The first step in your certificate is getting signed up at a flight school or with a flight instructor. Here are your training options:
- Accelerated flight school: You come, you stay, you cram, and you fly away a week later.
- Local flight school: You study in the evenings, fly a couple of times a week, and earn your certificate in two to three months at an airport near you.
- Independent flight instructor: You rent or borrow a plane and hire a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) to teach you what you need to know.
Which option is best? It depends on you. For some, the most convenient is to schedule vacation time and go for it. For others, taking a week off is out of the question, but weekend lessons will work. Still others have a plane and know a good CFI who can take them flying. The cost of local and out-of-town training will be approximately the same, except for overnight accommodations.
Your “pre-solo” stage is simply finding an instructional resource and aircraft, learning what the training requirements are, getting your first flight and setting up a program for future flight instruction, leading to the day that you can fly solo.
What certificate do you need to start flying as a student pilot? The answer is: none. You can start learning to fly and log flight training without any special certificate. However, you must meet all the training requirements and be at least 17 years old to get the sport-pilot certificate. A student-pilot certificate is activated for solo flight after you have been trained and tested by your instructor. After your instructor has endorsed your student-pilot certificate and your logbook, the student-pilot certificate becomes a license to fly solo.
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide