Surveys conducted at FSDO's, flight schools, and among flight instructors have shown that the following questions are typical of those most frequently asked by the person interested in becoming a student pilot. If your question is not answered, we suggest that you contact the nearest FSDO. The FSDO will be able to furnish current information regarding changes in procedures or revisions to regulations.


1. Q. Is it difficult to fly an aircraft?

A. No. It is not particularly difficult. From the beginning you will do most of the actual flying handling the controls of the aircraft).

2. Q. When may I begin to fly?

A. Immediately. However, you will need to apply for certain certificates, as described in this guide, in preparation for solo flight.

3. Q. Is there a set number of flight instructional hours I will receive before I solo?

A. No. The instructor will not allow you to solo until you have learned to perform certain maneuvers. These maneuvers include safe takeoffs and landings. You must be able to maintain positive control of the aircraft at all times and use good judgment.


4. Q. Is flying safe?

A. Well-built and well-maintained aircraft flown by a competent and prudent pilot make flying as safe or safer than many other forms of transportation.

5. Q. If engine failure occurs, what will happen?

A. Modern aircraft engines are very reliable and complete failure is a rare occurrence. If the improbable does happen, however, you will not "fall out of the sky."

Just do what the instructor had you practice during lessons; select a good landing area and land.



1. Q. When do I need a medical certificate?

A. You will need a medical certificate prior to solo flight if you are operating an airplane, helicopter, gyroplane, or airship. Balloon or glider pilots may write a statement certifying that they have no known medical defect that would make them unable to pilot a balloon or glider. It is suggested you obtain your medical certificate prior to beginning flight training.

This will assure you are aware of any condition which could prevent you from obtaining a medical prior to making a financial investment in flight training.

2. Q. When do I need a Student Pilot Certificate?

A. Prior to solo flight.

3. Q. If required, how do I get a medical certificate?

A. By passing a physical examination administered by a doctor who is an FAA-authorized aviation medical


4. Q. How do I obtain a Student Pilot Certificate?

A. Upon your request, a combination medical certificate and Student Pilot Certificate will be issued by an FAA- authorized aviation medical examiner upon the satisfactory completion of your physical examination.

Student Pilot Certificates may be issued by an FAA inspector or an FAA-designated pilot examiner.

Applicants who fail to meet certain requirements or who have physical disabilities which might limit, but not prevent, their acting as pilots, should contact the nearest FSDO.

5. Q. What are the requirements for a Student Pilot Certificate?

A. To be eligible for a Student Pilot Certificate, a person must:

(1) be at least 16 years of age. If the certificate is limited to the operation of a glider or balloon, the applicant must be at least 14 years of age;

(2) be able to read, speak, and understand the English language;

(3) hold at least a current Third-Class Medical Certificate or in the case of a glider or balloon, certify that he or she has no known medical defect that would make him or her unable to pilot a glider or balloon.

6. Q. Where do I get my medical certificate?

A. From any FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner.

There are approximately 6,000 doctors who are FAA- authorized aviation medical examiners.

7. Q. Where can I get a list of FAA-authorized aviation medical examiners?

A. The FAA publishes a directory which lists all FAA- authorized aviation medical examiners by name and address. Copies of this directory are available at all FSDO's, air traffic control facilities, and flight service stations. Airport managers and some aviation operators may also be able to supply this information.

8. Q. When required, what class of medical certificate must a student pilot have?

A. Third-class, although any class will suffice. Medical certificates are designated as first-class, second-class, or third-class. Generally, the first-class is designed for the airline transport pilot; the second-class for the commercial pilot; and the third-class for the student, recreational and private pilot.

9. Q. If I have a physical disability, is there any provision for obtaining a medical certificate?

A. Yes. Medical certificates can be issued in many cases where physical disabilities are involved. Depending upon the certificate held and the nature of the disability, operating limitations may be imposed. If you have any questions, contact an FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner prior to beginning flight training.

10. Q. How long are my Student Pilot Certificate and my medical certificate valid?

A. The Student Pilot Certificate and Third-Class Medical Certificate will expire at the end of the 24th month after the month in which they were issued.

11. Q. May my Student Pilot Certificate be renewed?

A. No, but a new Student Pilot Certificate may be issued by an:

(1) FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner, upon completion of the required examination;

(2) FAA inspector or FAA-designated pilot examiner if you already hold a valid medical certificate or if you are not required to hold a medical certificate.

