Why learn to fly?

Congratulations on taking the first step on the path to learning to fly! Spending some time to research your options will help you to become knowledgeable about the process and ensure that you receive the best flight training possible. In this series, we’ll cover some common questions and answers regarding this process to help you get started in the right direction.

Why Learn to Fly?

Learning to fly will unlock a world of possibilities and give you unparalleled freedom to see the world. It is a truly unique experience—one of the last great adventures in our modern life. It is challenging, rewarding and flat out fun!

Austin Crowe - PrivateSome people start flying to make a career out of it, eventually working as a professional pilot. There are numerous jobs in aviation besides just airline pilot. Career opportunities include business aviation pilot, flight instructing, cargo airlines, military flying, law enforcement and many more.

For others, flying is a convenient and cost-effective method of personal or business travel. You can set your own schedule, use airports that airlines don’t serve and leave the hassles of security lines behind. For business use, airplanes allow you to do more in one day than you could do in a week traveling by airline. Flexibility, privacy and freedom are all great reasons to use a personal airplane for travel.

In the end, though, many pilots fly for pure enjoyment, taking local flights on nice days to see new and interesting places. You can take a friend and fly for lunch at another airport, tour local landmarks or attend fly-ins to meet other pilots. No matter where you’re headed, being up in the air is the greatest thrill of all.

Whether you want to fly for a living or just for fun, general aviation offers a safe, rewarding and surprisingly affordable way to get around.

Read our entire Getting Started series for more answers.

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John knows how lucky he is to go to work every day at an airport. As Vice President of Sporty’s Pilot Shop’s Catalog Division, he says, “I get to hang around airplanes all the time, flying regularly and testing new products for the catalog.” Coming from an aviation family, John grew up in the back of small airplanes and learned to fly as a teenager. Ever since, he has been hooked on anything with wings and regularly flies a Citabria, a Pilatus PC-12 and a Robinson R44 helicopter. Despite his love of low and slow flight, John says, “I love the challenge of IFR flying in the system. Seeing the runway lights as you break out on approach is a thrill.”

84 COMMENTS

  1. I would like to become a pilot. I’m retired from the army and was a motor-pool supervisor for 11 years. I served for 24 years. I also would like to know if you take Vocational, Rehabilitation and Employment Program from the Veteran Administration as a tuition program and also if you also have students from high school. My son is in the 11th grade very talented with a mechanic course and automotive repair course while still attending school. He also have VA benefits and can use it as early as 17 years old. 

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    Edwin Cruz

  2. I am 51, is the age problem for sport or rec. course. How musch an approximate cost?. I am in Mesa, Arizona, any suggestion for School. Thank you

    • Age is not a problem for any of these licenses, Mohammad. Cost can vary widely, but something in the $8,000 to $11,000 range is realistic (don’t believe the bargain basement deals you may see out there).

  3. Hey I want to have my pilots license by my 16th birthday
    I am almost done with sportys online courses
    If I fly with an instructor while I am still 15 will those hours still count towards my pilots license

  4. John, what is the license I’m looking for if I want to fly (only myself / family member) for purpose of transport only? I’m a Dentist.

    Grazi Baci

  5. Adel, a Private pilot license is probably what you need, but you should consider the Recreational, at least as a starting point.

  6. Very good information.
    I am 51 with some basic knowledge of flying, so I decided that is time to learn how to fly and obtain my license next year, and continue on to be certified in multi engine and Citation rating.
    Next week I will order an interactive video course, to get started.

  7. Mr Zimmerman,
    Am 37 years old. Been dreaming about flying since I was 17. Was never able to afford it but now in position to start. My ambition is to be a commercial pilot and , if my age allows, go on to be a Captain with an international airline one day even if that day is a year to my retirement. Is mine a realistic dream?

    • Thomas, your dream is possible, but it will take a lot of hard work and some time paying your dues. It’s important to make a plan that can support you and your family while you train and climb the ladder. Also consider other flying professions besides just airline pilot–corporate/fractional pilot, flight instructor, etc.

  8. My son is interested in flying lessons but he is only 9. Is that too young, would it be a waste of time? Should he wait until he is older like 12 or 13?

    • Mike, 9 is probably too young to start lessons – while you can start anytime, he can’t solo until 16. That’s a long way away and he may lose interest. What you might consider is getting him involved in aviation short of lessons–go to air shows, get him a subscription to an aviation magazine, go out to the airport on weekends, etc. Then, when he’s more like 12 or 13, take him out for a lesson. Just try one.

      One last thing to remember–he can solo a glider at 14, so you might look into nearby glider schools.

  9. I used to hold a Indian Commercial Pilot’s License with Insrument Rating. I have approx 280 hrs on single engines. This has expired. I want to apply for a Private Pilot’s License to fly for Leisure. Will my previous Hrs be considered. How do I go about this? Maybe, I should go for my medical first, as I shall be 62 yrs of age on 7/17/2013. If I do not pass my Medical, it will be a waste of Time & Money.

  10. where’s your location here i would like to take my ground schooling,can you help me regarding this…

  11. Mr Zimmerman, I’m 56years old retired from over road the trucking,and have a mechanical back ground. I’m interested in getting my private Pilot’s License.

    • Go for it, Steve! You sound like a great candidate for it, so I’d suggest reading all the info on this site then scheduling a lesson. It’s a great way to get up in the air and see if you like it. Good luck.

