Working as a pilot can be an exciting career, as you will be paid generously and get to travel to various destinations. However, the path to becoming a pilot is a bit complicated and confusing. There are several steps involved and you need to meet all the eligibility norms mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To make things easier for you, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a pilot.
Basic eligibility – To be eligible for becoming a pilot, you will need to meet the basic eligibility criteria mandated as per Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR). The minimum age is 16 years for student pilot certificate, 17 years for private pilot, 18 years for commercial pilot and flight instructor and 23 years for airline transport pilots.
Student pilot certificate and medical certificate – Before joining the flight school, you will need a student pilot certificate and medical certificate. This is usually a single document that you get when you pass aviation medical exam. Your health will be assessed by a doctor and they will accordingly approve or deny your medical certificate.
Joining a flight school – The fastest way to become a pilot is to join a flight school that offers fast-track flight programs. You can join a flight school even with zero flight hours. At the flight school you will be learning theoretical aspects of aeronautics as well as receive flight training. The other option is to enroll for collegiate flight training programs, wherein you will get flight training as well as a college degree. However, this option can be quite expensive. It also takes much longer, usually around four years.
Private pilot knowledge test and practical exam – Once you have gained the necessary knowledge and flying hours, you need to pass private pilot knowledge test. This is an online test conducted by FAA. In the final step, you will have to undertake practical flying test. This is similar to taking a driving license test. The practical exam for private pilot certificate will be conducted by a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE).
It is important to note that just getting a private pilot certificate is not enough to be hired as a commercial pilot. Most commercial pilot jobs require you to have a minimum number of flying hours. The flight hours you recorded at the training school is usually not enough to meet the mandated minimal flying hours specified by airline companies. To add more flying hours, most aspiring commercial pilots work as Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) for few years. This way, they become eligible to be hired by an airline, corporate entity or charter company.