What is the process of learning to fly and become a Certificated Pilot?
Well, it boils down to four (4) steps:

Avoid Paperwork Issues:

Make sure that YOUR NAME is exactly as it appears on your Driver’s License/Government issued ID, for all FAA paperwork! If you’re missing your middle name or middle initial on the FAA paperwork it will likely cause you not being able to take the Written Knowledge Exam or Practical Exam (commonly called a “checkride”)!

TSA Requirement:

All flight schools need to verify U.S. Citizenship per the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If you start training with us…we will verify this. If you then decide to go to a different flight school…they will also need to complete this verification. If you go to another different school….you get the idea.

The first “flight lesson,” generally called an Introductory Flight Lesson (Intro Flight) or Discovery Flight, is a “TSA freebie”. This means we do not need to prove U.S. citizenship for this initial flight lesson. No flight school/training center can complete additional training until the TSA requirement is met.

What can a flight school use to prove U.S. citizenship? Click here to find out.

  • This goes for students ALL students. It doesn’t matter what their age is! Most states will issue a government issued photo ID (not a Driver’s License). Check with your state.

Not a U.S. citizen but looking to earn your wings? No problem! We can conduct training if you’re in the United States legally. There is some additional paperwork for the TSA, fingerprinting, and additional fees (~$150) but it is 100% possible! Generally, the paperwork will take 2-5+ weeks to complete until we get the “Final Approval” email from the TSA stating that we can being your flight training!

STEP ONE

FAA Medical Certificate – required before you fly solo
You cannot just go to your PCP (primary care physician) to get a Medical Certificate. You’ll have to go to a doctor that is approved by the FAA to issue them. These “FAA approved” doctors are known as an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).

If you are taking any prescription medication or have concerns about your health , then I would strongly suggest starting with getting an FAA Medical Certificate. Some medications or medical conditions can prohibit you from getting a Medical Certificate, and you’d rather know that before you’re 15-20 hours of flight training into your dream of earning your wings!

Legally, you don’t need to have a Medical Certificate until you’re going to fly solo. There is no requirement to have a Medical Certificate when you’re flying with your CFI (Certificated Flight Instructor) for your flight lessons.  

  • Firstly, an FAA 3rd Class Medical Certificate exam is very basic. Most Annual Physicals at your PCP are generally more intensive than what the FAA requires for a 3rd
  • Also, you CAN fly wearing prescription glasses! Your vision must be correct to 20/20 and you’ll need to have your glasses with you for any aircraft operations.

FAA resources regarding medical conditions and medications:

Paperwork for your Medical Certificate:

  • Register for an account at https://medxpress.faa.gov/medxpress/ (remember your login information!)
    • Note: this is a federal document (FAA Form 8500-8) that you’re going to fill out and submit to the FAA/your AME. Do not withhold information because it can result in bad news if/when the FAA finds out that you lied on the form! It’s a felony…
  • Print out the form and bring it with you for your examination. Also, write the confirmation number down so you can provide it to your AME at your appointment.
  • You’ll need a basic medical certificate. This is known as a 3rd Class FAA Medical Certificate. How long will my Medical Certificate be valid for?
    • If you are 40 years old or older (>40), then your Medical Certificate will be valid for 24-calendar months.
    • If you are under 40 years old (<40), then your Medical Certificate will be valid for 60-calendar months.
      • Example: You are issued a 3rd Class Medical Certificate on January 18, 2022. It will be valid until January 31, 2024 or January 31, 2027, depending on your age when it was issued. If you on February 1st without having a new Medical Certificate, then you’re flying illegally. Don’t do that!
    • Basic Med is an option in the future, but you need to have had an FAA Medical Certificate in the past. More details can be found here.
  • An FAA Medical Certificate is not covered by any insurance company. You’ll have to pay for it out of pocket. Generally, a Medical Certificate will cost you $150-200.

Finding an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)

  • Find an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)
  • If you are concerned about getting a Medical Certificate issued to you, I would highly suggest calling an AME on the phone and discussing your medical concerns with the doctor over the phone.
    • This is an “unofficial way of getting an official answer.”
    • There is no need to discuss your medication conditions with your CFI (unless they are a medical doctor, or pertinent to your flight lessons/training!). We can’t answer medical questions, only refer you to an AME.

Medical Certificate Help:

  • Make a photocopy of your Medical Certificate! If you happen to lose your original Certificate, then you’ll have to contact the FAA to get a copy sent to you. If you make your own copy and keep it somewhere safe, then you won’t ever lose it!
  • Forgot to make a copy? Here is the link for requesting one from the FAA: https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/medical_certification/request_copy/

STEP TWO

Student Pilot Certificate – required before you fly solo

You’ll need to have a Student Pilot Certificate before you can fly solo. This is completed in-person with your CFI on the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website.

