come back to it later.

Let them excel at something different to rebuild their enthusiasm and confidence.

You can even just take a flight for fun. If you’ve got a pre-solo student who just can’t get their landing consistent, trying taking them on a cross country for a hamburger.

Or just have them take a mini-vacation with a week off from flying.

Have Them Fly with Another Instructor

Flying with a different instructor is a fantastic way for your students to learn something new. Don’t let your ego get in the way here.

It says nothing about your skills as an instructor; no instructor has ever been able to teach every student everything.

flight instructor and student doing preflight check

Sometimes instructor changes are simply for personality reasons, and sometimes their just because you need a little advice on how to handle an individual student’s training.

It might help not to let on that the change is due to the learning plateau—but do brief the other instructor on the situation. Then tell your student that they’ll have to fly with whatshisface on the next flight due to a scheduling conflict.

You don’t want them worried about their performance or stressing about the change. You just want them to have a positive flight with another instructor.

Invite Them to Backseat

Another thing you can do is have them backseat with a more advanced student. If that student is working on the same task, that might be good or bad.

The purpose of back seating is to just get your blocked student out of their headspace for an hour or two. It’s not just to say, “See, this guy can do it!”

Let them observe another student learning something.

Probably the best scenario is if that other student is having trouble with some other task. Show them that other pilots have these same problems and that with perseverance and hard work, they will get over them.

What other tips do you have for flight instructors to help their students through learning plateaus?

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

How to Stay Organized as a Flight Instructor

How to Stay Organized as a Flight Instructor


One of the most challenging parts of being a CFI is also one of the things that flight instructor training doesn’t prepare you for—dealing with the constant flow of students.

It’s incredible how quickly a full flight schedule can make you feel like you’re falling behind. The more flying you do, the more recordkeeping and notes you’ll have to take.

The only way to keep your head above water is to develop a system that works for you, one that you’ll stick with.

6 Tips for CFI Organization


Lesson Plans for the Real-World

Lesson plans are discussed at length in CFI training, but real-world lesson plan use is different than what is usually taught. Nearly every flight school has a curriculum set up, so all the flight instructor has to do is follow it. FAR Part 141 flight schools have these curriculums approved, but even FAR Part 61 schools use some sort of syllabus, be it from Jeppesen, Cessna, or their own creation.

So you don’t have to come up with the elements of the lesson plan, but you do have to follow it. The closer you follow it, the easier your job becomes.

To keep you on track, you should have a print out of the lesson plan with you at all times when you’re with your student. You can check off tasks as you complete them and keep notes about how well the student performed.

Take Notes…Lots of Notes

The printed lesson plan page is an excellent place to take general notes, too. The more notes you take during a flight, the better.

If you’re going to move right on to your next flight student as this student leaves the building, you’re going to need to remember this flight or ground lesson later.

If you teach six or seven students in one day, that becomes increasingly difficult.

Sometimes, you might not see the student again for a month or more. The only solution is to take notes as things happen.

Notes from each meeting with a student are essential on many levels. On the one hand, reviewing your notes helps you remember what happened the next time you meet with that student.

Your notes also help brief other instructors should your student fly with someone else. If your student is up for a progress check, the chief or assistant chief can review the student’s progress through your notes and find areas they might want to know more about.

Your instructor notes provide a more complete picture of the student’s learning than the lesson plan and standard grading scheme allow.

Taking notes during the flight often makes students nervous. If you have to jot down notes, it’s probably not good, right? Their minds immediately begin to wonder what they’ve done and what the heck are you writing.

flight instructors and students talking at the airportYou can attempt to stop this from the get-go by telling every student that you have a terrible memory and need to write everything down.

Point out that you write down as many good things as bad, which is a good habit to have anyway. Once they get used to seeing you write notes, they’ll tune it out.

Taking notes in the air requires a little practice.

A kneeboard is good, but you often don’t want your student to read the notes before getting back on the ground.

Printing your lesson plans on a half-page printout and folding it over like a greeting card enables you to make notes on the lesson plan as needed and on the blank side for general notes, too.

Whatever you do needs to be quickly accessible in a crowded cockpit when under pressure, so keep it organized and tidy. Using shorthand or other abbreviations is a great idea.

Tidy Recordkeeping

These notes won’t do you any good if you don’t have a tidy system of recordkeeping.

Many instructors inherit the system that their school uses. But many schools only keep the bare legal minimum and leave lesson notes and instructor briefings up to the CFIs.

In that case, you’ll need to ask around and see what the other instructors do.

It gives you the flexibility to create your own awesome system, but it also means you have to do all the work of creating your own awesome system.

Leverage New Technologies

The tablets that many of us use in the cockpit have a plethora of apps that can help us take notes and keep organized.

One of the best apps is called Notability. It’s a simple note-taking app that allows you to handwrite notes and organize them into folders. Handwriting with a stylus is much faster than typing, making it more useful in the air.

You can also draw, add photos or video, and use it to annotate PDF files. If your school’s lesson plans are in PDF format, you can load them into Notability and mark them up as needed.

You can then type them out later, or at least clean up the illegible parts.

Tablets are great ways to stay organized for many other reasons, though.

You can download many FAA handbooks and publications to the tablet, freeing up your flight bag and reducing the time it takes you to find bits of info. ASA makes a great, searchable FAR/AIM app.

You can also use the voice recorder or video camera apps to record notes or student interactions, with their permission, of course.

Record them doing a maneuver in flight, and then replay and talk about it during the debrief.

flight instructor reaching into airplaneTablets lend themselves to the cockpit exceptionally well. Popular flight apps, like Foreflight, give you approach charts, sectionals, and planning tools.

But the productivity apps that are useful in the classroom can also be applied in the cockpit by CFIs.

Plan for the Paperwork

Paperwork is not the glamorous part of being a CFI, but it is one of the most critical parts.

Most pilots have an open disdain for paperwork. It’s the closest thing to a real-job that they have to do, after all. And CFIs have even more of it than most pilots do.

The unfortunate truth is that most CFIs don’t dedicate enough time to doing the paperwork.

At the end of the day, you’ve got a mountain of notes you need to go over, and you need to organize each student’s records. But you’re also exhausted and ready to head home.

