How to Become a Pilot: Step by Step Guide
If you’ve always wondered how to become a pilot, this guide is for you. Perhaps you’ve thought about this as a hobby, but becoming a commercial pilot is actually a great career choice. In fact, it might help to first understand exactly what defines a commercial pilot. Simply put, a commercial pilot is someone who has been approved by the FAA to charge for pilot services. So, what you might think of as a hobby has the potential to become a career.
While most people immediately think of commercial airline pilots flying passengers, the most common example of a commercial pilot, there are other possible careers in this field, even some that are unusual. For instance, cargo pilots, such as those flying for UPS and FedEx, are also considered commercial pilots. Other commercial pilot careers include being a corporate pilot, flying for a charity organization, such as Angel Flight, or even flying for the government, perhaps for the Forest Service. Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) are also considered commercial pilots, and with the current pilot shortage, there is a high demand for CFIs.
There are many options for commercial pilots beyond flying for a commercial airline. Becoming a commercial pilot is a straightforward process. Once you determine your eligibility, you simply follow the training requirements established by the FAA. If you are not from the United States and want to become a commercial pilot in your home country, it is fairly simple to convert your FAA credentials to your country’s Civil Aviation Authority standards.
So, what exactly do I need to do to become a pilot?
Follow these steps to become a pilot. If you are starting with no flying experience at all, don’t worry – this is all pilots begin. We will walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to become a pilot.
- Research flight schools.
Find the flight training school that best suits your needs and has positive reviews from its graduates. This is a big step, and you want to make a good decision. After you apply and are accepted, there is more to do.
- Get your medical certificate.
All student pilots must pass an FAA third class medical exam with an Aeromedical Examiner (AME). If you plan to become a commercial pilot, you’ll need a class 1 medical certificate.
- Get your FAA Student Pilot certificate.
This makes it official! You’ll apply for this through IACRA, and you will need it to fly with your instructor.
- Begin Ground School classes.
Private pilot ground school provides the practical knowledge you’ll need to know while for flight planning and flying.
- Begin flight lessons.
While in ground school, you’ll begin training in simulators and airplanes alongside a certified flight instructor (CFI). This lets you turn your knowledge into skills as you continue your pilot training.
- Pass the “written.”
The FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test, known as the “written” to student pilots, assesses your knowledge of aviation in areas such aerodynamics, weather, flight instruments, weather, etc.
- Pass the check ride.
The FAA Private Pilot Practical Exam, also known as the check ride, assesses your flying skills and knowledge of practical applications in the cockpit. Passing this is the final step. Congratulations, you’re a private pilot! This entire process takes approximately 3 months.
How do I become a commercial pilot?
This is one of our most frequently asked questions, and we’ll take you through the steps to become a commercial pilot:
You have already earned your Private Pilot License (PPL). This is the first step and allows you to fly single-engine aircraft under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), so you are already on your way to becoming a commercial pilot.
- Earn your Instrument Rating (IFR – Instrument Flight Rules). This allows you to fly in low visibility weather using flight instruments and takes approximately 2 months.
The next step is to begin your Commercial Pilot training. You must be 18 years old and have a 2nd Class Medical Certificate.
- Earn your Commercial Pilot License (CPL). This includes taking your written FAA exam, logging at least 250 hours of flight time (including 100 hours as Pilot-In-Command (PIC) and 50 hours cross-country), and passing your FAA checkride. Congratulations, you’re a licensed Commercial Pilot!
- Earn your Multi-Engine rating. This allows you to fly multi-engine aircraft. Earning your CPL with multi-engine rating takes approximately 3 months. So, in a total of 8 months, you’ve gone from zero pilot experience to being a Commercial Pilot!
How do I become an airline pilot?
This is the most common question we are asked, and we’ll take you through the steps to become an airline pilot:
After earning your CPL, you can build hours toward your Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) by becoming a flight instructor. To become an instructor, you will need to take the CFI course. In the United States, you will need to have logged 1,500 hours before you can be hired by a commercial airline. If becoming a commercial airline pilot is your goal, working as a CFI is a great way to build hours toward that goal. Other countries require fewer logged hours to become an airline pilot. Epic offers complete training from zero experience to ATPL for both U.S. students and international students.
- Earn CFI rating
- Earn CFII (Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument) rating
- Earn MEI (Multi-Engine Instructor) rating
- Log the hours you need to be hired by an airline
Are you wondering how long it takes and how much it costs to become a pilot?
You now know how to become a pilot, but you also need to know the cost and time investment. The average student completes all training in approximately one year. This is if you have no experience at all. You will start with your Private Pilot License and go on to complete a Commercial Pilot License. Then, it’s up to you how far you want to go with it. Most pilots build hours by becoming a CFI or flying cargo. What a deal! You get paid to fly as you build hours! Once you’ve logged 1,500 hours, you can decide if you want to work for a commercial airline flying passengers. We encourage you to review pilot hiring requirements.
The total cost for training varies on how well students do in their courses. On average, most students go from having no experience at all to earning a CPL with instructor ratings in 12 months. The cost also varies depending on a number of factors. On average, the cost is approximately $70,000. This is a sound investment in your future considering the median pay for an airline pilot exceeds $140,000.
Are you ready to turn your dream into a reality and pursue a career as a commercial pilot?
You probably have more questions now that you’ve learned how easy it is to become a commercial pilot. We would love to answer any questions you have and help you navigate your aviation career path, so we encourage you to contact us and let us know how we can help.