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The process of learning to fly an airplane can be broken down into the following distinct phases:

Pre-Solo

Welcome to the wonderful world of flight. During this time you will learn many new words and concepts. You will also learn to control the airplane and operate safely in the airport environment. Much of your focus will be on gaining proficiency in takeoffs, landings, and managing the airplane in various airspeed and flight configurations.

Solo

Now you're able to takeoff, land, fly in the traffic pattern, and deal with common issues that may be encountered while flying within 25 nautical miles of the airport. Your focus during this phase will be on furthering your mastery of the airplane and building your confidence in preparation for the next phase.

Cross Country

You can fly the airplane and are confident in your ability to deal with common issues. You will use those skills to leave the local area and fly the airplane to other distant airports. Navigating, understanding weather, and communicating on the radio will occupy the majority of your focus. You'll also be working to refine your airplane control in preparation for the practical test.

Practical Test

You've completed the required training and learned about regulations, airplane systems, communications, navigation, and weather. Now it's time to review and practice everything you've learned in preparation for the conclusion of your training... the practical test. If you work hard and apply yourself, you will complete this phase as a Private Pilot.

Before you can take the practical test (oral and flight) for the Private Pilot Certificate you must meet the following:

  • Be at least 17 years of age

  • Be able to read and speak English

  • Receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or accomplish a home-study course of training

  • Receive an endorsement from an authorized instructor certifying that you are prepared to take the computer-based knowledge test

  • Pass the computer-based knowledge test with a score of 70% or better

  • Receive the minimum hours of flight training from an instructor

  • Log the minimum hours of solo flight time

  • Receive an endorsement from an instructor who has conducted your training stating that they believe you are prepared to PASS the practical test

The minimum flight experience required for the Private Pilot practical test includes (14 CFR 61.109):

  • With an instructor

    • 3 hours of cross country flight training

    • 3 hours of night flight training

      • 1 cross country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance

      • 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop

    • 3 hours of flight training on the control and maneuver of an airplane solely by reference to instruments

    • 3 hours of flight training with an instructor within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test

  • Without an instructor (Solo)

    • 10 hours of solo flight time

      • 5 hours of solo cross country time

      • 1 solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance with a full stop landing at 3 points and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations

      • 3 takeoffs and three landings to a full stop at an airport with an operating control tower