Most flight schedules don’t afford the time to allow a CFI to make their notes during the day since the next student is often ready and waiting by the time you’re done with a lesson.

So what’s the solution? A lot of it depends on your school’s scheduling policy. You can always maximize any gaps in your schedule from bad weather or no-shows by doing paperwork.

But you can also build in extra time throughout the day, just 30 minutes here and there, to make sure you don’t fall behind on paperwork.

Perfect Your System

Over time, you’ll pick up on exactly how much you need to do and when.

It’s essential to look at your recordkeeping as a whole system, one which gets completed due to planning and strategy.

If every student has a matching record jacket, and every flight has a form-based lesson plan with a notes section, it’s a lot easier to keep doing the same thing for every flight.

The key to making this work is to ensure that you keep the FAA, the school, your students, and yourself happy. The school and the FAA are worried about the legal minimums—lesson plans completed and organized, various vital records kept safe.

But you and the student should be interested in their learning progress and ensuring that you’re prepared for their next lesson by remembering precisely what they need to work on.

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

How to Be a Good Flight Instructor – 6 Helpful Tips

How to Be a Good Flight Instructor – 6 Helpful Tips

There’s a secret among flight instructors that you might not know. This job is hard. Learning how to be a good flight instructor is incredibly challenging. Most pilots know that flight instruction is often seen as a stepping stone along a pilot’s “typical” career path.

Some instructors begin teaching when the ink has barely dried on their commercial certificates, so how hard could the job be?

The reality soaks in quickly.

Flight instruction is about so much more than the simple mastery of flight skills and book knowledge.

Along with everything you learned in your CFI training, the job is about being a mentor, a role model, and even sometimes a caring friend. The job is one of the most intense teaching jobs on the planet. Wondering how to be a good flight instructor?

Here’s a look at six “soft skills” that will help.


Be a Professional

Professionalism is a multifaceted quality that every pilot needs to have, but flight instructors need more than their share.


Flight instruction is a difficult job—you have to be one part pilot, one part instructor, one part mentor, with a dash of customer service maestro and a sprinkle of knowledgeable geek.

The resulting cocktail is as complex as it is interesting—you’ve got a lot going on, both in the cockpit and in the classroom.


flight instructor teaching student while flying

The FAA covers professionalism and how to be a good flight instructor in the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook.

They list things like keep a clean-cut appearance and following the regulations. But it’s also the small things that make a professional flight instructor stand out.

For example, keeping your knowledge and skills current or saying, “I’ll have to look that up,” when you aren’t certain of an answer.

The most valuable thing that flight instructors do is provide a role model to their students.

A good flight instructor is a good pilot, not only because they possess descent flying skills, but because they endeavor to learn more and be better than they currently are. Aviation is a journey for everyone who pursues it, and the sooner your students learn that, the better off they’ll be.


Be a Stickler for Procedures

It also pays to be a creature of professional habits. For example, do you preflight an airplane before each and every flight?

As a flight instructor, are you on the ramp watching your student do their preflight every time?

These are things that your students notice, even though they aren’t explicitly part of the lesson plan.

Are they learning that this is something they’re going to be doing every day for the rest of their careers, or do they see it as a menial task that should be delegated to the newest guy?

The little habits you pick up from your flight instructor are endless, and they are often of critical importance. Are you flying with an advanced student who seems never to pick up the checklist? They probably learned that bad habit from a previous flight instructor.


Flight instructor in jet

Perhaps the most poignant example can be seen when flying a Cessna or other high-wing. Do you lift the wing to check the blindspot before every turn without even thinking about it? If you do, it’s because you picked up that habit from a good flight instructor.

But here’s the rub—what if, as you went through training, you picked up some bad habits or incorrect facts from your flight instructors?

Everyone has. At this point in your career, it’s essential to research things thoroughly and figure out the right way so that you don’t make the same mistakes with your students.


Care About Your Students’ Futures

There is no doubt that many instructors use the job as a stepping stone to go onto something “bigger.”

Airlines love hiring flight instructors. For one thing, by the time you’ve got a few hundred hours of dual given under your belt, you know your stuff pretty well.

But to be a good flight instructor, you’ve got to look at the job as more than a stepping stone on the path to your own success.

Flight instructors must possess a strong personal commitment to their students. Yes, you want them to succeed and to get their license or rating. But more than that, instructors need to be invested in their students’ safety and long-term futures—regardless of whether that involves flying on their own privately or as a commercial pilot.

Students must know that their instructor is a highly-trained and ethical individual.

They must know that the only way their going to be endorsed for their solo flights or their check rides is if they’ve earned it by putting in the work. In other words, instructors must be the keepers of strict standards.

So much of aviation is based on a traditional master-and-apprentice relationship.

It starts from day one when the flight instructor is the master. Student pilots learn more from their first flight instructor than they ever will from another. That first impression is so very critical to the safety of the aviation community as a whole.

If a flight instructor switches jobs and joins an airline or charter company, the master-and-apprentice relationship switches again.

Left-seat captains are experienced, senior pilots for a reason. It’s because they are the masters and the co-pilots are the apprentices.


Flight instructor in a helicopter


Do Less Talking and More Listening

In education circles, one of the latest trends in teaching is called the “flipped classroom.”

The idea has been around for a long time. Even the FAA has tried to implement it with “FITS” standards and scenario-based training. Whatever you call it, the most effective teaching technique has been proven to be one that is student-centered.

Most people are at a disadvantage because few teachers of any subject excel at student-centered teaching. Think back on the teachers you’ve had from high school, college, or aviation.

How many let you lead your learning experience and taught you a lot? You may have never had a single one.

Most of us still remember a medieval teaching model, with a professor scribbling on a board, talking away to a bunch of bored and distracted students.

Flight instruction is doubly problematic because there are many barriers to giving the student complete control of their learning.

Can you let a zero-time pilot land the airplane by themselves and then have them critique themselves later?

Probably not.

Even if you do, it’s a lot more involved than just letting someone screw up a math problem.

In the classroom, student-centered learning means doing more listening and less talking. Flight instructors know better than anyone that the only way to understand something deeply is to teach it to someone else.