12. Q. If my original Student Pilot Certificate has been endorsed for solo, do I lose this endorsement on my new certificate?

A. The endorsements are still valid, but are not transferred to the new certificate. Retain the old certificate as a record of these endorsements.

13. Q. Should my flight instructor endorse my Student Pilot Certificate before or after my first solo flight?

A. The endorsement on the Student Pilot Certificate certifying that the holder is competent to solo must be made by the flight instructor prior to the first solo flight.

14. Q. If I solo in more than one make and model of aircraft, must I have an endorsement for each on my Student Pilot Certificate? If so, who should endorse the certificate?

A. Yes. A flight instructor must make this endorsement prior to the first solo flight in each make and model of aircraft.

15. Q. Does the endorsement to solo permit me to make solo cross-country flights?

A. No. The flight instructor must specifically endorse the Student Pilot Certificate to permit cross-country flights.

16. Q. Must I carry my Student Pilot Certificate on my person when I am piloting an aircraft in solo flight?

A. Yes.

17. Q. Must I have my medical certificate or certified statement in my personal possession when I am piloting an aircraft in solo flight?

A. Yes.

18. Q. Is there a charge for the Student Pilot Certificate?

A. Not when the Student Pilot Certificate is issued by a FSDO. However, an FAA-designated pilot examiner is allowed to charge a reasonable fee for issuing Student Pilot Certificates, and executing the necessary reports. The FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner will charge a fee for the physical examination in connection with issuing the combination medical and Student Pilot Certificate.


1. Q. Where can I obtain my ground and flight school training?

A. Most airport operators can furnish this information, or you may contact the nearest FSDO.

2. Q. What should I know about the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's) prior to my first solo?

A. The flight instructor will determine that you are familiar with appropriate portions of FAR Part 61 and the general and visual flight rules of FAR Part 91, and will administer and grade a presolo written test prior to solo endorsement. The presolo written test will also include questions on the flight characteristics and operational limitations of the make and model aircraft to be flown.

3. Q. What does an appropriate logbook endorsement for solo mean?

A. It means an endorsement by an authorized flight instructor showing that on the date specified the student was given dual instruction and found competent to make solo flights.

4. Q. When is such an endorsement required?

A. A student pilot must have such an endorsement dated within 90 days prior to any solo flight.

5. Q. What is the difference between a Recreational Pilot and a Private Pilot Certificate?

A. The Recreational Pilot Certificate is more restrictive.

The holder of a Recreational Pilot Certificate is only allowed to fly an aircraft within 50 nautical miles from the airport where instruction was received and is not allowed to operate in airspace where communications with air traffic control are required. Since training in these areas would not be required, a person should be able to obtain a Recreational Pilot Certificate in fewer flight hours than required for a Private Pilot Certificate. All privileges and limitations of the Recreational Pilot Certificate are listed in FAR Section 61.101.

6. Q. Does a student pilot automatically have the privilege of cross-country flying alone after soloing?

A. No. An instructor must have reviewed the pilot's preflight planning and preparation for solo cross-country flight to determine that the flight can be made safely under the known circumstances and conditions. The instructor must also endorse the student pilot's logbook prior to cross-country flight stating the pilot is considered competent to make the flight. Under certain conditions an instructor may authorize repeated solo flights over a given route.

7. Q. As a student pilot, am I permitted to carry passengers with me prior to receipt of my Recreational Pilot or Private Pilot Certificate?

A. No.

8. Q. Must I have an FCC radiotelephone operator's permit to operate an aircraft radio transmitter?

A. No.

9. Q. For the purpose of obtaining an additional certificate or rating, may the holder of a Recreational Pilot Certificate act as pilot in command on flights in excess of:

(1) the 50 nautical-mile limitation;

(2) between sunset and sunrise; and

(3) in airspace which requires communication with air traffic control?

A. Yes, provided an authorized flight instructor has given the recreational pilot the required instruction in these areas and endorsed the pilot's logbook for each flight. The recreational pilot will be required to carry the logbook with the required endorsements on such flights.

10. Q. How can the holder of a Recreational Pilot Certificate ensure that no inadvertent entry is made into airspace requiring communication with air traffic control?

A. The recreational pilot must select readily identifiable landmarks that are well beyond the boundaries of the airspace requiring communication with air traffic control. During training, instruction in identification of airspace requiring communication with air traffic control should be provided.



