Learn to Fly


Milestone Hours
PPL: Private Pilot License 40 Hours
IR: INSTRUMENT RATING cross-country >= 50 hours
Commercial Pilot Certificate 250 Hours
CFI 250 hours
ATP: Airline Transport Pilot 1,500 Hours
Type Ratings

Multie-ngine: an addon, no written tests.


  • Airplane Single-Engine Seaplane (ASES)
  • Airplane Multi-Engine Seaplane (AMES)

Private vs recreational vs sport

  • Private: min 40 hours
  • Recreational pilot certificate: min 30 hours. fewer hours of cross-country navigation training because you must remain within 50 nautical miles of your home base unless you have additional endorsements. You also won't have to learn to fly in airspace requiring communications with air traffic control. And night operations and flight by reference to instruments, which are part of the private pilot training, are eliminated from the recreational pilot's curriculum.
    • restrictions:
      • your flying must be during daylight hours in good weather.
      • can carry only one passenger in single-engine aircraft of 180 horsepower or less with up to four seats.
      • You can fly no higher than 10,000 feet unless you happen to be flying over terrain, such as a mountain, that is higher than 10,000 feet.
  • Sport Pilot’s Certificate (started from 2004): min 20 hours
    • limited to planes with lower take off weight (smaller, lighter aircraft) with no more than two seats: less than 1,3200 lbs at takeoff and landing and 1,430 lbs at takeoff from the water.

Documents and Books

  • Regulation and official guide:
    • FAR: Federal Aviation Regulations. Easy to read online: use eCFR https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-14
    • AIM: Aeronautical Information Manual. Basically a textbook with further information to FAR.
  • Learn to fly:
    • ACS: Airman Certification Standards (ACS) replaces the Practical Test Standards (PTS) for the Private Pilot Airplane certificate and the Instrument-Airplane rating.
      • Private Pilot ACS
      • Instrument ACS
      • Commercial ACS
      • ATP ACS
    • AFH: Airplane Flying Handbook.
    • PHAK: Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
    • IFH: Instrument Flying Handbook.
    • IPH: Instrument Procedures Handbook.
    • Weather Handbook
    • Risk Management Handbook
    • Aviation Instructor's Handbook.
  • Per aircraft:
    • POH: Pilot’s Operating Handbook.
    • AFM: Airplane Flight Manual.
  • Important ACs:
    • AC 61-142: Sharing Aircraft Operating Expenses
    • AC 90-66C: Non-Towered Airport Flight Operations
    • AC 90-108: Use of Suitable RNAV Systems on Conventional Routes and Procedures
    • AC 61-98D: Guidance for the Flight Review and IPC
    • AC 91-92: Pilot's Guide to a Preflight Briefing

ACS only lists the items for certification; the handbooks are based on ACS to provide more details; then there are many non official test prep books.

ACS (the standard) => PHAK (the handbook) => Test Prep Books



Airplane Flight Manual / Pilot’s Operating Handbook (AFM/POH)

Each aircraft has its own POH.

Technically POH = AFM + manufacturer additions, but the terms are being used interchangeably now.

POH is the presentation of the AFM and whatever other information the manufacturer wants to add, in a standard format. "AFM" is the regulation; "POH" does not appear in FAR.

The POH for most light aircraft built after 1975 is also designated as the FAA-approved flight manual.

The typical AFM/POH contains the following nine sections:

  • General;
  • Limitations;
  • Emergency Procedures;
  • Normal Procedures;
  • Performance;
  • Weight and Balance/Equipment List;
  • Systems Description;
  • Handling, Service, and Maintenance; and Supplements。

Private Pilot License

PPL 4 phases:

  • intro
  • solo
  • cross country / night
  • checkride


The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours flight time to undertake the practical test for getting your private pilot certificate.

  • 20 hrs with CFI
  • 3 hrs cross-country
  • 3 hrs night
    • 1 cross-country over 100 nm
    • 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop
  • 3 hrs IFR
  • 3 hrs prep for the practical test with CFI
  • 10 hrs solo
    • 5 hrs solo cross-country
    • 1 solo cross-country of 150 nm, with full-stop landings at 3 points, one segment of flight consisting of a straight-line distance of >50 nm
    • 3 takeoffs and 3 landings to a full stop with an operating control tower

"night time":

  • night time: sunset to sunrise; nav lights on
  • night time when taking passengers: 1hr after sunset to 1hr before sunrise


  • 3rd class for training, valid for 5 years.
  • 2nd class for commercial flights
  • 1st class for airlines, valid for half year if over 40

How long it takes

The average total flight time for private pilot training in the U.S. is approximately 55 to 70 hours. National average is 65 hours.


Airplane rental (2-4 seats), wet, per hour: $100-250

Instructor fee per hour: $40-90

How to save time and money?