So students should be expected to learn the materials on their own, and then come in and explain it to the flight instructor.

The instructor should ask leading questions that evaluate how deeply the student understands the material. The questions should require the student to think a little.

In the plane, student-centered learning is doing more watching and less flying. Beyond an occasional demonstration, a student gets very little from watching the flight instructor fly.

You can teach many maneuvers by ensuring the student understands the fundamentals on the ground, then talking them through it while in the air.

Ideally, the flight instructor never touches the controls.


Flight instructor on the ground with their student


Keep Calm and Fly On

At one point or another, we’ve all met a flight instructor who couldn’t keep calm.

A shouting flight instructor is the worst kind. Becoming argumentative or confrontational immediately shuts down all learning opportunities. Students walk away confused, with their confidence shattered.

Many stressful situations come up in an airplane’s cockpit, and shouting never made a single one of them any better.

Good flight instructors can keep their calm through pretty much anything. Doing so will help make it all the more poignant when you have to speak up or take the aircraft’s controls.


Let the Student Lead

As discussed, a student-centric approach is best in flight training. But realize that this approach goes beyond just learning a maneuver or passing a knowledge exam.

The term “instructor” is perhaps misleading. “Coach” or “mentor” might suit the job better.

Flight instructors not only have to teach their students fundamental flight skills, but they also need to teach them the life-skills of how to be a successful pilot.


piper airplane with pilot waving

That means establishing study habits, a safety mindset, and the level of professionalism expected from pilots.

Throughout all this, remember that the student is in charge of their training. No one, including a flight instructor, can make them learn anything.

Only they can decide that something is worth learning and doing. If your student isn’t studying, it is likely because they are either not motivated to do so or don’t know how to do it. Is it a flight instructor’s job to teach a student how to study? Sometimes.

The hardest part of giving the student command of their learning experience is letting them make mistakes.

By nature, pilots want to take charge of a situation when they think they could do better. The hardest thing a flight instructor ever does is sitting on their hands and doing nothing.

Student-centered learning aims to arm the student with enough book knowledge to know how they should perform something and then give them enough freedom to try.

They will make mistakes.

But if they’ve studied enough, they will recognize the mistakes they’ve made before you’ve had time to point it out to them.

That’s the ultimate goal—a student who knows when they’ve messed up and has some ideas about how to do better next time.

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

10 Things You Can Do With a Private Pilot License

All too often, students look at the private pilot license as a stepping stone to other things. But the private is a powerful certificate that grants amazing privileges to its holder. What can you do with a private pilot license? Maybe a better question is, what can’t you do with it!

Every flight instructor reading this is obligated now to point out that there are limitations on the private license, including that you cannot get paid for your flying. But there are lots of exceptions to even that!

What can you do with a private pilot license? Here are ten examples to get you started.

1. Take Family & Friends Flying

Once you’ve gotten your license, one of the most fun things you can do is share flying with the people who are closest to you. They’ve all heard how much you love flying and how much you’ve learned from your flying lessons. So show them what it’s all about!

Private pilots are allowed to carry passengers, just not for hire. Interestingly enough, private pilots can split the costs of a flight with friends and family.

That means if you have a group who wants to fly with you, they can help you pay for it all. The FAA uses the term “pro-rata share;” you must pay for your part of the flight.

If you have one other person, then you can divide the costs in half. If there are four of you, you must pay for a quarter. Costs can include rental fees, fuel, and whatever other costs are associated with the actual flight.

Many pilots learn to fly in two-seat aircraft, limiting the number of passengers you can carry with you. But there’s no limit on the type of plane a private pilot can fly as long as they meet the ratings on your license.

If you are rated to fly single-engine land airplanes, you can fly any of them, so long as they are less than 12,500 pounds and not turbine powered.

If you’ve never flown a four or six-seater, the first step is to find one for rent. Upgrading to a four-seat Cessna or Piper is easy, and they fly very similar to the smaller varieties. Before you can rent it, the FBO will require a check-out with their instructor to familiarize you with the plane. It’s not a test or anything–it’s just a quick and easy flight lesson.

Six-seaters are usually high-performance airplanes, which will require more training. Likewise, “complex planes,” with flaps, adjustable propellers, and retractable landing gear, will require additional training.

Plane on the ramp at night

2. Fly at Night

Your training included a few hours of night flight, and you’re allowed to fly anytime you like.

Night flights are a lot of fun since they provide a beautiful view of the world from above, especially over cities. Airports are neat at night, too.

3. Check Out a Fly-In or Aviation Festival

Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Lakeland, Florida, host the first and second-largest fly-ins in the world, respectively. EAA Airventure in Oshkosh is a colossal aviation festival.

Hundreds of airplanes converge on the town every year in late July. Sun-n-Fun is its southern cousin, and nearly as big. It takes place in Lakeland, near Orlando, every April.

Both events are part fly-in, part industry trade show, and part airshow.

You’ll see planes from all different areas of aviation and meet pilots from all over the world. There are seminars to learn new skills and plenty of pilot toys to check out.

Flying into these events takes a little planning. There are always special traffic procedures to handle the astonishing amount of aircraft that converge on these airports.

At Lakeland, for example, they divide up both the main runway and its parallel taxiway into thirds, creating six separate landing areas and touchdown points. It can be intense, but with a little planning, it’s worth the trouble.

There are also many regional aviation meet-ups and fly-ins all over the country. Find the local place to fly-in for weekend breakfasts or barbecues.

Another option is an aerobatic competition, which is also a lot of fun if you can find them in your area.

4. Learn a New Skill

One thing that keeps aviation interesting is that there’s always something new to learn.

The private license is just the first step you take. You might buy a Cessna and fly for fun for the rest of your aviation career, but that doesn’t stop you from trying new things and expanding your skills.

A few of the things you can try out are aerobatics, flying a taildragger, or mountain flying. These are all skills that your license allows you to do, but they generally aren’t covered in your training.

All you have to do is find a flight instructor who is an expert and get a few hours of dual instructor. Taildraggers; high-performance planes with more than 200-horsepower; and complex planes with flaps, retractable landing gear, and constant-speed propellers require an instructor endorsement.

