Learn to Fly


This is the "trunk" route that most most pilot go through:

Milestone Hours
Student Pilot License
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

There are other trainings you can take to make your journey more interesting:

  • Seaplane:
    • Airplane Single-Engine Seaplane (ASES)
    • Airplane Multi-Engine Seaplane (AMES)
  • Ratings for a ground instructor:
    • Instrument Ground Instructor (IGI)
    • Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI)
  • Learn in Alaska
  • Glider
  • Tailwheel
  • Aerobatic
  • If you do not want to get PPL, you can also get a Sport or Recreational pilot license. Check how they are different.

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.
    • Aeronautical Chart Users' Guide
    • Chart Supplements
  • 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
  • How to decode METAR/TAF/PIREP


  • Stick and rudder

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



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

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

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 additional 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 Cessna 152 Citabria
Seats 4 2 2, Tandem
Empty Weight 1,680 lb 1,081 lbs 1,037 lb
Useful Load 878 lb 589 lb 613 lb
MTOW 2,550 lb 1,670 lb 1,650 lb
HP 180 HP 110 HP 115/118 HP
Usable Fuel Volume 53 gal. 25 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 downward visibility.
  • More complicated fuel systems (elec pump and left or right only).
  • 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.



Prep for written tests

  • For PPL, Sporty's questions are close enough.
  • For IR+: sheppardair
  • sheppardair does not provide PPL course, "The Private Pilot tests are not undergoing any of the turmoil/chaos that all other FAA pilot testing is experiencing"
  • https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/students