Humans may not be born with wings, but they've been trying to figure out how to take to the skies for centuries. If being a passenger in a plane doesn't feel like enough for you, it's understandable that your next step might be to get your pilot's license and fly a plane yourself. This can seem like a far-off dream from where you stand on the ground, but it's more achievable than you may think. Take a look at a few steps that can put you on the path to navigating the skies yourself.
Attend a Test Lesson
Once you've identified a few different flight schools in your area, start contacting them for information about their training programs. One thing that you should be sure to ask about is whether they offer a test lesson, or an introductory lesson. Many flight schools offer one lesson, usually at a significantly reduced price, for interested potential students.
An introductory lesson is usually an in-flight lesson. A qualified instructor will show you around the airplane and take you up for a short flight. While in the air, you'll have the opportunity to see what the controls do, learn how to steer the plane, and understand the mechanics of how a plane flies.
This lesson can give you a clear idea of whether you really want to commit to flight lessons. You may get up in the air and realize that you're more comfortable in a passenger seat and far away from the cockpit—or you may be exhilarated by the experience and ready to do whatever it takes to get back behind the controls of on airplane. No matter which way you end up feeling, an introductory lesson is a good way to find out whether it's worth pursuing your pilot's license.
Decide Which Pilot's License You Want
Once you've confirmed that flight lessons truly are something that you want to commit to, your next step is to figure out which type of pilot's license you want to pursue. There are four different types of pilot's licenses, and each one has different requirements and allows different privileges.
The first type of pilot's license, which you will need sometime during your training, is the student pilot license. While you're in the air with your instructor, you don't need any kind of license at all, but eventually you're going to need to fly solo in order to progress, and for that you need a student license. These licenses have minimal requirements and expire in two years.
The next type of license is the private pilot license. This is the license you'll need if you plan on making flying a hobby, and want to take friends and family up in the air occasionally. To get this license, you'll need at least 40 to 50 hours of flight time, and you'll take a written and practical test. Once you have the license, it never expires.
If you're interested in making flight a career instead of a hobby, you'll need either a commercial pilot license or an airline transport pilot license. The commercial pilot license requires 250 hours of flight time, plus a written and practical exam. This is the minimum license needed to be hired by an airline, and it may also be used for other flight-related jobs like sky-taxiing or flying tours.
If you want to be the Captain of an airplane with a commercial airline, you'll need the airline transport pilot license, which requires 1500 hours of flight time. Having a goal in mind, whether it's being able to rent a plane now and then as a hobbyist or being a Captain with a major airline, can help you find instruction that's best suited to your needs.
Find a Way to Pay
Flying isn't cheap, and the price tag on the activity can stymie many potential students. However, there are ways to make it more affordable. Lessons for hobbyists are usually more affordable than lessons for aspiring commercial pilots, as they need less flight time. The concern for the hobbyist is usually not the cost of the lessons, but the cost of the plane. Buying a plane is a huge expense for someone who doesn't intend to fly frequently. However, you can always rent a plane when you want to fly. This is much more affordable and avoids some of the headaches of plane ownership.
If you want to work as a pilot, you should be able to find funding to help pay for your lessons. Government grants and student loans can be used at many aviation colleges, as can private student loans. There are also a variety of scholarships available from various aviation and pilot associations.
Learning to fly a plane will likely be one of the most rewarding things that you ever do. Relatively few people have pilot's licenses, so you'll be one of an elite group with experiences, knowledge, and skills that will make your life a lot more interesting.