And, of course, many pilots love honing their skills enough to pursue other ratings. The instrument rating takes your flying to the next level by teaching you how to fly like the professionals.

It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a big challenge, but your flying skills will improve ten-fold.

5. Take a Business Trip

Your certificate allows for you to fly in the furtherance of business. That means that if you travel for work, you can rent or buy a plane to do that traveling in.

Just like your business can reimburse you for fuel and automobile operating expenses, so too can they reimburse you for plane expenses.

If you travel by car for work, flying can make a lot of sense. It saves you time compared to driving, and it can get you to nearly anywhere you need to go.

Use your private pilot license to take a business trip

Look at all of the general aviation airports that serve the communities in which you work. Many FBOs have courtesy cars or access to rental cars.

6. Fly for a Charity

You’re allowed to donate your time to charity flying with a private certificate.

Examples of the most popular charities involve providing flights to people who need distant medical care or helping move rescue pets to their forever homes.

There are also environmental charities conducting survey flights or taking scientists aloft, or taking passengers who have always dreamed of flying on trips.

Flying Magazine has compiled a great list of many aviation charities. The choice of charities varies depending on your region of the country.

7. Take Your Date Night to New Heights

Want to impress a special someone? Try a romantic flight! It can be a simple trip around the pattern if they’re nervous or as involved as a weekend trip to the mountains or beach.

The $100 Hamburger trip for a romantic dinner after a cross country is a date never to be forgotten, and it doesn’t have to be a hamburger.

8. Fly Internationally

There aren’t any substantial limits on traveling with your private license; you can fly all over the world.

If you’re on a trip and you’d like to go flying, it may be as simple as heading to the nearest GA airport and going up with an instructor.

Depending on the country and their requirements, you may even be able to rent a plane and go up alone.

If you want to stick closer to home, check out some closer borders you can legally cross. Canada, Mexico, and The Bahamas all make outstanding aviation destinations. Flying internationally requires a little bit of studying to make sure you understand your destination’s rules and regulations.

With a private pilot license you can fly on your own plane internationally

There are always little differences to brush up on. If you’re renting a plane, an instructor will help you with a check-out flight. If you’re on your own, call AOPA or the country in question’s aviation department.

Of course, once you put home behind you, you might not want to stop anytime soon. How about South America, the Caribbean, or maybe Europe? Many pilots dream of flying around the world in a general aviation airplane. What an adventure!

There are plenty of blogs and stories to check out from pilots who have done it. Joining the “Earthrounder” club is truly a bucket list dream.

9. Go Traveling and Sightseeing

You don’t have to leave home to see some cool stuff. The United States has one of the most varied landscapes of any nation.

From sea to shining sea, America is made for flying. An aerial tour of the country is a great way to see a lot and to see it in a way that many people would only ever dream of.

Private pilots can fly nearly anywhere. For most of the country, VFR flying requires no notice and no approvals. Just hop in your plane and go!

Remember, if you are a flat-lander traveling to the mountains, it’s a good idea to look into getting a mountain check-out flight from a knowledgeable certified flight instructor.

Even if you don’t want to go far, there are many places to see from the air closer to home.

10. Share Your Passion for Aviation With Others

You already know that you can take folks flying, but there are other ways to share your passion.

The FAA Ground Instructor certificate is a great way to get into mentoring and teaching. The certificate requires nothing more than a few written exams.

After a little bit of studying and passing those tests, you get your license and teach ground school classes. It’s an easy first step towards becoming a flight instructor, and it puts you ahead of the game if you ever wanted to get your commercial.

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

How to Get a Private Pilot License

How to Get a Private Pilot License

Many people dream of becoming pilots, and it’s an achievable goal for nearly anyone. Getting your pilot license takes a lot of studying and hard work, but the rewards are bountiful.

With your private license, you can fly! You can fly your own plane or rent a plane. Imagine taking a flight for a weekend getaway, or just dinner in the next town.

Those who have been bitten by the flying bug need no further convincing. If you’ve ever wondered how to get a private pilot license, read on to learn more.

What is a Private Pilot Certificate?

The private pilot certificate is the FAA license that allows you to fly airplanes for fun. You can’t get a job flying with a private pilot license, but you can rent or buy a plane and go anywhere you like.

Private pilot plane on the water

It’s one of the most basic licenses, so for pilots looking to become professional aviators, the private pilot is just the first stepping stone. Plenty of pilots very happily operate as private pilots, and never want or need a commercial license.

Is a Private Pilot License Worth It?

All pilot licenses are expensive, so you may be wondering what use the private certificate would have for you.

If you’re comparing it with the less expensive and less time-consuming sport pilot license, the private offers you more privileges. It allows you to fly bigger, faster planes on longer trips away from home. Plus, it allows you to fly at night, or internationally.

If you’re looking to make a career as a pilot, you’ll need to make the private pilot license your first step. To get a commercial pilot certificate, you must first possess a private.

If you just want to go flying to have some fun, then it’s a great way to do that too. The pilot certificate itself never expires, but you must keep it current.

That means flying with an instructor every couple of years and logging a few hours if you want to carry passengers. You do not need to use your license, but if you want to start using it again after a period of inactivity, you must get a flight review from an instructor.

What are the Requirements to get a Private Pilot License?

The requirements are laid out in the Federal Aviation Regulations. You must be 17 years old or older and read, speak, write, and understand English. You must hold a student pilot certificate available from the FAA or an examiner or a sport pilot certificate.

There is bookwork to learn and a written exam to pass. There are also a minimum amount of flight hours you must log with your flight instructor. Specifically, you need to log a minimum of 40 hours of flight training, possibly a few less if you’re training at a Part 141 flight school. These 40 hours contain at least 20 hours of flight instruction and 10 hours of solo training. There are specific requirements for solo cross countries and nighttime flights, as well.

Once you have met all of these requirements, you take a practical exam that consists of both an oral question and answer session and a flight check. If you pass both, you have earned a private pilot license.

Plane about to take off

What Does Private Pilot Training Look Like?

Flight training is done one-on-one with a flight instructor. The typical flight lesson involves getting to the flight school early to check the weather and preflight the airplane.

You typically meet with your instructor for a few minutes to review your homework and see if you are ready for the flight. During the flight, you will practice maneuvers or scenarios that help you understand how to better fly the plane.

