Tips, Tricks & Trends

Learning to Fly: What You Need to Know Before Take-Off

Learning to fly is something that many people dream of. And why not? Piloting a plane and exploring the skies above does sound pretty dreamy. But how do you actually go about learning to fly? Let’s find out.

A man flying a Cessna plane over California
A man flying a Cessna airplane over Orange County. | Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Finding the right flight school and learning to fly

Now, learning to fly is a bit different than learning to drive a car. While you can practice your driving skills simply by hitting the road, learning to fly is a tad more complicated than that. In fact, according to the FAA, if you want to learn how to fly, you should go to pilot school. Fortunately, plenty of airports offer pilot training, as do several colleges and universities.  

But if you’d prefer to skip flight school? Popular Mechanics reports that it is possible if you choose to hire freelance flight instructor instead. Doing so will give you the opportunity to create an individualized training plan. You’ll potentially spend less on learning to fly too.

That being said, if you want to pursue a recreational or private pilot certificate, the FAA recommends against skimping on training. Don’t choose a particular flight school or flight instructor just because they’re cheap. Instead, choose a school or instructor based on the quality of the training they offer.

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Can you learn to fly a plane without an instructor?

Here’s the thing about learning to fly, not all of your training will be done in the air. In fact, you should probably get ready to spend some time with your nose in the books because, according to Popular Mechanics, a lot of your training is going to take place on the ground. 

To earn your pilot’s certificate, you’ll need to pass both a written test and an oral exam conducted by either an FAA official or an approved pilot examiner. In preparation for that test, you’ll have to do a serious amount of reading. You can choose to do this reading on your own, or you could also go to ground school and learn the basics of how to fly in a classroom setting.

As for learning to fly without an instructor? As you probably guessed, that’s not really possible. While you can do a certain amount of studying on your own, you will need to do some actual flying before that testing. And that flying? It has to be with a flight instructor.

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Do flight simulators help you learn to fly?

According to In Flight Pilot Training, there are several benefits to using a flight simulator when learning to fly. In fact, In Flight Pilot Training reports that using a flight simulator can be more affordable than flying an actual plane. 

It also gives you the ability to repeat certain flying procedures, helping you to build your muscle memory as a pilot. If you choose to buy a flight simulator for yourself, you’ll also be able to practice your flying skills from the comfort of your very own home.

In Flight Pilot Training added, “While nothing beats the act of actually manning the control wheel of an airplane, using a flight simulator can be a great way for aspiring pilots to get a sense for what flying is like. There are a number of flight simulator products and programs available today, and the technological advances in both software development and screen technology mean these aren’t your grandfather’s flight simulators.”

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Are you ready to take on the skies?

There’s nothing quite like learning to fly. If you think you’re ready to take on the skies above, we recommend starting your journey as a pilot by researching flight schools and instructors in your area.