Most airports have facilities for pilot training conducted by flying schools or individual flight instructors. A school will usually provide a wide variety of training aids, special facilities, and greater flexibility in scheduling. A number of colleges and universities also provide pilot training as a part of their curricula. There are two types of schools. One is normally referred to as an "FAA-approved school" and the other as a "non-approved

school." An FAA-approved school has been granted an Air Agency Certificate by the FAA. The certificated FAA-approved schools may qualify for a ground school rating, a flying school rating, or both. In addition, they may be authorized to give their graduates practical tests, knowledge tests, or both.

Enrollment in an FAA-approved school usually ensures a high quality of training. There is assurance in FAA-approved schools that prescribed standards have been met with respect to equipment, facilities, personnel, and curricula. Many excellent pilot schools find it impractical to qualify for the FAA certificate and are referred to as non-approved schools. One of the differences between FAA-approved schools and non-approved schools is that fewer flight hours are required to qualify for a pilot certificate in an FAA-approved school. The requirement for a Private Pilot Certificate is 40 hours in a non-approved school and 35 hours in an approved school. The national average indicates most people require 60 to 75 hours of training; therefore, this difference may be insignificant for a private pilot rating.


Individuals must make their own decision on where to obtain flight training. Once you have decided on a location, you might want to make a checklist of things to look for in a school. Talking to pilots and reading articles in flight magazines can help you in making your checklist and in the evaluation of a training facility.

Your choice of a flight school might depend on whether you are planning on obtaining a recreational or private certificate or whether you intend to pursue a career as a professional pilot. Another consideration is whether you will train part or full time. Do not make the mistake of making your determination based on financial concerns alone. The quality of training you receive is very important. Prior to making a final decision, visit the school you are considering and talk with management, instructors, and students. Evaluate the items on the checklist you developed and then take some time to think things over before making your decision.

After you have decided where you will learn to fly and have made the necessary arrangements, you are ready to start your training.

Ground and flight training should be obtained as regularly and frequently as possible. This assures maximum retention of instruction and the achievement of requisite proficiency with the least expenditure of time and money.


A pilot training program is dependent upon the quality of the ground and flight instruction received by the student pilot. An FAA-certificated instructor has an understanding of the learning process, a knowledge of the fundamentals of teaching, and the ability to communicate effectively with the student pilot. During the certification process, a flight instructor applicant is tested on a practical application of these skills in specific teaching situations. The knowledge and skills acquired from a specialist in pilot instruction will affect your entire flying career whether you plan to pursue it as a vocation or an avocation.


A flight training course includes the ground and flight training necessary to teach the knowledge and skills required to safely and efficiently function as a certificated pilot. The specific knowledge and skill areas for each category of aircraft are outlined in the FAR's. Refer to FAR Sections 61.96 and 61.97 for the requirements of a Recreational Pilot Certificate. Refer to FAR Sections 61.105 and 61.107 for the requirements of a Private Pilot Certificate.




1. Q. What is the minimum age requirement to take the Recreational Pilot or Private Pilot written test?

A. An applicant must be at least 15 years of age (with the exception of the private pilot balloon or glider knowledge test). Applicants for the balloon or glider test must be at least 14 years of age. Prior to taking the knowledge test, an applicant may be asked to present a birth certificate or other official document as evidence of meeting the age requirement.

2. Q. How should I prepare for the knowledge test?

A. To adequately prepare for the knowledge test, an applicant should refer to:

(1) FAR Section 61.97 (if preparing for the recreational pilot knowledge test); or

(2) FAR Section 61.105 (if preparing for the private pilot knowledge test).

The regulation requires an applicant to have logged ground instruction from an authorized instructor, or to present evidence of having satisfactorily completed a course of instruction or home study course [A home-study course is a course of study in certain aeronautical subject areas organized by a pilot school, publisher, ground or flight instructor, or by the student.

The applicant may develop a home-study course from material described in appropriate government or commercial publications.] in the knowledge areas appropriate to the category and class aircraft for which a rating is sought.

3. Q. What document or documents must I present prior to taking a knowledge test?

A. An applicant for a knowledge test must present appropriate personal identification. The identification must include a photograph of the applicant, the applicant's signature, and the applicant's actual residential address (if different from the mailing address). This information may be presented in more than one form. The applicant must also present one of the following:

(1) A certificate of graduation from a pilot training course appropriate to the certificate or rating sought conducted by an FAA-approved pilot school, or a statement of accomplishment from the school certifying to the satisfactory completion of the ground-school portion of such a course.