Sometimes, you work on a particular skill like landings. Other times, you work on an entire set of skills, like navigating to a new airport.

Once the flight is over, you park the plane and debrief with your instructor. You review your performance and discuss the things that went well—and the things that went not-so-well. From this, you put together a plan for next time.

Most flight lessons are done in two-hour flight blocks, but you can customize your training any way you like. This one-on-one instructor time is often combined with a ground school course in a classroom, where you learn the book-knowledge you need to pass the exams.

How to Get a Private Pilot License

Ground School

There are two distinct parts to pilot training. Most students and many flight instructors conduct these two items separately, but they are more connected than you might think.

The first part of training is commonly called ground school. This is where you get the book knowledge. We’ll look at the tests you have to take to get the pilot license in a bit, but for now, know that there’s a lot to learn.

Many students have little experience in aviation before they set out to get their license. That means everything is new.

Preflight routine for private pilot

The exact knowledge areas that you learn about in ground school are listed in FAR Part 61. These are the areas that the FAA will test you on during the written exam.

  1. The Federal Aviation Regulations that relate to private pilots
  2. Accident reporting requirements
  3. FAA publications like the Aeronautical Information Manual and advisory circulars
  4. Charts, and navigation using pilotage, dead reckoning, and navigation systems
  5. Radio communications
  6. Weather theory and reports and forecasts
  7. Safe operating procedures
  8. Takeoff and climb performance
  9. Weight and balance computiations
  10. Aerodynamics, engines, and systems
  11. Stalls, spins, and recovery techniques
  12. Aeronautical decision making
  13. Preflight actions to take

Some students complete ground school and the written exam before they even begin flying, while others fly while also taking ground school.

If you are interested in flying but want to learn more, just taking the ground school class is a great way to get an introduction and learn a lot about aviation.

It’s important to note that all of the knowledge areas are important to your flying.

The bookwork you learn for your pilot license is valuable, and you will use the information again. You will build on this knowledge base as you fly, and you will need to know things from ground school to pass your check ride.

Private Pilot Flight Training

The flight training portion of your pilot license course is completely individualized. You train one-on-one with your flight instructor. At some schools, you might fly with any flight instructor, but in most places, you work with only one person.

FAR Part 61 lays out the flight proficiency requirements you need to meet for getting your private certificate in a single-engine airplane.

  1. Preflight preparation and procedures
  2. Airport operations
  3. Takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds
  4. Performance and Ground reference maneuvers
  5. Navigation
  6. Slow flight and stalls
  7. Basic instrument maneuvers
  8. Emergency operations
  9. Night operations
  10. Postflight procedures

As was the case with the ground school requirements, this list only provides a very basic glimpse at everything you must learn. These are the chapter titles. Each one of these headings represents numerous maneuvers or tasks you need to know how to perform.

Airplane about to land

Flight training is laid out in a detailed curriculum that you follow with your flight instructor’s guidance. You begin by learning the basics of operating an airplane.

As you get better, you build on your knowledge until you can conduct an entire flight with little or no help from your instructor. Once you’ve convinced your instructor that you can do it on your own, they let you take the plane up alone for some solo flying.

After you’ve soloed, you begin learning more about navigation and flying cross countries. For the purposes of flight training, a “cross-country flight” is one to an airport more than 50 miles away. You conduct several of these longer flights with your instructor, and when they feel you’ve gotten the hang of it, they let you do a few alone.

As you follow your training curriculum, you are meeting other regulatory requirements.

The FARs lay out the specific number of flight training, solo, cross-country, solo cross-country, and night flying hours you must complete to be eligible for the license.

The last phase of your training is getting ready for that check ride. At this point, you’ve learned about all of the flight proficiency areas, and you have experience in them all.

All that is left to do is practice taking the test. On check ride day, nothing is new. You will have practiced everything with your flight instructor several times, so the check ride is a piece of cake.

What Tests Do you Have to Pass to Get your Private Pilot Certificate?

In total, you must pass three FAA exams to get your private pilot license, though two of those are combined into one event.

Written Exam

The first exam you must pass is commonly called the written exam, but the FAA regulations refer to it as the “aeronautical knowledge exam.” This is where all your ground school knowledge and classes pay off. You must get 70 percent or more of the questions correct. The test is a multiple-choice exam with 60 questions, and you are given 150 minutes to take the test.

The written exam is given at FAA-designated proctored testing centers. You can find them listed on the FAA’s website. You’ll also find sample exams and information about the tests there. Taking the time to effectively prepare for your written exams is key to passing on the first attempt.

To take the knowledge exam, you must have the endorsement of the flight or ground instructor who prepared you for the exam. After the exam is over, you need to sit down with your instructor to review the knowledge areas you missed. You’ll likely be asked about them later on.

The written exam results are good for 24 months. So you must take your check ride to get your license within two years, or else you’ll have to repeat the written exam.

Private pilot taking off in his airplane

Practical Exam or Check Ride

Once you have completed your training and your flight instructor has found that you’re ready for the check ride, they will endorse your logbook and call an examiner. The “check ride” is known in FAA circles as the practical pilot exam, and it consists of two parts. First, you must pass an oral examination, then you move on to the airplane and show them how well you can fly.

FAA employees give some FAA practical exams, but this is rare. More often than not, check rides are given by DPEs, or Designated Pilot Examiners. These are individuals from the aviation community with decades of flying experience who have earned the privilege to give check rides.

The items you are tested on are outlined thoroughly in the Airman Certification Standards (ACS). This document is used by your flight instructor to get you ready and your examiner on check ride day. It lays out the knowledge you need to have, the maneuvers you need to perform, and the completion standards. There are no surprises on check ride day since everyone is using the same book.

What Are The Restrictions on a Private Pilot?

The private pilot certificate has many privileges for those who have earned one. There are no limits on where or when they can fly. In essence, they can hop in a plane and depart on a trip across the country with no further training. They can operate at any public airport, regardless of size, and in almost every type of airspace.

But there are some significant limitations and restrictions to understand. The first restrictions involve the word “private.” Private pilots fly for themselves; they are not professional pilots, and they cannot be paid for their flying or to take people flying.

