What does it take to be a Pilot?
The process of becoming a pilot is complex and takes several years. At 16 years of age, prospective pilots can begin to work towards their private pilot certificate, also known as a private pilot license. They must first pass a medical examination performed by a doctor who is certified for flight physicals. After enrolling in a flight school or taking private lessons from an instructor, students must go through ground training. The training prepares students for everything they will encounter while in the air. Typically, students must go through 36 hours of ground school instruction.
After successful completion of ground school, prospective pilots can begin practical flight instruction. Typically, they must log at least 20 hours of assisted flight and 20 hours of solo flight. Most students will accumulate from 55 to 60 hours before taking the next step. After logging enough time, students are able to take their written FAA test, and then pass a practical exam performed by a certified examiner.
After successful completion of all tests, a student will be issued their pilot certificate and may fly any aircraft unassisted, as long as the plane complies with the restrictions of their particular rating. If an aviator is rated only for fixed-wing aircraft, for example, he or she is not able to fly a helicopter, which is considered rotary aircraft.
Pilots who pass these examinations, however, are not yet able to fly commercially. Commercial pilots must log hundreds of additional hours in flight school, piloting various types of aircraft. In addition, they must obtain their bachelor's degree. The degree can be in any field, but those with degrees in aeronautical sciences or aviation have a better chance of securing employment in the field. Pilots must also be retested twice per year in order to retain their licenses.
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