How do I Get My Pilot License?
So you want to become a pilot but you don’t know where to start? Well regardless of whether you want to be a bush pilot, an airline pilot or a corporate pilot, the path to becoming a pilot is pretty much the same. Almost any flight school you go to has the same progression towards becoming a professional pilot.
What’s the first step to get my pilot license?
The first phase or step is to get your private pilot certificate (the FAA calls it a certificate rather than a license). A private pilot certificate allows you to fly with passengers in your plane, daytime or nighttime, but you can’t get paid to fly; you can share expenses (eg if you are carrying 1 passenger, you can split fuel, rental fees, landing fees, etc 50/50), but you can’t get paid to fly passengers or cargo. If all you want to do is buy your own Cessna, and fly your family and friends around, a private pilot certificate is really all you need (however you still may want to consider adding on an instrument rating as well… read on!) CLICK HERE FOR PRIVATE PILOT REQUIREMENTS
The next phase is to get your instrument rating. An instrument rating is an add-on to your pilot certificate. Quite simply, an instrument rating allows you to fly in the clouds. As a private pilot without an instrument rating you are not allowed to fly in or near clouds, also you are not allowed to fly when the visibility is less than 3 miles. With an instrument rating you are allowed to takeoff and fly into conditions that would otherwise keep you grounded as just a private pilot.
After obtaining your instrument rating the next phase depends on what flight school you attend and what your goals are. That being said, as a flight instructor and an airline pilot I highly recommend that you go for your multi-engine certificate. Your private pilot certificate, for a number of reasons, is almost ALWAYS done in a single engine airplane (such as a Cessna 172, or a Piper Cherokee). But regardless of what type of flying you want to do, it’s all about the multi-engine time. Any airline or corporate company you fly for is going to want you to have at least 100 hrs in a twin engine airplane. Even if all you want to do is banner towing (which is very possible to get a job in WITHOUT a multi-engine certificate) having a multi-engine license, or rather, CERTIFICATE will give you an extra edge to get that job. It’s easiest, and in the long run costs only a very small amount more, to get your multi-engine private pilot certificate (as an add-on to the single engine private pilot), and work towards a commercial pilot certificate in a twin-engine plane rather than getting a single engine commercial pilot certificate and later add on a multi-engine rating.
This brings us to the next phase in flight training: the commercial pilot certificate. I want to take a second to clear up a very common misconception. Flying “commercially” or having a commercial pilot’s license does NOT mean flying for an airline. HAVING A COMMERCIAL PILOT LICENSE SIMPLY MEANS YOU CAN GET PAID TO FL Y. A flight instructor is a commercial pilot, a banner tower is a commercial pilot, a crop duster is a commercial pilot, and a corporate pilot is a commercial pilot. They are all getting paid to fly, and that’s what a commercial pilot certificate allows you to do.
After getting this far, you will have around 250 hours of flight time (I will be putting down all the requirements for each license in a later blog post). At this point if you want to get into the airlines or into a corporate flying job, you are going to need to to build up some more time before you will be able to land that job. Most regional airlines require 1000 hrs of total time, with 100 hrs of multi-engine time. Depending on what type of corporate job you get, the requirements could be higher or lower. So basically right after getting your commercial license you have a couple of options. You could probably get a job banner tower, or doing pipeline patrol, as well as a few other jobs like these. You can build up your time, and get paid to do so. You can also get your flight instructor certificate. Flight instructing, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to build time. The best part is that when you teach, you learn so much more about flying than you would otherwise.
Say all that again?
In summary, here’s the path to professional flying:
Keep checking back in regularly as I will be updating this site often!