Posted on Sat Jun 13, 2020 at 05:00 UTC
Congratulations! You’ve decided to follow your dreams and get your Private Pilot certificate. You’ve probably contacted a nearby flight school or CFI at your local airfield. And, you might have even discussed rates, taken a demo flight, and started planning for your training.
Then what? How is your training going to be organized? What are the key milestones in your training? How do you know you are making progress?
These are important questions that you should be asking yourself and your CFI. In this article we attempt to answer these questions for you.
Your journey to your Private Pilot certificate will take you through 3 phases (or stages).
This phase lays the foundation for all further flight training. In this phase, you focus on understanding the training airplane, how to fly it, how it behaves under different settings of power and “pitch attitude”, and how to safely operate the aircraft at your home airport and within the local practice area. Phase 1 culminates in your first solo flight.
A typical syllabus for phase 1 would look like the following:
The last step in Phase 1 is a pre-solo phase check, normally conducted by another instructor. On successfully passing the phase check and a mandatory pre-solo written test, you will be ready to solo the aircraft, i.e. fly it on your own without the instructor present.
If you pass the phase check, your instructor will sign you off for your first solo flight! A huge achievement!
Phase 2 of your training builds on the skills that you have learned in phase 1, and expands your capabilities with cross country flights, night flights, and basic instrument maneuvers. This phase helps you gain increased confidence in flying the aircraft safely. You will fly the airplane solo and practice maneuvers by yourself (solo) in addition to receiving instruction on cross country flying.
You should also plan to prepare for, and pass, your FAA knowledge test while in phase 2. This is a requirement for obtaining your private pilot certificate.
A typical phase 2 syllabus would include:
The last step in Phase 2 is a pre solo cross country phase check in which another instructor evaluates whether you can safely operate the airplane during your cross country flights. They will evaluate your ability to control the aircraft in all phases of flight, communicate effectively with air traffic control, operate safely within the environment of other airports, and demonstrate adequate aeronautical decision making abilities.
Once you pass the pre solo cross country phase check, you are ready to fly the required solo cross country flights. Congratulations! You just crossed another major milestone.
In phase 3, you gain proficiency in flying the aircraft to airports that are not in your local area (cross country flights) - at least 50nm miles away. You also start preparing for your practical test.
Your lessons in phase 3 would include:
Phase 3 culminates in a pre checkride phase check where another instructor assesses your readiness for taking, and passing, the practical test.
Once you have passed the pre checkride phase check, your instructor will be ready to sign you off for your practical test.
You’ve made it this far, and now it is time for you to pass the practical test before you can become a private pilot. Exciting!
The practical test is conducted by a FAA “designated pilot examiner” (DPE), who is an experienced pilot to whom the FAA has granted privileges to test and certify airmen.
The test consists of an oral exam (called the “ground” exam) and a flight exam and should take about 4 hours to complete. They will use the FAA’s Private Pilot Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) as the testing standard to evaluate your performance.
Once you pass your practical test, you become a Private Pilot!