Private Pilot

Private Pilot License

PPL 4 phases:

  • intro
  • solo
  • cross country / night
  • checkride


To be qualified for private pilot checkride, check 61.109 Aeronautical experience.

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":

  • nav lights on: sunset to sunrises
  • logging night time: civil twilight
  • night time when taking passengers: 1hr after sunset to 1hr before sunrise

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.

How much does it cost?

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

Instructor fee per hour: depend on your location and the instructor you choose, could be $50-200

Also note that airplane cost is based on Hobbs time, but instructor time include ground time; for example, a 3-hour class may log 2 hours flight time, the plane will charge 2 hours, the instructor will charge 3 hours; a ground session or a checkride prep will not have plane rental cost but will incur instructor cost.

How to save time and money?

  • Use online ground school: you need endorsement to take written test, if you do not take any ground schools, your CFI need to talk to you to make sure you are ready for the written test; depending on the hourly rate of your CFI, a 2-3 hour ground session may be enough for a lifetime access for an online ground school.
  • Study in advance: online ground school will not fully replace your ground time with yoru CFI; study in advance to minimize the ground time.
  • Listen to ATC while not flying:

What to ask when shopping for 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?

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.

Regulations Relevant for PPL

Regulations often questioned in knowledge test and oral exam: primarily part 61 (pilot training and certification) and 91 (operation), plus a small amount of 43 (maintenance) and NTSB

  • 91.103
  • 91.107 Use of safety belts
  • 91.117 No person may operate an aircraft at or below 2,500' above the surface within 4 nautical miles of the primary airport of a Class C or Class D airspace area at an indicated airspeed of more than 200 knots (230 mph.). 250 knts below 10,000' MSL
  • 91.205
  • 91.213 d 3 Emergency briefing before takeoff after runup
  • 91.227: ADS-B out.
  • 91.303 acrobatics min visibility 3 statute miles, min altitude 1,500' AGL.
  • 43.7 Preventative maintenance
  • 61.53
  • 61.87,103,107,109,113
  • part 43 A(c)
  • special VFR: AIM 4-4-6
  • 91 Subpart D - Special Flight Operations 91.303 aerobatic flight, 91.307 Parachuting, 91.309 Towing
  • Subpart E: Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance 91.4xx

About ACS

Each task include 3 categories: Knowledge, Risk Management, Skills. The DPE will have to choose at least one Knowledge element, at least one Risk Management element, and ALL the Skills.

The Flight Review Prep Course

Though it is for flight reviews, the content is also relevant to private pilot check rides: