Flying Requirements

images_figures_14fig09It's a fact: Learning how to fly has never been cheap. You have to hire an instructor and a training plane, take lessons, study for tests, pass those tests, buy or rent a plane, buy fuel and insurance, and find the time to get into the sky.

This website offers ideas on how to get the most from your aviation dollars and enjoy flying on a budget.

It was just a century ago that brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright discovered powered flight. On the windy dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December of 1903, the two bicycle repairmen were rewarded for hundreds of hours of planning, tinkering, and testing. The Wright Flyer flew for a distance shorter than the length of a modern airliner. But it flew!

Ten-plus decades later, aviation has dramatically changed how we work, play, and move about the country. Without airplanes, cross-country trips would be made in days rather than hours. Overnight packages would take a week to arrive. Frequent-flier miles would go unused.

Today, there are three types of flying: scheduled airlines, military, and everything else—called general aviation (GA). What might be surprising is how big GA is! In fact, 95 percent of the 220,000 civilian aircraft in the United States are general-aviation aircraft. And there are lots of airports: 13,000 at last count, with just 2 percent of them served by scheduled airlines.

And there are lots of pilots; the latest count is more than 600,000 in the United States. The experts say that the reason there aren't more pilots is the perception that flying is unnatural and dangerous. The cost of flying enters the equation, too, but it is the fear of flying that keeps many people grounded. So here are the facts:

  • Flight is a proven science that follows constant rules; the pilots who get into trouble are those who break the rules.
  • When you get good training and follow the rules, flying is much safer than many recreational sports we engage in.
  • You can get a sport-pilot certificate in about a week of concentrated study and practice—or spread it out over a couple of months. (There's really no such thing as a sport or other pilot "license." It's actually a certificate, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA.)
  • The cost of earning your sport-pilot certificate is about the same as a nice vacation.
  • Many sport pilot-qualified planes and the new light-sport aircraft cost about as much as a sport utility vehicle (SUV).

In these Flight Guides you'll learn flying requirements, discover that planes fly according to irrevocable laws of physics, you'll learn what knowledge and equipment you need to fly, and you'll find out how to keep it fun.