Pilot preflighting his plane

Secondly, private pilots are limited to flying in VFR (visual flight rules) conditions, which means they can only fly in good weather. They cannot go inside of clouds, and if the visibility is low, they must stay on the ground. VFR flying requires being able to see outside, to see visual references and landmarks. If you want to fly in low visibility, you need to get an instrument rating.

Common Questions About a Private Pilot License

What is the Difference Between a Private Pilot and a Sport Pilot?

The sport pilot certificate was created to provide a less expensive option for those looking to fly. It’s a great place to start, but it has some limitations. Sport pilots are not allowed to fly at night or to fly on long cross countries. They are also limited to slow-flying, low-powered, two-seat aircraft.

There are many neat Light-Sport Aircraft, and getting the license is faster and cheaper than getting a private license. But sport pilots are generally folks who fly for fun around their home airports. If you’re looking to fly four-seater planes (or bigger), or you want to head out on long cross-country flights, then the private pilot certificate is the one for you. Also, if you’d eventually like to get an instrument rating or commercial license, you should start with the private.

Can I Get a Job With a Private Pilot License?

You can get any job you want with a private pilot license, but you cannot get paid for your services as a pilot. To be a professional, paid pilot, you must possess a commercial pilot certificate.

There are certain times when a pilot certificate comes in handy in other professions, however. If you’re a business person and have a meeting in another town, why not rent a plane and fly? If your company reimburses you for driving your car, you can get reimbursed for flying too.

What Comes After a Private Pilot License?

Private pilots are free to rent or buy aircraft and fly as much as they like. If they want to fly different aircraft types, they always need more training before they’re allowed to fly them solo. Some training requirements are spelled out in the Federal Aviation Regulations, while others are required by insurance companies and FBOs.

Plane on the ramp at night

Should you want to continue with flight school, the next big stepping stone is the instrument rating. This is an add-on to your private pilot certificate that allows you to operate on an IFR flight plan, like the airlines do, and to operate in weather that is less than those allowed under VFR, which you must adhere to as a private pilot.

The instrument rating course is of similar cost and scope as the private pilot course. There is a written exam and an FAA check ride you must train for.

You learn how to handle the plane solely by reference to the instruments in every possible situation, and you learn to navigate safely in the National Airspace System from the moment your wheels leave the runway until the moment they touch down, all without looking out the window.

How Far Can a Private Pilot Fly?

There is no limit on how far you can fly, other than your plane’s endurance and range limits.

Even then, you just need to stop somewhere and fill up! If you are renting a plane, you have to pay for the time you have it, and that usually rules out flying around the world.

The FAA private license is recognized by ICAO and other nations, meaning that you can operate an aircraft with the same or similar rules as what you are used to in most places.

Can Private Pilots Fly at Night?

A private pilot can fly at night in the United States. Many other countries, however, require an instrument rating to fly after sunset.

You complete at least three hours of night flying to get your license, including a cross country flight. Flying at night is an incredible experience, but it’s essential to keep up your night-flying skills.

After dark, all pilots must have made three takeoffs and three full-stop landings in the last 90 days to carry passengers.


Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?

If you’re considering become a pilot, cost is likely one of your biggest concerns. Every flight student is worried about how much their training will cost.

Most pilots are familiar with the old saying, “An airplane is a hole on the tarmac that you throw money into.” It’s true for airplane owners, who receive frequent invoices from their favorite mechanic. But it’s also valid for student pilots, who are paying for both an expensive airplane and a professional flight instructor.

How much does it cost to become a pilot, you ask? It depends. There are many different licenses and approaches to aviation that you can take.

For private flying, you might just want a sport or private pilot license. If you are looking to make a career out of it, you need to start at the private certificate and work your way through the instrument rating and commercial license.

All flight training follows a similar structure. Flight schools provide applicants with a rough estimate of their total costs, but every student’s final number will differ. Along the way, students pay for the following costs.


Every course will require new textbooks, charts, and supplies. When you first start, you’ll need to buy some pilot gear, but that should last you for many years to come. This includes items like a headset, kneeboard, flight computer, pilot bag, and fuel tester.

Aircraft Rentals

Aircraft rates are billed per hour to the nearest tenth. Depending on the school, they may be billed wet, an all-inclusive number including fuel, or dry, where the student will pay for the fuel they use. Aircraft time is billed based on the Hobbs time recorded from the aircraft, which begins and ends when the engine operates.

The price you pay will vary depending on the type of plane.

Larger, more complex planes cost more to operate and are therefore more expensive. Smaller planes provide a better value since they can be rented for less money.

Flight Instructor Time

Flight instruction time is billed hourly, as well. You will pay for instruction time while you are in the aircraft receiving training, as well as for any ground instruction you receive before and after the flight. You will also occasionally pay for ground-only instruction to help you prepare for exams or check rides.

Take your FAA written exam

Written Exam

When you take a written exam, you have to pay a fee to the FAA testing center. The fee is usually around $100, but it varies by location and type of exam.

FAA Practical Exam

If you do your check ride with a designated pilot examiner (DPE), they will charge for their time. Costs vary considerably depending on the type of checkride and your region. Generally, they are between $500 and $800.

Before You Start

Before you start training, there are a few things that you can get out of the way.

If you are not a US citizen, you will need to apply for approval to begin flight training from the Transportation Security Administration.

This process will involve getting fingerprinted and having a thorough background check completed. The total cost of the process costs about $230.

You’ll need to apply for approval before you can start flying (sport pilot or private pilot), before you begin an instrument rating, and before you start your multiengine rating. US citizens only need to present documentation to their flight instructor before their first flight.

You should also consider getting your FAA medical exam out of the way. The exam is performed by an AME, or aviation medical examiner. It usually costs around $100.

It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and get the more stringent grade of certificate, a first-class medical, especially if you want to fly for a career. That way, if any medical issues come up, they won’t be a surprise later on. If you are only completing your private license, you only need a third-class medical.

Ground School

Ground school usually describes the bookwork and aeronautical knowledge you need to accumulate to pass the FAA’s written exam. There are two ways student pilots can go about accomplishing their ground school–they can take a course specifically aimed at passing the exam, or they can make an independent study program with the help of a flight instructor.

