Frequently asked Questions
Q: How much does it cost to learn how to fly?
A: For your investment, you will acquire the basic skills needed to safely enjoy an extraordinary and unique activity for years to come—a pilot’s license never expires! Cost varies by flight school and license, but it is usually about the price of a family vacation for a week (around $10,000). And, you can pay as you go, so there’s no large payment due up front.
Splitting up the cost and flight time can sometimes be tricky to individuals on a budget. Most flight lessons last between 1 and 2 hours. The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours flying experience before being eligible to take the exam. The average lesson (depending on flight school) will cost between $130 and $200 per hour. That's between $5,200 and $8000 for 40 hours. Being completely transparent, most individuals feel they are ready to take the exam after 55-60 hours of training experience ($7,150-$12,000). Those numbers are daunting to say the least. But lets try to put that into perspective: Assume an average 90 minute lesson (at $165 per hour) over 55 hours. That works out to about 37 flight lessons and $9,075. If you flew just once per week you'd need to set aside just under $250 and you'd complete your training in under 9 months. Fly twice a month for $500 and complete your training in under 18 months. Or you can go the other way and pay up front, fly 2-4 times per week and complete your training in as few as 3-4 months.
Q: What can you do with a pilot certificate?
A: The aviation industry has almost limitless possibilities. The most basic application of getting a pilots license allows the individual to fly friends and family just about anywhere at a whims notice, if even just to go have some fun checking out local landmarks or visiting more friends and family.
Other professional careers also exist: Flying banners over sporting events, pulling gliders for other individuals learning how to fly, spraying crops for farmers, running sight seeing tours for out of towners, operating jump planes for skydivers. Or there's always the private side of things flying charter jets for individuals willing to pay you to be their personal driver. You can even be an air ambulance pilot.
Then there's the "big iron" to work towards. Flying huge airlines across the continents and oceans. The opportunities are everywhere.
Q: What type of aircraft is used for flight instruction?
A: Training aircraft come in many different shapes and sizes. Each have their pros and cons but all are safe and reliable. Here at SOCO Flight Pros we use the Piper Cherokee 180. A low wing 4 passenger aircraft. It cruises around 120 knots, burns 10 gallons of fuel per hour, and can fly approximately 400 miles between fuel stops.
Q: Is it safe?
A: Flying is one of, if not THE safest mode of transportation in the world. Every year there are approximately 35,000 (fatal) car crashes in the US. Compare that to 27 airline accidents in 2015, of which zero were fatal. If you're an odds person: Car crash =1/114 chance. Plane crash =1/9,821 chance. I know where I'd rather spend my time...
Q: What experience does the instructor have?
A: Grant von Ahlefeldt has over 16 years of flying experience, accumulating more than 4,000 hours of actual flight time, 600 hours instructing, and currently works as an air ambulance pilot.
Q: What tests are required to get a pilots certificate?
A: During training, there's a short written test to take before soloing around 10-15 hours of training. A 60 question written exam is then required before a flight test with an FAA examiner. An oral exam is also conduced during the preflight portion of the FAA flight test. The short answer... Three tests are required (Presolo, Private Pilot Knowledge Written Exam, and Private Pilot Oral Exam).
Q: What are the dangers of flying?
A: Flying, just like driving, comes with some inherent dangers. However, when we fly we discuss the risks prior to each flight and how to mitigate them. When was the last time you remember anyone discussing the risks before taking the car to school or work? Much less how to mitigate those risks?
Q: How difficult/easy is it to learn how to fly?
A: Practice makes perfect... Just like driving a car, the more experience you get, the easier it gets. There are some things that are difficult and there are some things that are easy. At times it can be frustrating, but more often its extremely rewarding.
Q:How many hours are required to get a pilot certificate?
A: The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time to obtain a Private Pilot Certificate (20 hours with an instructor and 20 hours solo). Most students take 60-80 hours. Note: these times are for flying and do not include any time spent studying on the ground with an instructor or self studying at home.
Q: Why is it called a pilot certificate and not a license?
A: If you pilot an aircraft, you probably tell friends you have a pilot’s license. Right? Maybe. What you have now is a pilot’s CERTIFICATE. The FAA issues LICENSES for commercial space transportation. The FAA recently began using certificate most of the time for aviation to differentiate it from space work, as well as from licenses issued by foreign nations. The FAA issues certificates for aircraft activities — airman’s certificates, airworthiness certificates for vehicles and products, training, repair, etc. Today, the names license and certificates are used interchangeable by many, even by the FAA on its website. That probably is because the change was so recent that many of the subjects have not been updated. Call it what you like, but be sure to have it in your possession when piloting an aircraft.
Q:Is the aircraft certified to fly IFR?
A: The aircraft is certified for flight into Instrument Meteorological Conditions.
Q: Can I learn to fly if I get motion sick?
A: There are means to alleviate motion sickness. Dramamine usually works best but causes drowsiness. Over time, symptoms dissipate and may eventually go away completely.
Q: What kind of maintenance does the aircraft get?
A: Aircraft used for training purposes fall under a rigorous maintenance program required by the FAA. All aircraft are required to inspected by certified mechanics once a year. Training aircraft however are required to be inspected every 100 flight hours in addition to the annual inspection.
Q: Is there a minimum age requirement to learn how to fly?
A: While there is no specific age requirement to learn how to fly, The FAA does require a a minimum age of 16 to fly an aircraft by yourself, and 17 to obtain the certificate and fly with passengers. But really, there's no wrong age to start learning.
Q: What documents are required from me before I can begin learning how to fly?
A: Since 9/11, proof of citizenship documents are required before any flight instruction can begin. Acceptable documents include any of the following:
Original or government-issued birth certificate AND a government-issued picture ID or,
Valid, unexpired US Passport or,
Original Certificate of US Citizenship with raised seal or Certificate of Repatriation AND a government-issued picture ID or,
Original US Naturalization Certificate with raised seal AND a government-issued picture ID.
Q: Where can I go once I get my pilot certificate?
A: Borders disappear once you get a pilots certificate. Travel anywhere in the world! (with enough planning).
Q: How big is the airplane I'm learning to fly in?
A: Most training aircraft have between 2 and 4 seats, similar to the inside of a small car.
Q: How many lessons are required before I am allowed to control the aircraft?
A: Students get to manipulate the controls of the aircraft beginning on the very first lesson. This doesn't mean having to take-off or land, but once the instructor has the aircraft safely in the air, the student will have the ability to maneuver the aircraft.