How old do I have to be to start learning to fly?

You may begin flight instruction at any age, but you must be at least 16 years of age to be eligible for a student pilot certificate in powered aircraft.  A student pilot certificate is required in order to fly solo, but not for dual instruction.

What is the age limit to fly as a private pilot?

There is no age limit as long as you can pass the medical exam.

Do I need a medical exam?

You must have a medical exam in order to solo, but you can begin instruction before you have completed the medical exam. However, it is a good idea to have the exam done early in your training, to ensure that you do not have any conditions that will make flying prohibitive.

Do I need to speak English?

Yes, you must be able to read, speak, and understand the English language. It doesn't mean your English has to be perfect, but it must be easy for you to understand instructions and to be understood when you communicate.

How old do I have to be to get my private pilot certificate?

You must be at least 17 years of age to be licensed to fly airplanes.

What tests are involved?

There are three parts to testing. First, you must pass a written test on the subject areas on which instruction or home study is required. Secondly, you must pass an oral exam given by an FAA inspector or examiner, and lastly, pass a practical test on procedures and maneuvers selected by an FAA inspector or examiner to determine your ability to competently fly the aircraft and perform certain maneuvers.

Do I need some sort of ground school?

There are a few different ways to tackle the ground training.  You can find a ground school where classes are given that cover the areas of information covered by the written exam, you can do an online or home study course, or you can work with your instructor as you go, studying the information that is relevant to your current flight trianing.  In any case, you will work closely with your instructor as you progress to make sure you learn everything you need to know.

Is the test difficult?

No, it is not difficult, but does require that you put time into studying and learning the material. The FAA publishes all the possible questions they could ask you on the written test. Your test will only involve approximately sixty multiple choice questions. Taking several practice tests will assure you are prepared and will most likely have seen the questions (and answers) beforehand.

How many hours are required to get my pilot certificate?

The FAA requires 40 hours of total flight time including at least 20 hours of instruction and 10 hours of solo practice. However, most people require a bit more than that. The average is around 60 hours total, but it is definitely possible to do it in less time though if you fly frequently.

How much does it cost?

Prices vary a little for the airplane depending on its age and equipment. The airplane rental page here will show the hourly rates but for purpose of this example we used a Cessna 172 that rents for $155 per hour. The Flight Instructor rates are from $60 per hour of Ground/Primary Instruction to $70 per hour for advanced Flight Instruction.

You are normally charged by time on a meter in the airplane called a Hobbs Meter. It measures tenths of an hour only when the engine is running. Here is an estimate of costs.

·         Airplane: $155/hour X 55 hours $8,525

·         Primary Instruction: $60/hour X 45 hours $2,700

·         Ground Instruction: $60/hours X 20 hours $1,200

·         Written Test $150 (approx.)

·         Flight Test $450

·         Misc. Supplies $150

·         TOTAL $13,175

You normally pay as you go so it is not necessary to come up with all the money at once. Again, this is just an estimate and your costs may vary. Most people train over a six to twelve month period. Flying is a physical skill as well as a mental skill. The greater the intensity of your training, the faster you will progress, and usually, the more money you will save. 

When will I be able to fly solo?

That is entirely up to your instructor and your progression in training. Many students solo with approximately 10-15 hours of training. It could be more or less depending on how often you fly, and what you have been able to accomplish. Your instructor is required to provide you with specific training and must judge your abilities before he/she can allow you to solo.

What types of things will I be trained in?

There are many categories involving both physical flying skill and knowledge. Here are a few:


·         Preflight Inspections

·         Certificates and Documents

·         Airplane Servicing

·         Aircraft Systems

·         Radio Communications

·         Straight and Level Flight

·         Medium and Steep Banked Turns

·         Airport Pattern Operations

·         Flight at Approach Airspeeds

·         Approaches and Landings

·         Climbs and Descents

·         Airport and Runway Markings and Lighting

·         Aircraft Performance and Limitations • Power On and Off Stalls

·         Emergency Procedures

·         Maneuvers with Reference to the Ground

·         Navigation

·         Crosswind Takeoffs and Landings

·         Short and Soft Field Takeoffs and Landings

·         Flight Planning

·         Flight Publications

·         Air Traffic Control

·         Aeromedical Factors

·         Weather and Weather Forecasts

·         Night Flying

·         National Airspace

Although the list seems daunting, be assured that the material is easy to understand and is presented to the student in a logical flow. The knowledge and skills required build on one another and complement each other.

What if I'm not sure I'll like it or I don't have "the right stuff"?

If you are on the fence about flying, come out to SunWest Aviation and take an introductory lesson. After an inspection of the airplane, your instructor will get you airborne and begin your instruction in the four fundamentals; flying straight and level, turns, climbs, and descents, which will give you a chance to get a feel for flying and whether or not you enjoy it.  It will also give you a chance to talk over your options with the instructor.

Does SunWest Aviation offer helicopter flight instruction?

SunWest Aviation does NOT offer helicopter flight training.