Taking a prepared course is often the best way to get the ground school component out of the way. Truth be told, there is plenty of aeronautical knowledge left to cover after you’ve passed the written exam. The FAA practical exam for your license will also require preparation, and your time with a flight instructor one-on-one is best saved for that purpose.

Thrust Flight Ground School

With so many varying options, the cost of ground school can vary considerably. If you are paying your flight instructor for personalized training, your cost could be significantly more than the cost of a class–it will just depend on how much independent study you do.

It’s worth noting that you’ll be taking written exams throughout your pilot career, and the preparation for them never really changes. Written exams are required for all licenses (commercial, ATP, flight instructor) and additional ratings (instrument, rotorcraft, etc.).

The total cost for most ground schools is around $400, plus the FAA written exam fee, which varies between $90 and $200.

Student Pilot Cost

The student pilot license is issued by the FAA or one of their designated pilot examiners (DPEs). Once you have demonstrated that you can safely solo the aircraft, your flight instructor will give you their endorsement, which shows that you have the knowledge and proficiency to fly alone under some circumstances.

The actual student pilot license is free, but all of the training that goes into getting it is not. You’ll get the student pilot license on your way to getting either a sport pilot or private pilot license, so the real cost is included in those numbers.

Sport Pilot License Cost

The cost of a pilot certificate is related to how many hours it takes you to complete it. Flight training is always performed to proficiency, so the cost varies dramatically from one student to another. It’s all one-on-one training, performed in the cockpit and the classroom. All of that time is billed per hour.

The FAA sets the minimum requirements that students must meet before they can take the FAA practical exam. These are spelled out in the Airman Certification Standards (ACRs), which state precisely how well maneuvers and tasks must be performed to pass. Your flight instructor’s goal is to train you well enough that you can do those tasks safely and proficiently. How much practice it takes to get you to that point depends on how much you study and your aptitude for flying an airplane.

The total sport pilot license cost, including the minimum 20 hours of flight training, is estimated at around $7,000.

Cost to get a sport pilot license

Private Pilot License Cost

The difference between the sport pilot and private pilot training programs isn’t as significant as you might think. The private pilot license includes more time learning about the national airspace system, flying at night, and flying cross-countries to other airports.

These are privileges that are more limited under the sport pilot rules, whereas a private pilot is allowed to fly nearly anywhere in the country.

The private pilot course consists of three different phases of training. During the pre-solo phase, you learn what you need to fly the plane safely. That training culminates in your first flight alone around the traffic pattern.

You then move into the cross-country phase of training to learn more about navigation and moving between airports. The last part of the course is practical exam preparation, where you bring all of these skills together and master them. It culminates in your checkride, a two-part practical exam. You’ll have an oral question and answer session, followed by a flight test in the plane.

Like sport pilot candidates, students who begin with the private pilot course can spend radically different amounts of time and money getting the license.

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) say that the minimum time you can get a private pilot certificate is 35 hours under Part 141 training or 40 hours under Part 61 (Learn the difference between Part 141 and Part 61). But the national average is closer to 70 hours, indicating that most pilots will take substantially longer than the regulatory minimums.

The minimum private pilot license cost, including 35 hours of flight training, is around $12,000.


Instrument Rating Cost

The instrument rating course follows the same general schedule that the private pilot did.

You need to complete a written exam, and many pilots choose to attend a formal ground school to prepare for it. You must complete at least 35 to 40 hours of training, broken into a few phases. In the end, like the private pilot license, you must pass a practical exam that consists of an oral knowledge test and practical flying skills checkride.

One benefit of the instrument rating is that you can accomplish quite a lot of the training in a flight simulator. Modern simulators are full motion, with cockpits that mimic the equipment you take flying in the real world. Time spent flying simulators is excellent for a lot of reasons. Not only does it save you money, but it also creates an environment where your flight instructor can hit “pause” for a moment to explain things thoroughly. And of course, you can train for dangerous scenarios more realistically in a simulator than you can in the plane.

The instrument rating’s estimated total cost, including 21 hours in the G1000-equipped Cessna 172SP and 14 hours of dual in the RedBird full-motion simulator, is around $12,000.

Commercial Pilot Cost

Two types of pilots look to upgrade their licenses to the commercial level.

One set of pilots is going to school to become professionals, and they need to get the required hours to get there. They follow a curriculum, which will need to include another 120 hours of flight time, including 55 of dual instruction and 65 hours of solo time. These pilots enroll in a FAR Part 141 program to get it done quickly.

Other pilots may have had their private certificates for a while and been using them. Maybe they own an airplane, or they rent and fly regularly. These pilots can get their commercial pilot license under FAR Part 61 when they get 250 hours of total time in their logbook. When they have around 200 hours, they should talk to a flight instructor and make a plan.

How much does it cost to become a pilot with a commercial license?

The two types of pilots make it harder to say. With so many hours in question, a lot of money can be saved using the smallest, least expensive planes available.

If pilots are doing independent flying, they might not be interested in the commercial license’s overall cost. All it will take is about ten hours of preparation for the exam. They may just need to know how many hours they’ll need to finish it up under Part 61.

No matter how you begin building your hours for the commercial pilot exam, everyone ends it at the same place–in the cockpit of a complex aircraft. Your initial commercial license test must be in a complex airplane.

A complex plane is one with retractable landing gear, an adjustable-pitch propeller, and flaps. You must have about ten hours in such an aircraft, so these are usually the ten hours right before your checkride.

The estimated total commercial pilot license cost is about $24,000. The exact makeup of the sorts of training flights you need to accomplish to fulfill the regulations vary considerably, so make sure you work closely with a flight instructor when you get to this point.

Fly turboprop airplanes with a high performance rating

Multiengine Rating Cost

multiengine rating can be added to any grade of pilot certificate–private, commercial, or ATP. Most pilots opt to get it with their initial commercial license or as an add-on after that.

The rating is one of the fastest, easiest, and most fun you can get. Flying a twin is exhilarating after you’ve been flying in a single. The climb rate, higher altitudes, and all-around better performance will bring a smile to your face.