  • Register for an account at https://iacra.faa.gov/
    • Again…a Federal Form (FAA Form 8710-1)…don’t lie!
    • Verify your mailing address! This is the address the FAA will send you documents and/or letter(s) of enforcement! Always keep your address updated with the FAA!
    • The FAA will not call/text/email you if they think you did something wrong (a violation), or if they have a question about your paperwork! They will send you a certified letter in the “snail mail” to inform you. Generally, the letter will say something like “….you have 45 days to acknowledge receipt of this letter and fix the issues XYZ, if you do not comply within the timeframe mentioned then your PILOT or MEDICAL CERTIFICATE will be revoked/suspended/denied…” So, if you never received the letter because you forgot to update your address…..you could be in big legal trouble the next time you fly!
  • When IACRA asks for your Social Security Number (SSN) I always suggest students click on “Do not use.” There is no tax reason the FAA needs your SSN.
  • Write down your username, password, and FTN (FAA Tracking Number) for IACRA. You don’t want to lock yourself out of your account!
  • Complete the application for a Student Pilot Certificate on IACRA (might take 10 minutes). This step can be completed anytime.
  • Meet with your CFI and give them your FTN so they can look you up in IACRA. Your CFI will then proceed to complete the paperwork and verify you are you, with your Driver’s License.
  • Once the application is submitted to the FAA, the TSA will do a simple background check on you. Within a few days of submitting your application, you’ll have a temporary Student Pilot Certificate ready to print out (you’ll need to log into IACRA to see if its ready for you to download)! Once you have it printed, it is a legal Student Pilot Certificate.
  • You will receive a “hard” plastic Student Pilot Certificate in the mail 3-7+ weeks after submitting your application!
  • Generally, the entire paperwork process on IACRA will take 15-30 minutes to complete with your CFI.

Student Pilot Certificate – Limitations:

  • You MAY NOT carry anything. This includes pets!
  • VFR conditions and a minimum surface visibility of 3 statue miles (SM) during the day.
  • Must carry your Pilot Logbook with you, to show proof of endorsements from your CFI.
  • Limitations will also be listed in your Pilot Logbook on the endorsement your CFI gives you. Flying outside of the limitation can result in big legal trouble.
  • A solo endorsement is initially valid for 90 days and then needs to be renewed by your CFI with a new endorsement in your Logbook.

STEP THREE

AA Written Knowledge Exam – required before you can be signed off by your CFI for the Practical Exam (“checkride”)

In my opinion, the worst part of earning your wings, because it’s boring! You need to gain all the knowledge and skills required to successfully pass the Written Knowledge Exam. This can be done with many different options (online, in-person, DVD, etc…). All are designed to give you the knowledge required to pass the written exam.

  • We have held multiple FREE Private Pilot Ground Schools online and recorded each class. We offer the course for FREE! Send us an email to learn2flyct@gmail.com and we will happily send you the link for the course! There are no hidden costs, there is no cost to take our course, ask around!

Taking the Written Exam:

  • Private Pilot Exam = 60 multiple choice questions. You need a 70% or better to pass. You will have 2.5 hours to complete the exam. It is computer generated.
  • You need to be endorsed to take the exam! You cannot just take it whenever you want. The testing center will turn you away if you try this. Most “Ground School” programs will provide you with this endorsement after you prove to them that you’re ready for the exam.
  • Create an account at https://faa.psiexams.com/faa/login
  • Through this website you will: register for the exam, pay the company (PSI) $175 to take the exam, and choose the date/time and location for your exam!
  • On your test date bring your: Photo ID, Written Endorsement, E6B Flight Computer, VFR Plotter, Pencil, and Calculator
  • The exam is valid for 24 calendar months! If you don’t complete your flight training in this timeframe, roughly “2-year” window, then you would have to complete the Written Exam again.

Locations for Exam around Hartford, CT
(as of January 2022):

STEP FOUR

Flight Training!
  • Complete flight training toward your pilot Certificate!

Best of luck to you on your adventure for earning your Pilot Certificate, whether it is with us or another flight training provider!

I truly enjoy (a little obsessed!) helping people’s dream of becoming a Pilot, come to reality! Please let me know if I can help!
Send me an email to learn2flyct@gmail.com.

Also, check out our FAQs, page. I actively keep it updated with new questions that I’m asked!