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Tips for Getting the Most Training Out of Your ‘Minimum Flight Hours’

Is it possible to become a certificated Pilot within the FAA minimum number of flight hours, or close to it? Yes! 

If you go to a local Flight School and sit down with one of their Certificate Flight Instructors (CFIs) and ask what it will take for you to earn your Private Pilot Certificate, you’ll likely hear them say you need a minimum of 40 hours of flight training per 14 CFR 61.109(a), but they won’t quote the regulation to you. This is true but 90% of students that finish their flight training DO NOT complete their training anywhere near the FAA “bare-bones minimum” number of flight hours! 

The national average is anywhere between 60-75 hours of flight training (aircraft rental) and this is generally the costliest aspect of learning to fly.

When a Student Pilot learns this, it tends to dilute their dream of continuing flight training to earn their Pilot certificate because of the realization of the additional expense to finish their training.

Flight Simulators for the win!

At Learn 2 Fly CT we have had students earn their Private Pilot certificate well BELOW the national average with a simple plan that we tell everyone that meets with us on day one, a home simulator! A student can purchase X-Plane 11 for around $70 and a simple joystick on Amazon for around $40. So, for less than the price of an actual flight lesson a student can set up a home simulator and practice on those areas of flight training that can often result loss of drive early on in their training; straight-and-level flight, climbing, descending, and turning.

Being able to master these “simple” tasks on a home computer results in flying the real plane quicker and with less stress compared to relying solely on actual flight lessons.

CFIs strive to have a very thorough ground schooling sessions prior to a flight lesson, but, we are human and may not always have “all of our ducks in a row”. This means more information, and stress, coming at the student during their lesson experience in flight training.

The key to reducing the number of hours in the aircraft, and the stress on you as a student, is to have the flight instructor (yes, especially me!) talk the least in the plane. This allows you to focus on the task at hand; flying!

I will be the first person to tell you that I can talk you ears off in the plane! For 2 reasons:

  1. I have a lot to say about piloting/flying because it is an obsession of mine and I love doing it. I am sure you’ve heard the saying “if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”, well that’s where I’m at when I am instructing! I want each student I fly with to walk away with more knowledge then they had when we met for the lesson.
  2. If you can fly the aircraft safely and proficiently with me talking your ears off, then I know you’ll be able to do it with your friends and family in the plane once you have your certificate in hand! I am looking for you to tell me to “Shut Up” while we are flying! This shows me that you have the mindset of being the Pilot in Command (PIC) which is what you’ll be acting as once you have your certificate. You need to have the authority to tell people in the plane to be quite so that you can focus on the tasks at hand; flying the aircraft and talking or listening on the radio.

“The PIC is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft”

Years ago (before “my time”) Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs), the person you take your final practical test with for your Pilot certificate (commonly called a checkride) use to tell the applicant something that they are forbidden to say these days; “You are now licensed to learn”. Imagine if you could get a Driver’s License at 16 years old after only a lesson or two, effectively the same as earning your Pilot certificate in the FAA minimum hours. They might say the same to people now being able to drive on the highway with friends and family. The big difference with flying is the wind!

You will never hear anyone say that now (except for the old timers telling you their “war stories”). Once you have your certificate you have the freedom to fly whenever and wherever you want (within the certificates limitations) and get yourself into situations you’d never expect. Much like the first time I drove on the highway as a newly minted driver; all the vehicles doing their own thing and me just trying to survive!

So, this all boils down to another question; is a 45-hour Private Pilot “less safe” than a person who completes their flight training with 80 or 100 hours? I would say no, they are not less safe compared to someone that took longer to complete their training. Piloting an aircraft is not only about the muscle skills (stick and rudder skills) it’s also about the mental muscles!

Staying aware of a pilot’s risk and responsibility

Pilots are inherently more safety conscientious compared to the rest of the public and for good reason! We are flying an aircraft which is “riskier” than most day-to-day activities. This is not to say the aircraft we fly are not safe, they are. The training to become a pilot and the continued training to make piloting a career, engrains a sense of safety generally higher than what the general public maintains. As a CFI I pass this training and mindset on to my students and the pilots that are the “weekend warriors”. We always need to be prepared for the worst. A good argument can be made that a student/pilot that finished their training in 45 hours has a better mindset then one that finished their training in 100 hours because the person that took 100 hours to complete their training likely had that training spread out over a few years compared to only a few months.

3 Months • 46 Hours

Are you looking to begin or finish your flight training? If you started taking lessons years ago but still have your logbook all those hours still count towards the 40 hours! It could be as simple as passing the written test and flying the plane again for 10-25 (don’t quote me on that as it depends on your abilities) to be able to fulfill your dream of earning your Pilot certificate! It’s that simple. We can help you achieve your goal as quickly as you can achieve it. I was able to compete my Private Pilot certificate in 46 hours of flight time.

I had 3 lessons scheduled per week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8am-10am) and it took me about 3 months to complete. I had people telling me to buy a home simulator, but I never listened to them. It wasn’t until I was a CFI that I suggest this to a student who was having some difficulty with his training. He went home and purchase what I mentioned at the beginning of this article. The next lesson was a night and day difference, I couldn’t believe it!

Helpful Tips For All Flight Students:

  1. Get a simulator and joystick. If you want to spend more on a yoke and rudder pedals go for it, but the joystick will help with the basics without breaking the bank.
  2. Fly the simulator like you would the real plane! Ask us for an aircraft checklist or create your own!
  3. Keep your “mind in the game”. Come to each lesson ready to learn and have fun! Don’t be afraid to ask questions! We don’t know what you don’t know!
  4. Listen to Keep your mind in the game!
  5. Watch YouTube videos about flying, aircraft, flight training, crosswind landings. Keep your mind in the game! (Don’t watch videos about actual checkrides)
  6. Write your goals down! Solo Flight date, completing the written test by a date, checkride date? Write it down to make it official and realistic for yourself.
  7. Ask questions! There are no “stupid questions” but if you ask me what the elevator does 2 weeks away from your checkride we will be having some words!
  8. Study!
  9. Let your CFI know if you’re losing motivation. We can switch it up and go on a Dual Cross-Country flight or go on a night flight! It’s still a requirement that needs to be completed. Sometimes we need to break the habit of doing maneuvers or pattern work. Flight training should be fun, and we want it to be!

All the above items will aide you in getting your Pilot Certificate in the quickest amount of time and result in reducing the cost of your training!

Focus + dedication = Savings & Success!

The financial cost for the national average to earn a Private Pilot certificate is estimated to be between $10,000 – 15,000, depending on the location and the type of aircraft used for training. We recently had a student complete his training in 47.5 hours of flight time and now holds a Private Pilot certificate – which translates to a total cost under $7,000. That’s a huge savings that can be applied to continuing to build  experience as a Private Pilot in flight!

How long will it take YOU to earn your wings?!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. rachel frampton

    My husband has always been wanting to enroll in a flight school because being a pilot has always been a dream of his. I never knew that whilst learning how to fly, a student can invest in an X-Plane 11 which can be used in practicing some of the flight training, therefore, reducing their number of hours in the aircraft. I guess you have a point about a student that finished training for 45 hours has a better mindset compared to a student who finished the program for 100 hours.

    1. admin

      Absolutely! There is no reason NOT to use a home based flight simulator. I have seen it do wonders for students throughout their training and not only for a Private Pilot certificate!

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