Written Exam

  • Books
    • Rod Machados Private Pilot Handbook
    • Private Pilot Test Prep
    • The Student Pilot's Flight Manual
  • ASAs Color E6B Flight Computer
  • CX-3 Flight Computer

Questions when shopping flight schools

  • Fees: What are the initiation and monthly fees? Most clubs charge a monthly fee, a few also charge an initiation/application fee. Also, some clubs charge you a monthly fee even in months you don't fly.
  • Ground school: What are the options for ground school? Do you need to attend a class or can you self study?
  • Rental: are they rented wet (with fuel) or dry (without fuel)?
    • Cross Country / Overnight: If you plan to use aircraft for longer trips, what are the daily minimums when booking the aircraft for a full day?
  • Insurance: What insurance is provided to you? What are the deductibles?
  • Instructors: Find an instructor that teaches the way you learn the best.
    • Do instructors charge by wall time or Hobbes + N?
  • Fleet: Is the fleet primarily glass or steam gauge? (Either can work, some people have a preference.) Only 172 / Piper or does it have some step-up options? Which years?
  • Schedule: How far out do you have to look on the schedule to find time? 2 weeks or so is typical, try to avoid places where you have to book a month out. Make sure the school is not oversubscribed.
  • Part 61 or Part 141? 141 is a much more structured curriculum but has lower hour minimums. 141 may be recommended for Instrument, but for Private, you can go either way.
  • Blocktime: Can you buy flight time in bulk to get a discount?

Instrument Rating

  • 50 hours of Pilot in Command cross country
  • 40 hours of simulated or actual instrument time
  • 15 hours of flight instruction towards instrument rating

cross country >= 250nm (e.g. SF to LA ~300nm)

Log time: Safety pilot can log the time.

Private vs Commercial

Private maneuvers:

  • Steep Turn
  • Slow Flight
  • Power-off stall
  • Power-on stall

Commercial new maneuvers:

  • Chandelles
  • Lazy Eights
  • Eights on Pylons
  • Steep Spirals

Aerobatics maneuvers:

  • Barrel or Slow Roll
  • Loop or Clover Leaf
  • Snap Roll
  • Vertical Reverse
  • Cuban Eight
  • Spins
  • Inverted Flight

Online Resources


Free online ground school: https://www.slingpilotacademy.com/free-online-ground-school/

Training Planes

Cessna 172 Citabria
Seats 4 2, Tandem
Empty Weight 1,680 lb 1,120 lb
Useful Load 878 lb 630 lb
MTOW 2,550 lb 1,750 lb
Usable Fuel Volume 53 gal. 35 gal.

C152 vs Citabria

C152 and Citabria: both Lycoming O-235; C152 110hp, new Citabria 7ECA have Lycoming O-235-K2C 118hp. The first O-235 model was certified on 11 February 1942. The O-235 was developed into the lighter-weight Lycoming IO-233 engine for light sport aircraft.

C152 vs C172

152 visibility worse than 172.

152 first flap <85 kt; 172 first flap <110 kt.

Piper P-28

There are a number of reasons why Piper aircraft are not as popular for training.

  • Lack of spin certification on many models.
  • Less utility for 700 ops if the flight school also does aerial work or air taxi.
  • Less downward visibility for forced and precautionaries.
  • More complicated fuel systems (elec pump and left or right only).
  • Less airframes and support available for the above reasons.
  • Only one door.
  • Low wing, need to climb up and down especially during preflight checks.

New Pilot Checklist

  • FTSP if not U.S. citizen (you can add multiple aircraft types in the application)
  • Medical exam: 3rd class, before solo
  • Ground School: sporty / king schools
  • foreflight (incl. logbook)

Getting Started

  • For non-citizen: get TSA approval
  • apply for your student pilot certificate: make an account on the FAA’s IACRA website (https://iacra.faa.gov/)
    • IACRA: Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application
    • get a FTN (FAA Tracking Number). It will stay with you throughout the course of your aviation career. FTN is required for FAA Airman Knowledge Test (AKT).
    • your FTN is a different number than your certificate number.
    • apply for student pilot certificate, needed for solo.

Pre-solo airwork

  • slow flight -> power on/off stall
    • slow down first; carb heat on;
  • steep turn, ground reference
    • slow cruise

carb heat on (hot) if <2000 RPM, prelanding, slow flight off: before take off; after landing

mixture: lean during cruise and taxi

power on stall => simulating take off stall

  • Indicated airspeed assumes zero instrument error only.

Learn in Alaska

Seaplane / back country: https://alaskafloatratings.com/

Other ratings and licenses

  • Instrument Ground Instructor (IGI)
  • Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI)


  • Stick and rudder

Must Read

  • Aeronautical Chart Users' Guide: VFR charts
  • PHAK
  • ACS
  • How to decode METAR/TAF/PIREP