Flying is a thrilling experience and if you aspire to soar high amidst the clouds, then becoming a pilot is the right choice of career for you. Flying airplanes is a challenging and demanding job but one that can be extremely rewarding in every sense of the word. An ability to think fast, a calm disposition even during critical situations and a passion for machines are some of the attributes that a pilot needs. If you think you have what it takes, read on to plan an exciting career for yourself!
Some other attributes required for a pilot
- The first and foremost requisite is that the aspirant should be free from any fear of heights and such other phobias.
- Optimal physical health, excellent vision and good reflexes and co-ordination between the mind and body
- An abiding sense of responsibility along with a sense of commitment and self confidence
- Flexible and adaptable nature that is able to cope with erratic time schedules
The first step
Once you have chosen to become a pilot, you would first need to decide the type of aircraft you would prefer to fly as that would determine the criteria for the pilot’s license and certificates. You could choose from helicopters to airplanes and even airships.
In the United States, you need to obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Pilot licenses comprise of several levels and the most basic amongst them is the Private Pilot license. With this license, you are authorized to fly a plane anywhere in that country and also to fly an aircraft that carries passengers. However a private pilot is usually not paid to carry passengers or cargo. In this way a pilot can accumulate enough flying hours in order to qualify for the commercial pilot’s license.
How to obtain the Private Pilot License
- You need to pass a medical test that assesses your general state of health
- Need to undergo the requisite instruction from a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)
- You need to clear a written evaluation consisting of 100 multiple choice questions
How expensive is it?
Factors like type of aircraft, your learning aptitude and style along with the location where you train would determine the entire cost. Training in urban areas would be more expensive than rural ones and the approximate cost incurred could be anywhere from $8000 to $10000. This amount which does not have to be paid in one go, is most likely to include flight instructions, charts and books, rentals of the aircraft and even the examiner fees.
What is the time required?
The FAA has stipulated that pilots must achieve a minimum of 40 hours of flying time in order to obtain a Private Pilot license. Of these 20 hrs can be dual i.e. flying along with an instructor and 20 hrs must be solo. However this is almost always stretched to between 60-70 hours. It would be best to schedule 2-3 sessions of two hours each per week. You should also plan ahead and keep margins for bad weather conditions, illness or aircraft refits. On an average if you follow this schedule, it would take you around 6-8 months to obtain your license.
Once you obtain the Private Pilot license you need to work towards accumulating enough flying experience. This is why many new pilots begin by opting to be flight instructors so that they do not have to pay for the flying time themselves.
What would you be required to study?
For a pilot’s license, you will need to gain expertise in the following topics:-
Aerodynamics: understanding how an aircraft rises above the ground and how to control it in the sky
Aircraft systems: thoroughly learn about every aspect of the aircraft and its engines, controls, machinery and how to operate the various instruments.
Navigation: how to get the aircraft to its destination by using radio aids and navigation maps.
Weather: learning to interpret how the weather conditions might influence the flight
Rules and Regulations: In-depth knowledge about the rules that control aviation operations in the National Airspace systems.