Flight schools for private pilots

How to choose a flight school for your PPL

The most crucial factor in a pilot’s success is where and how they get their training. There are many factors that determine what flight school is best for you. Any beginning pilot who intends to make a career out of it or is very serious about flying will want to start their flight training with the private pilot’s license. Choosing the right school can make all the difference in whether you finish your PPL and how much time and money you spend on it.

Before going to flight school, note that many people will not be able to pass the medical requirements to become a pilot. I strongly recommend that all prospective pilots get the medical exam for their target license, so if you want to be an airline pilot, get a first class medical certificate. Commercial pilots need the second class certificate and private pilots need a third class. Getting your certificate early will let you know if you have any medical conditions that might prevent you from getting your pilot’s license.

Aviation colleges

Aviation colleges are primarily intended for people who are focused on flying eventually for a major airline. While they are a good fit for some people, you should avoid these kind of schools unless that is your dream because they can be very expensive and there is no guarantee of employment in the piloting industry.

Military training

Every branch of the U.S. Military has pilot training programs and this is another good option if you want to become an airline pilot. Keep in mind that this option requires a bachelor’s degree in most cases, because pilots are commissioned officers. There are many stories of people who were told they can apply for the pilot program by a dishonest recruiter only to find out later that they are ineligible because they don’t have a degree. The one exception is that in the army, there is a warrant officer program for pilots so it is possible to fly army helicopters joining with a high school diploma.

Fixed Base Operators

FBOs are businesses based usually on small airports that provide many services, usually including flight training. FBOs have the advantage of being the easiest to find and are the most common flight schools that pilots use. AOPA has a great tool to find flight schools in the U.S. based on your location.

Private instructor

It is possible to find a certified flight instructor who is unaffiliated with any flight school. This is a perfectly valid method provided their certifications are all current and has the potential to be a bit cheaper than the other options, but your training can suffer due to scheduling or maintenance problems because a single pilot will have fewer options for planes etc. than an official flight school.

Flight schools are designated part 61 or part 141 by the FAA. The differences are minor and will not make a significant difference for private pilot license. We will come back to the differences in commercial license, where they can affect your training more substantially.

Ground school is a vital part of any flight training and a large enough flight school will have ground school courses that are offered in an actual classroom. The FAA allows home study and online courses, but your flight instructor will have to approve your ground instruction and sign off that you are ready to take the knowledge test.

Medical requirements for pilots

Are you medically qualified to become a pilot? Let’s take a look at the different levels of medical certification. UnderstanAviation Medical Examiner www.pilothub.orgding the FAA medical requirements for pilots could save you lots of time and money if you are ineligible, in which case you may want to look into the Sport Pilot license. Sport pilot is the only license that can be obtained without a medical certification.

There are three types of medical certification for flying in the U.S.A. The third-class is required for student, recreational, and private pilots, second-class is for commercial pilots, and the first-class medical certificate is required to get an airline transport pilot license. If your ultimate goal is to become a commercial or airline pilot, it may be worth taking the appropriate certification


Vision is the most important sense for a pilot; it allows you to understand your surroundings and avoid collisions. Your vision will be tested for distant vision, near vision, intermediate vision, and color vision. All of the vision requirements allow vision correction such as glasses or contacts, but you will be required to use your vision correction when flying. Your eyesight will be tested for individual eyes.

Distant vision: First and Second-class certificates require 20/20 or better. Third class certificate requires 20/40 or better.
Near vision: All classes require 20/40 or better, measured at a distance of 16 inches.
Intermediate vision: Requires 20/40 or better, measured at a distance of 32 inches. This is required only for First and Second-class certificates.
Color vision: All classes require color vision testing. “Ability to perceive those colors necessary for safe performances of airman duties.”

Again, these are tested in both eyes separately and you are allowed to wear corrective lenses.


All classes are required to take a hearing test. FAA regulations allow the examiner to test this simply in a non-qualitative way or with specific frequencies and volumes. Hearing is very important as a pilot so that you can communicate with the ground.

“Demonstrate hearing of an average conversational voice in a quiet room, using both ears at 6 feet, with the back turned to the examiner or pass one of the audiometric tests below.”
500 Hz- 35 dB in each ear
1000 Hz- 30dB in better ear, 50 dB in worst ear2000 Hz- 30dB in better ear, 50 dB in worst ear
3000 Hz- 40dB in better ear, 60 dB in worst ear

Ears, nose, and throat (ENT): “No ear disease or condition manifested by, or that may reasonably be expected to maintained by, vertigo or a disturbance of speech or equilibrium.”


Electro-cardiogram (ECG) is required only for first-class certificates
Blood Pressure: Guideline maximum of 155/95

Disqualifying conditions
Angina pectoris
Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant
Myocardial infarction
Cardiac valve replacement
Permanent cardiac pacemaker
Heart replacement


Disqualifying conditions
bipolar disorder
severe personality disorders.
Substance dependence and substance abuse
Disturbance of consciousness and without satisfactory explanation of cause
Transient loss of control of nervous system functions without satisfactory explanation of cause

Other disqualifying conditions

Diabetes requiring hypoglycemic medication

If you think that you can pass all of these requirements, there is a good chance that you will be able to pass the medical examination, but there may be other disqualifying factors that are not listed here. Only an Aviation Medical Examiner can tell you for certain whether you are eligible for your pilot license.

This information is intended for educational purposes only. This information can be downloaded as a pdf from the FAA.
FAA medical requirements

How to become a pilot

Want to know how to become a pilot? Follow the five steps below to get a private pilot’s license.

1: Find a flight school near you and start flying today!

There is nothing that you have to do before you can take an introductory lesson with a flight instructor. Your certified flight instructor (CFI) will help guide you and answer your questions on how to become a pilot. You won’t be able to fly solo until you have a student pilot certificate and your instructor endorses it for solo flight.
Flight schools for private pilots



2: Obtain a student pilot certificate

The next step is to obtain a third class medical certificate from an aviation medical examiner (AME). The AME will examine you and if you are healthy enough to fly, give you the student pilot and medical certificate. A student pilot certificate does not permit you to fly solo until your CFI decides that you are ready and endorses your certificate for solo flight. It is important to do this step early because further training can be expensive and there is a chance that you will not pass the medical exam. In case you don’t qualify medically it is better to know before you spend thousands of dollars on training. The student pilot certificate will last 60 months (five years) unless you are 40 years old, in which case it is only good for 24 months.

FAA medical requirements for pilots

Step 3: Knowledge testing (Ground school)

All pilot licenses require some knowledge testing. While students traditionally attended classes to study for this test, many students today prefer to study on their own or online to save money. This is acceptable but you will need to have some form of official documentation stating that you have completed ground instruction. If you buy a course that is pure memorization, demand your money back! Memorizing answers will not get you through this test. Even if the FAA used the same test every time (they don’t) the knowledge that you are being tested on is essential to a pilot and not knowing it is very unsafe.

Step 4: Dual and solo flight training

Once you have passed the written test, you can focus on flying. The schedule here is up to you and your CFI, but you will need a minimum of 40 hours of flight time before you are allowed to move on. Flight time can get expensive, and your flight school may have some financing available. Many flight schools will hire back their students as CFIs once they are fully certified, which is a great way to rack up flight time while getting paid for it. Your CFI will let you know when you are ready to take the practical test.

Step 5: Practical Test

When your CFI has approved it, make an appointment for your oral test and flight test to show our abilities. Congratulations,  you are now certified as a private pilot! If you intend to fly for personal non-commercial reasons only, this is all you need to fly under most conditions. If you want to fly commercially you will need a commercial pilot certificate.