The course includes roughly ten hours of dual instruction in a multiengine airplane. Only about five hours of ground instruction is needed to bring you up to speed on the new airplane’s systems and some multiengine aerodynamics.

The estimated total cost of the multiengine rating, with ten hours in the Beechcraft Duchess, is about $5,000.

Flight Instructor Cost

The flight instructor course is one that mostly revolves around ground training. There are no new maneuvers or airplane systems to learn, but you will be expected to know the material you have learned well enough to teach it to someone else.

There are two written exams required for the CFI course. The Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) is an exam about basic teaching techniques, introductory learner psychology, communication, and how to structure lessons and a curriculum. The Flight Instructor-Airplane exam looks a lot like the commercial pilot aeronautical knowledge exam.

Everything else about the flight instructor course is about setting you up to teach. You learn how to fly from the right seat of the cockpit, and you must know the maneuvers well enough to perform them while explaining them.

The total flight time required is usually around ten hours. You may have to do spin training if you are getting the single-engine airplane rating.

Every CFI will tell you that flying is the easiest part of the flight instructor course. Oral exams for this license are usually very thorough. You will be asked to prepare an entire ground lesson and teach it to the examiner, and you will need to show a commercial pilot-level of knowledge for all areas that you are asked to perform.

There are different ratings on the flight instructor certificate. If you intend to keep teaching, the flight instructor-instrument rating is worthwhile. The course and prep are similar in cost and time as the initial CFI, but there will be less groundwork prep since you will not have to retake the FOI.

The estimated total cost of a CFI training course is around $4,000.

Become an airline pilot with an ATP rating

Airline Transport Pilot Cost

To qualify to become an airline transport pilot (ATP), you must have accrued 1,500 hours of total flying time. Few people pay for all of that time; the ATP is usually a license that working professionals get after they’re already well into their careers.

Remember, there are lots of jobs in the aviation world that only require a commercial pilot license.

You only need an ATP to work for an airline. Many copilot jobs, banner towing, sightseeing flights, survey flying, or flight instruction all only need a commercial. Most pilots build their time up to 1,500 hours by working other jobs, and then they get the ATP as the next step in their careers.

The actual cost of getting the ATP isn’t that great because the flight training is pretty simple.

Any pilot who has built up 1,500 flying hours is likely to be reasonably experienced. Most ATP applicants need less than 20 hours of flight training to get themselves ready for the checkride. Pilots who do not do a lot of instrument flying may need a little more time since the ATP is heavily an instrument-flying checkride.

The written exam is another matter. The ATP written is difficult, but most pilots find success with independent study programs and the occasional check-in with their flight instructors.

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.

Flight Training Articles

3 Ways to Pay for Flight School

3 Ways to Pay for Flight School

The demand for more commercial pilots seems to increase every year, and forecasts over the next 20 years are unprecedented. Boeing estimates the global demand for pilots over the next twenty years will be upwards of 635,000. In the U.S. alone over 80,000 pilots will retire over the next twenty years.

However, the path to becoming an airline pilot can be daunting, particularly the cost of training. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce that cost or receive some financing.

Before we dig into ways to pay for flight training, however, here’s a few tips on reducing the cost.

How to Reduce the Cost of Flight Training

First and foremost, do your homework. Identify all of the flight schools in your area and even consider some of the larger flight schools you could travel to for training. Compare the types of planes they fly, their rates, their instructor rates and what their pass rate looks like.

Once you start your training, make it frequent and consistent. When you train regularly the material sticks and you’ll progress more quickly. In addition, make sure you study on your own time. The more studying you do on your own the less time you’ll need to spend with an instructor who is charging you by the hour.

Treat your training as an actual job and you’ll save money over the course of your training.

Ways to Pay for Flight Training

If you’re headed to the airlines you’ll need 1,500 hours of flight time and several ratings and certificates. All of these carry a hefty price tag.

Fortunately, if you don’t have the funds upfront to pay for it there are options available. Here’s a few common ways pilots pay for flight training when they, or a family member can’t cover the cost.


If you’re attending a university in conjunction with your flight training there are many scholarships available to you. Just talk with your counselor or finance office to get more info.

If you’re not attending a university while flight training there are still some scholarship opportunities but they aren’t quite so plentiful. Start by checking with the AOPA. You can also check out the FAA’s giant list of aviation scholarships.

Here at Thrust Flight we also offer a flight training scholarship that opens up for applications a couple times a year.

Loans and Financing Options

Taking out a loan for your flight training is something to consider very carefully. If you’re pursuing a career in aviation it may be worthwhile to take out a loan in order to get your training done quickly.

By training full time you’ll be able to get all the training completed in a much shorter period of time and, like mentioned above, your training is typically completed faster.

Your goal should be to get to the airlines in 2 years from the time you start training.

If you’re pursuing a career in aviation be sure to head over to our Zero Time to Airline page and take a look.

For information on financing your Zero Time to Airline program, check out our financing page.

If you’re pursuing flight training as a recreational pilot, it may be better to save up rather than taking out a loan to pay for training.

Military Assistance

One route some people choose is to enter the military with the hope of doing their flight training.

This can be a challenging route as you don’t necessarily get to decide if you’ll be a pilot or not. The choice is often made for you.

However, if you were in the military previously or are currently, you can use the tuition assistance program to pay for your flight training.

You can also use your GI Bill to help pay for advanced flight training, however, you must have your private pilot license first. The GI Bill can help pay for your training whether you are doing it through a private or public university or vocational training.

If you’re interested in learning more about the requirements visit the VA website.

Bonus Tip: Work at a Flight School

Many flight schools will give their employees a discounted rate on their training. Check in with local flight schools to see if this is something they offer. Then, keep your eye out for job opportunities at those schools.

You don’t necessarily need to be working for them as a pilot in order to receive discounted training so you don’t need to wait until you become a CFI.

You could work the front desk, work as a dispatcher, or any other number of jobs needed around a flight school and still receive the discounted training.

If you’re looking, be sure to check out our careers page to see if we have any open positions.

How to Pay for Flight Training

Ready to Become an Airline Pilot?

Explore our Zero Time to Airline flight training program. We'll help you get to the
airlines in less than 2 years! Click below to learn more.