(2) A written statement from an FAA-certificated ground or flight instructor, certifying that the applicant has satisfactorily completed the ground instruction required for the certificate or rating sought.

(3) Logbook entries certified by an FAA-certificated ground or flight instructor, certifying satisfactory completion of the ground instruction required for the certificate or rating sought.

(4) A certificate of graduation or statement of accomplishment from a ground school course appropriate to the certificate or rating sought conducted by an agency such as a high school, college, adult education program, the Civil Air Patrol, or an ROTC Flight Training Program.

(5) A certificate of graduation from a home-study course must be developed by the aeronautical enterprise providing the study material. The certificate of graduation must correspond to the FAA knowledge test for the certificate or rating sought. The aeronautical enterprise providing the course of study must also supply a comprehensive knowledge test which can be scored as evidence that the student has completed the course of study. When the student satisfactorily completes the knowledge test, it is sent to the course provider for scoring by an FAA-certificated ground or flight instructor. The instructor personally evaluates the test and attests to the student's knowledge of the subjects presented in the course.

Upon satisfactory completion, a graduation certificate is sent to the student.

(6) Applicants who are unable to provide any of the previously listed documents may have the home- study course they completed reviewed by an FAA inspector to assure they are competent to take the desired knowledge test. To assure an FAA inspector will be available, it is desirable to contact the local FSDO to secure an appointment. The inspector will review your study material and may question you on some of the material. If you are found qualified to take the test, the inspector will issue FAA Form 8060-7, Airman's Authorization for Written Test. This form must be presented when you take your knowledge examination.

(7) In the event of retesting, the applicant must present either the unsatisfactory AC Form 8080-2, Airman Written Test Report, or an airman computer test report (if the test was taken at an FAA- designated computer testing center).

4. Q. If I fail the knowledge test, is there any way to determine the areas in which I need additional work so

I can study for a retest?

A. Yes. You will receive either AC Form 8080-2, Airman Written Test Report, or an airman computer test report (if the test was taken at an FAA-designated computer testing center). The test report will contain your test score and will also list the subject matter codes for the knowledge areas in which you were found deficient. An outline of the subject matter codes is located in the appendix of each written test book. You may refer to the appropriate written test book to determine the areas in which further study is needed.

If you do not already have the appropriate written test book, appendix 1 contains information on how to purchase the book as well as other study material.

5. Q. If I pass the knowledge test, will I receive the same information concerning weak areas as I would if I failed the test?

A. Yes. (Refer to the previous answer.)

6. Q. How long is a satisfactorily completed knowledge test valid?

A. A satisfactorily completed knowledge test expires at the end of the day of the 24th month after the month in which it was taken. If a practical test is not satisfactorily completed during that period, another knowledge test must be taken.

7. Q. Will my instructor review the areas in which the test report showed I was deficient?

A. Yes. Your instructor is required to review the areas in which you were deficient and must endorse the written test report or provide a written endorsement indicating this review has been completed.



There are textbooks and other sources of information which are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, and the FAA. Appendix 1 lists suggested study materials and explains how to obtain the material. Commercial publishers also provide a source of study materials and these materials may be desirable, especially for aircraft categories where government materials are limited.


The applicant should recognize the advantages of planning a definite study program and following it as closely as possible. Haphazard or disorganized study habits usually result in an unsatisfactory score on the knowledge test. The ideal study program would be to enroll in a formal ground school course. This offers the advantages of a professional instructor as well as facilities and training aids designed for pilot instruction. Many of these schools use audiovisual aids or programmed instruction materials to supplement classroom instruction.

For the applicant who is unable to attend a ground school, the self-study method can be satisfactory, provided the proper study materials are obtained and a reasonable amount of time is devoted to study. The applicant should establish realistic periodic goals and, equally important, a target date for completion. Self-discipline is important because it is too easy to "put off" the study period for some other activity.


Experience has shown that the knowledge test is more meaningful to the applicant, and is more likely to result in a satisfactory grade, if it is taken after beginning the flight portion of the training. For optimum benefit, it is recommended that the knowledge test be taken after the student has completed a solo cross-country flight. The operational knowledge gained by this experience can be used to advantage in the knowledge test.


FAA-designated written test examiners and FAA-designated computer testing centers have been certificated to administer FAA knowledge tests. Applicants will be charged reasonable fees for the administration of FAA knowledge tests. Contact the local FSDO to obtain information concerning an FAA-designated written test examiner or FAA-designated computer testing center in your area.


