What is the first step?

Deciding to learn to fly is the first step and often the most difficult one. Before you make the big decision to take flying lessons, you will want to experience flying in a small plane. McCormick Air Center offers an Introductory Flight for $120. This is a 30 minute flight where you get to fly the plane. It is an excellent way to help decide if piloting is for you. To arrange for an introductory flight, please call our office at 509-248-1680.

How long does it take to learn to fly?

You can get your pilots license with as little as 40 hours flight time. The national average for obtaining a private pilot's license is 71 hours. Your actual flight time will be dependent on your ability and the frequency of flight lessons. We have found that with dedication, you can get your license within six months. Before receiving a private pilot license, like with getting a driver's license, there is both a written and a practical test to pass.

What are the steps in learning to fly?

Pilot training is broken down into three stages -- pre-solo, cross-country and preparing for the practical test. In the pre-solo stage, your instructor will be with you for every lesson, guiding you through the stages of learning how to control the aircraft. In the cross-country stage, your instructor will teach you how to plan a flight to a distant airport. Initially your instructor will be with you, and then you will do these flights on your own. The final stage is preparing you for your practical test.

How long does it take to solo?

There is no single answer for this question, since it depends on the individual. People learn skills at different rates, but the average time to solo runs from approximately 15 to 30 hours.

Do I need to enroll in ground school?

The FAA requires a minimum of 15 hours of ground instruction before you can take the written exam. Ground instruction will help you to prepare for both the written and practical tests. Ground school can be completed in several ways: computer-based training (internet learning), one-on-one with an instructor, or in a classroom setting. All methods are acceptable it is a matter of personal preference. McCormick Air Center offers ground school classes throughout the year, call 509-248-1680 for class dates.

How much does it cost?

Please see our Flight Instruction Rates to learn more about pricing.

How can I obtain a medical certificate?

The exam is not rigorous. An average healthy person will pass it without any problems. If you do have a problem, it's not the end of your flying career. Depending on the problem, your medical certificate will be withheld until further testing is done. Your Aviation Medical Examiner will be able to help you in such cases. If you and your medical examiner can prove to the FAA that your condition will not make you unsafe to pilot an airplane, there's a good chance you'll get your medical certificate.

The FAA requires the completion of a medical application form, which must be done online, prior to the day of your medical (more than 24 hours before appointment). You can access the FAA medical application website, Medxpress here: https://medxpress.faa.gov/

How difficult is it?

As with any other skill you master, flying is learned step by step. It's a fascinating experience. It can be learned by practically anyone who is willing to invest some time and effort. Pilot training has two aspects: ground instruction and flight instruction. Ground instruction encompasses classroom time as well as one-on-one time your instructor. It covers flight rules and regulations, airplane systems, flight planning, navigation, radio procedures, and weather. The flight training aspect teaches you to skillfully fly the aircraft by learning and practicing various flight maneuvers, take-offs and landings, and navigation. By the time you're ready for your Private Pilot practical test, you can be secure in the knowledge that you're a safe and competent pilot.

What kind of tests will I take?

There are a series of written and practical quizzes mandated by the FAA. These cover all aspects of your learned aviation knowledge. In order to receive your Private Pilot certificate, you must pass a computer-based FAA knowledge exam, which is done on site through the LaserGrade testing system. Also there is a practical test, which is done with a FAA designated examiner. During the practical test you will demonstrate your ability to maneuver the airplane safely and confidently.

What are the requirements to Obtain a Private Pilot Certificate?

  • U.S. citizen or pass TSA background check
  • Be at least 17 years old (you can solo at age 16).
  • Have the ability to read, speak, and understand English.
  • Pass a routine FAA Medical Examination.
  • Successfully complete a computer-based pilot knowledge test.
  • Successfully complete a practical test (in the flight environment).
  • 40 hours of total flight time
  • At least 20 hours with an instructor
  • At least 10 hours by yourself (called solo time)

Subject Matter

Here is the general order of events that you can expect in your flight training.

  • Visit Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and get medical exam. (The medical certificate you receive is also your student license.)
  • Dual instruction on all fundamental maneuvers/procedures
  • Solo flight on all fundamental maneuvers/procedures
  • Dual instruction on navigation (these are called cross country flights)
  • Solo cross country flights
  • Dual instruction at night
  • Take the computer-based pilot knowledge test
  • Prepare for the practical test
  • Take the practical test

For more information, visit AOPA’s Frequently Asked Questions and also take a look at the FAA’s Student Pilot Guide.