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  • Rachel Miller

Pilot License Breakdown: How to Become a Professional Pilot

Analysts are saying that aviation "will bounce back stronger than ever once travel restrictions ease" [Forbes] and when it does, there will need to be experienced pilots to fly the planes.

Why Become a Professional Pilot?

Becoming a professional pilot has incredible perks. flying as a career means that you get to connect your passion with your work. You can become one of those people who says, ”I love my job” and mean it. As a pilot, the cockpit will become your office and the fluffy tops of clouds become your window view. Exploring new cities and having incredible experiences will become your new norm.

How Do You Get Certified?

First, you’ll want to assess your goals.

How soon do you want to become eligible for your dream job? Would you like to take a few lessons a month or become a full-time student? Where would you like to live during your training? Decide what it is that you are looking for from a Flight School in regards to their programs, aircraft, location, etc. so that you can find the Flight School that is best suited for you.

Training leisurely or training full-time both have their pros and cons. However, the more you immerse yourself in your training, the faster you will get it done. Taking multiple lessons a week will help you retain your knowledge and skills so that you become a proficient pilot.

Once you found your dream Flight School, begin setting up your training programs and schedule. Your Flight Instructor will help you create an account on IACRA so that you can get your free student pilot certificate.

Your student pilot certificate is your ticket to start training. During the stage, you’ll need to purchase your first logbook, headset, kneeboard, and textbooks. You’ll also want to schedule a medical examination with an approved FAA medical examiner. If you are planning to fly for the airlines, you’ll need a first-class medical so you might as well make sure you’re eligible although you only need a third class medical for your first pilots' license.

Private Pilot’s License

Alongside an experienced instructor, you’ll practice visual maneuvers, takeoffs, and landings, and the many required skills in the ACS (Airman Certification Standards). During this time, you’ll pair your 1 on 1 lesson with at-home studies to ensure that you can pass your FAA written exam as well as obtain a basic understanding of aerodynamics, weather, and the many topics related to your private pilots' license. When you can demonstrate proficient skills, your instructor will endorse you to solo.

Once you’ve accumulated at least 40 hours (part 61) including cross country time, solo time, and all other requirements, you’ll take your check ride. Each new license will require you to take a written exam as stated above and a checkride.

Instrument Rating

When you become a private pilot, you can start working on your instrument rating. The instrument rating is your ticket to flying in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) or low visibility. In contrast with the private pilot’s license which is associated with outside visual references such as the horizon or landmarks, the instrument rating gets its name because your eyes will constantly be scanning the instruments inside the plane.

During this phase of your training, you’ll again need to pass a written exam and combine your lessons with the at-home study. Your instructor will teach you how to scan your instruments, safely complete various approaches, enter holding procedures, and more.

Commercial Pilot Certificate

The commercial license is your method of proving to the FAA that you can handle the responsibility and skills required to get paid for your flying services. Just when you are accustomed to focusing only on your instruments in flight, the commercial pilot certificate requires you to look outside the aircraft at visual maneuvers. The commercial license requires more in-depth knowledge and advanced maneuvers than the private pilots' license require.

Once you pass the written exam and your checkride, you are able to earn money as a pilot. At this point, you’ll have accumulated approximately 250 hours of flight time. The airlines require 1,500 hours, and therefore you have to add quite a bit more time to your logbook. In order to do so, many commercial pilots opt to get their certified flight instructor rating.

Multiengine Rating

Unlike the ratings thus far, there is no hour requirement for your multiengine rating. You will train with an instructor until your proficiency in a twin-engine aircraft earns you an endorsement to take your checkride. You’ll need your multiengine rating to become an airline pilot, but you do not need to rush to obtain it after your commercial license. You have 1,250 hours in between your commercial license and ATP if you want to get your multiengine rating during your period as a flight instructor or other professional pilot.

Certified Flight Instructor

A great aspect of becoming a flight instructor is that you can time build while getting paid instead of you paying out of pocket for more hours. The plane rental, other operating costs, and your services will be paid for by your student. You can even get an additional rating CFII (Certified Flight Instrument Instructor) to teach instrument students.

An instructor earns an average of 700 hours per year. At this rate, you’ll have 1,500 hours within two years of becoming a certified flight instructor and you qualify to become an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot). Not only will you become more competitive in your job interviews with CFI on your resumé, but your skills and knowledge will improve by teaching and reviewing student material.

Is it worth it? YES, and here's why.

Check out resources you'll need as a private pilot!

Purchase your logbook here.

BFR - By far the most concise well organized VFR flight review book on the market.

Private Pilot Oral Exam Guide - Updated to reflect vital FAA regulatory, procedural, and training changes, this indispensable tool prepares private pilots for their checkride.

FAR AIM 2021 - Federal Aviation Regulations/Aeronautical Information Manual

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