How To Become A Pilot

There’s something special about aviation; the responsibility, the freedom, the act of defying gravity – an act that thousands of generations before only dreamed of. It’s easy to understand why becoming a pilot is such an appealing path for so many and the common inquiry of how to become a pilot is a good topic to digress upon. Regardless of whether you’re interested in becoming a career pilot or just interested in flying for pleasure, here are a few practical steps to help you get there. In the next few paragraphs we’ll talk about a few basic initial steps to becoming a licensed pilot as well as the different types of certificates and ratings.

Set Your Personal Aviation Goals

Know your end goals for aviation to understand what types of certificates and ratings you’ll need. Maybe you’re like me and just want to fly occasionally for pleasure, which only requires a private pilot certificate. With our part 141 accelerated private pilot training course, this can be done in less than 21 days! Maybe you’re a business professional interested in the transportation advantage of being a pilot. It might be a good idea to acquire a private pilot certificate and an instrument rating. Maybe you’re interested in becoming a flight instructor or eventually an airline pilot. So how does it all work? Lets go over a few types of pilot certifications, we’ll briefly cover each rating, their requirements and their limitations.

Private Pilot Certificate


  • Be at least 17 years of age
  • Obtain a FAA medical certificate
  • Receive a total of 40 hours of flight instruction
  • Pass a knowledge test with a score of 70% or higher.
  • Receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or home study course.
  • Successfully complete a flight test with an FAA examiner.


As a private pilot, you could not act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying passengers or property for hire, nor could you be paid to act as a pilot in command. However, you may act as pilot in command of an aircraft in connection with any business or employment if the flight is only incidental to that business and the aircraft does not carry passengers or property for hire.

As a private pilot, you are only able to fly under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). In the airspace at our field in Kissimmee, (class delta airspace), you would need at least 3 statute miles of visibility and a minimum cloud distance of 500 feet below, 1000 feet above and 2000 feet horizontal. The good news is that here in Kissimmee FL we have 350 flyable days and in my 2 years of flying out of of SunState Aviation I’ve only been grounded once or twice!

Also, keep in mind that in order to stay current and carry passengers you will have needed to make 3 take offs and 3 full stop landings within the preceding 90 days. Learn More about our accelerated private pilot training course.

Instrument Rating

As an instrument rated pilot you’ll have the proper training to fly under Instrument Meteorological Conditions using Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Here’s a scenario where it would be beneficial to be an instrument rated pilot: You are scheduled at a meeting an hour flight away, if the visibility that day is under 3 statute miles you wouldn’t be able to fly if you only held a private pilot certificate. It’s situations like these that add to the number of reasons why becoming an instrument rated pilot can be a valuable asset to hold. Read more about our instrument flight training course.


  • Hold at least an FAA private pilot certificate.
  • Be able to read, write, and speak in the English language.
  • Hold a current FAA airman medical certificate.
  • Receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course.
  • Pass the FAA instrument rating knowledge test with a score of 70% or better.
  • Accumulate flight experience (14 CFR part 61.65):
    a.) 50 hr. of cross-country flight time as pilot in command, of which at least 10 hr. must be in airplanes:
    (1) The 50 hr. includes solo cross-country time as a student pilot, which is logged as pilot-in-command time.
    (2) Each cross-country must have a landing at an airport that was at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 NM from the original departure point.
    b.) A total of 40 hr. of actual or simulated instrument time in the areas of operation listed in 7. below, including:
    (1) 15 hr. of instrument flight training from a CFII (a Certified Flight Instructor with an added rating authorizing her to give instrument instruction).
  • Cross-country flight procedures that include at least one cross-country flight in an airplane that is performed under IFR and consists of:
    (a) A distance of at least 250 NM along airways or ATC-directed routing
    (b) An instrument approach at each airport
    (c) Three different kinds of approaches with the use of navigation systems
    (d) If the instrument flight training was provided by a CFII, a maximum of 20hr. may be accomplished in an FAA approved flight simulator or flight training device.
  • Successfully complete the instrument rating practical test.

Commercial Pilot

Obtaining a commercial pilot certificate will allow you to be compensated for flying. You can still obtain commercial pilot certificate as a private pilot, however, you would still be limited to VFR flight conditions. The requirements for the commercial certificate are as follows:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Hold a private pilot certificate
  • If training under Part 141 (accelerated), at least 150 hours of training time including 55 hours with an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight, and other requirements including several cross-country, solo, and night flights.
  • Successfully complete a knowledge test.
  • Successfully complete an oral test and flight inspection with an FAA examiner.

Learn more about our Accelerated Commercial Pilot Course.

Certified Flight Instructor

Perhaps the most common and rewarding first job in aviation is a certified flight instructor. A popular choice among pilots aspiring to get hired at a major airline due to the opportunity to build hours, lots of hours. For some, teaching can be incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. Learn more about our CFI and CFII courses. The requirements for becoming a CFI are as follows:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Hold a commercial pilot certificate
  • Pass two additional written exams
  • Successfully complete a practical test with an FAA examiner.

Finding A Flight School

A few years ago, AOPA conducted a research study where they found that 70 to 80% percent of student pilots drop out of training and never finish. The study discovered one key factor that played a major role in the higher drop out rates – the attention and availability of the flight instructor and longer length of training time. Our own experiences over the years training NON-accelerated students bear this out. Further to that, non-accelerated students can take as much as 80 hours or more to get their private pilot license. By contrast we found that our accelerated students were much more likely to succeed and with fewer hours of flight instruction. So, we made the decision to stop providing non-accelerated training for the most part and to go with what clearly works. At SunState, we take our training services a step further, we limit enrollment to no more than 2 students per available training asset (airplanes and flight instructors). This way we ensure that every student has the opportunity for two flight training activities per day.

What makes SunState Aviation unique is that we provide an environment where a student pilot can separate themselves from normal life for a few weeks and focus their entire attention to flying. The result is that the student can get their license or rating in less time and for less money, even though they may be paying higher hourly rates plus the expense of a hotel room, travel, etc. Our commitment to superior training doesn’t stop there, read more about the top 10 reasons to train with SunState Aviation.


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