The test contains only questions of the objective, multiple-choice type. This test method conserves the applicant's time, eliminates any element of individual judgment in determining grades, and saves time in scoring.




1. Q. Prior to taking the practical test, what aeronautical experience must I have?

A. The specific aeronautical experience requirements are outlined in FAR Part 61. For the Recreational Pilot Certificate requirements, refer to FAR Sections 61.99 and 61.100. For the Private Pilot Certificate requirements, refer to FAR Sections 61.109, 61.113,

61.115, and 61.117.

2. Q. Must I provide the aircraft for my practical test?

A. Yes. An applicant must provide an airworthy aircraft with equipment relevant to the pilot operations required for the practical test.

3. Q. What papers and documents must I present to the FAA inspector or FAA-designated pilot examiner prior to my practical test?

A. The applicant may be asked to produce and explain:

(1) aircraft's Registration Certificate;

(2) aircraft's Airworthiness Certificate;

(3) aircraft's operating limitations or FAA- approved aircraft flight manual (if required);

(4) aircraft equipment list;

(5) required weight and balance data;

(6) FCC radio station license;

(7) aircraft and engine logbooks or other maintenance records; and

(8) applicable airworthiness directives.

The applicant will be asked to present:

(1) FAA Form 8710-1, Application for an Airman Certificate and/or Rating, (with the flight instructor's recommendation);

(2) a satisfactory grade on an AC Form 8080-2, Airman Written Test Report or an airman computer test report if the test was taken at an FAA-designated computer testing center);

(3) a medical certificate (when required), and a Student Pilot Certificate endorsed by a flight instructor for solo, solo cross-country (when appropriate), and for the make and model of airplane to be used for the practical test;

(4) pilot logbook;

(5) and a graduation certificate from an FAA-approved school (if applicable).

4. Q. What pilot operations are required on the practical test, and how will my performance of these operations be evaluated?

A. If a detailed explanation of the required pilot operations and performance standards is desired, refer to either the Recreational Pilot or Private Pilot Practical Test Standards. The practical test standards may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents or U.S. Government Printing Office bookstores.

Appendix 1 explains how to obtain the publications. A good instructor should have a copy of the practical test standards and should review them with you prior to your practical test.

5. Q. What is the minimum age requirement for a Recreational Pilot or Private Pilot Certificate?

A. An applicant must be at least 17 years of age (with the exception of an applicant for a private pilot glider or free balloon rating). Applicants for the private pilot glider or free balloon rating must be at least 16 years of age.

6. Q. When can I take the recreational pilot or private pilot practical test?

A. The FAR's establish the minimum ground school and flight experience requirements for the Recreational Pilot and Private Pilot Certificates. However, the flight instructor can best determine when the student is qualified for the practical test. By endorsing the student pilot's application, the flight instructor actually makes a written recommendation to this effect.

The flight instructor's written recommendation shows that the applicant has met all the prerequisites for the practical test.

7. Q. Where can I take the practical test?

A. The FSDO's conduct practical tests for pilot certification either at the FSDO or at periodic intervals in outlying cities within the district. FSDO's are usually located on or adjacent to an airport. The FAA has also designated many flight instructors as pilot examiners. Practical tests should be scheduled by appointment to avoid conflicts and wasted time for the applicant.

8. Q. Is there any charge for taking the practical test?

A. Since an FAA-designated pilot examiner serves without pay from the FAA for conducting practical tests and executing the necessary reports, the FAA-designated pilot examiner is allowed to charge a reasonable fee.

However, there is no charge for the practical test when conducted by an FAA inspector.

9. Q. May I exercise the privileges of my pilot certificate immediately after passing my practical test or must I wait until I receive the actual pilot certificate?

A. Yes. The FAA inspector or FAA-designated pilot examiner will issue a temporary pilot certificate which is effective for a specific time period. This temporary pilot certificate is issued to a qualified applicant pending a review of qualifications and the issuance of a permanent certificate by the Administrator. The permanent certificate is issued to an applicant found qualified and a denial thereof is issued to an applicant found not qualified.

10. Q. Is there a charge for the pilot certificate?

A. No. There is no charge for any original certificate which is issued by the FAA. However, fees will be charged by the FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner for the medical examination and by the FAA-designated pilot examiner for services rendered. The FAA does charge to replace any pilot or medical certificate.
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