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Flight Training Overview : Everything you need to know.

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Training Overview

A brief look at what it takes to become a pilot


Training can be challenging because we all learn in different ways and have different goals and timelines. Despite all the differences, the expectation to prepare for the checkride is the same.


An instructor's job is to teach the student. A student’s job is to obtain a certain amount of knowledge and prove to the instructor that they’re ready to become a pilot. The student will need an endorsement from the instructor in order to take the checkride and the instructor needs to be confident in the student’s knowledge and skills before the instructor gives it to them. The following content should help guide the student on what it takes to earn the endorsement.


Ground Knowledge: There is an extensive amount of knowledge that a student must obtain in order to be a safe, responsible pilot and pass the checkride. The questions asked during the checkride are often quite different from what is on the written test. Most of the knowledge can be obtained from the books listed below but there are many other resources out there to help a student gain and understand the information.

  • PHAK - This should be read and studied extensively front to back. Almost everything in this book will be fair game at the checkride.

  • FAR/AIM - With a few exceptions, only the items listed under the Private Pilot study guide should be studied. A common way to organize this book is to highlight each applicable regulation and then put a labeled tab on that page.

  • AFM/POH - This should be read front to back and sections 1-7 should be studied extensively. Memorize items such as V speeds, engine type, capacities, limitations, etc… These are specific to the trainer airplane. Copies are often provided by the flight school or found online.

  • ACS - Use this as a guide for the checkride. It is recommended to go through each line item pertaining to the rating sought to determine and record the reference.

  • Online Ground School - Highly recommended and many options available. They come in varying levels of intensity and support. Most will even provide the endorsement needed to take the written exam.

  • In-Person Ground Training

  • 1 on 1 - Often the most effective but expensive way to gain knowledge. Use this when needed to understand difficult subjects. Also, take advantage of the time before and after flights to ask a few questions and make the most of the time already being spent with an instructor.

  • Group Lessons - A great way to save some money on live ground training. Many schools offer this. It’s kind of like taking a modified college course. Even if a school doesn’t have one, attending one at a different school is always an option.

  • Student Lead Study Session - People learn 90% of what they teach. This is also a great way to save money on training.


Flight Maneuvers: The instructor will teach the student how to perform a maneuver properly but the goal is that the student will be able to eventually conduct it without any assistance. This includes all pre-maneuver checks, entry settings, and recovery. The instructor should help the student improve their skills and be there for them as needed, but as they get closer to the checkride, they should be able to perform all maneuvers listed in the ACS to standards without any prompts from the instructor.


Frequency of training: 7 out of 5 flight instructors agree that the most efficient way to get a pilot certificate is to fly 3-5 times per week. Any less than that and they'll most likely need to fly more hours to stay competent in their flying ability. It's also not realistic for everyone to fly that often, and that's okay. Ultimately, each student makes their own schedule and a good instructor will do their best to help the student stay proficient no matter how much they fly. If a student is not flying at least 3 times per week, it would be beneficial to spend a little extra time studying flight maneuvers and chair-plane flying before each lesson.


Scheduling: Different schools handle scheduling in different ways. Getting on the schedule well in advance can help a student get the day and time that works best with their schedule. It can also help to schedule slightly more flights than needed to account for weather and maintenance cancellations.


Other Tips for Success:

  • Make the most of a canceled flight - If a flight gets canceled because of weather, maintenance, or other reasons, that time could be used to do a ground lesson or just sit in the plane and get familiar with it.

  • Hitch a ride in the back seat - Most schools will allow a student to ride in the back seat while another lesson is going on. It’s like getting free training!

  • Chair-plane fly - This is a common training technique in aviation. It’s simply walking through the steps of flying a plane, without the plane. This can be done to practice pattern work, maneuvers, emergency procedures, or anything else that happens inside the cockpit. Some people will even use a poster or picture of their instrument panel to help them visualize what they’re doing.


Hopefully this adds clarification and guidance to the process of becoming a pilot. Never hesitate to ask an instructor a question regarding anything about aviation. They want their students to succeed!



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