  12. I am 14 years old, and have been extremely interested in aviation for years. Do you think I am too young to persue flight school for now? I was thinking of asking my parents to look into enrolling me in a flight school for my 15th birthday in a few months. I plan on spending a few hours exploring this site for a few hours tonight.

    • Nick, 15 is a great age to start training. You can solo at 16 and earn your license at 17, so you are at a good spot. Go take that first lesson–you don’t have to commit to anymore than that, and you’ll get a great feel for whether flying is right for you.

  13. hello : John Zimmerman
    Im Jorge and i have 25 years old, and one of mi dreams is to be come a Pilot. i have the x-plane 10 the i bought for my mac, and i training my self with this flight simulator.
    I want to know if i need to have my GED for get in the aviation school and i want to know if i can used my passport like ID for registered in the school because I’m from Bolivia but i live in United States for 7 years, in Stamford, CT
    Please send me you answers to my Email address Jorge_luis001@yahoo.com.
    thanks and have a good day.

  14. Hi John. I would like to know, if you get your sport license, are you allowed to fly biplanes and if so what are some examples?

    • There is no specific limitation on biplanes. The limit is a maximum gross weight of 1320lbs.

    • Congratulations on taking the course! You will still need to find a flight instructor for the flying part, but this course is all the home study you need to do. You can get the sign off to take the written test from the course, but not the flight test.

  15. Is the materials, let alone the kit, required to have in order to take the flight course? I am looking to take the course, however I don’t want to buy things I will not need in the future. I am in Civil Air Patrol and have joined the EAA. I am 14 years old and today just attended a Young Eagles Flight in Sumter, SC and need to know as soon as possible. Thank You

    • You do not have to use a home study course, it it will save you a lot of time and money. It’s a great way to prepare for the written test and it will make your flight lessons much more productive.

  16. I am a member of EAA and according to the information I was given, I get free access to “Sporty’s Complete Flight Training Course”. I would like to know how to access that so I can start preparing for the FAA written exams.

    • At 13 years old, your best bet is to become a member of the Civil Air Patrol (in the US, if you live in another country, find out if they have a similar organization to CAP). Civil Air Patrol Cadets can take advantage of free O-rides (Orientation flights) in both gliders and airplanes. They can also participate in flight encampments where they can solo as soon as they are eligible for a fraction of the cost it would take at a regular flight school. You can do more research on Civil Air Patrol, or email me for more information (I am a Captain in the Seattle Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol). My email is ruth@pilottricks.com. Happy flying!

  17. Question on the online Learn to Fly Course. Trying out the online demo, the Interactive Maneuvers Guide has no audio during the illustrated animations. Is this the case with the purchased version as well?

    Thanks

  18. I’m 14 and I have been showing a great interest in flying over the last few years. I have become very good at the X-Plane 10 simulator I recieved for Christmas. I got a free ride in a plane in Oshkosh at the EAA museum, as well as getting my membership as a Young Eagle. My parents are willing to let me begin taking lessons, but am I supposed to complete the online course first? (It seems like its supposed to go along with my lessons, but im just not sure and I want to get started because I’m turning 15 next month).

    • Matt, congratulations on all you’ve done so far. You do not have to complete the online course first, although you could. It’s designed to be used as a complement to your flight training.

      Good luck!

      • Alright, sounds good. I have one more question. If I choose to take lessons to become a sport’s pilot, will I still have the opportunity to attend the Airforce Academy and serve in the airforce (or persue other careers such as a commercial pilot) in the future, or do such careers require a private pilot’s certificate?

        Thanks!

        • Most of those careers do not require you to have a pilot’s license to get started, so it doesn’t really matter. In any case, you can always upgrade a Sport license to a Private with just a bit of additional training.

  19. When is the deluxe package with DVDs going to be available? It says currently not available. Also, what are the advantages of this over the regular DVD instruction besides the ‘extras’ included? Will the books be required as add ons for the basic instruction?

    • The Deluxe Kit should be back in stock within the next 2 weeks. The extras here are a pretty good deal, especially the flight bag and electronic E6B. You save by buying it all as a kit.

    • There’s a lot to learn without having to do lessons. Start reading flying magazines (AOPA’s Flight Training is free for 6 months). Take a Young Eagles ride (www.youngeagles.org) and you can become an EAA student member for free.

    • It varies widely, but I would say $75 is low. Plan on $100-$150/hr for the airplane, and anywhere from $25-65/hr for the instructor.

    • Private is by far the most common license, but some schools also train for the Recreational and Sport. These can be accomplished faster and for less money.

  20. I AM INTERESTED TO LEARN TO FLY BUT IDONT KNOW ANY WHERE NEAR BY ME I WOULD BE GREATFUL TO YOU IF COULD PLEASE ASSISTME THANKING YOU

  21. HI,

    I am from South Africa.

    I want to download the course via my “Learn to fly App” on my I-phone and complete the 2 exams before I go to my instructor in South Africa. Is this course aligned with the PPL license in South Africa? And will the app help me save money on my current PPL quotation of ZAR85 000?

    Kind regards
    Albert Kitching
    +2782 6972 968

    • Hi Albert,

      The course would be very useful for you–aerodynamics is the same no matter where you fly. However, the particulars are aimed at the US pilot, so communications, regulations and airspace will all be US-specific.

  22. John,

    I am a student pilot with approx. 20 hours with an instructor out of Mt. Sterling, Ky (I live in Cynthiana, KY). I had to stop flying because of an eye issue. In June of this year I had my final eye surgery and vision is perfect. Before the surgery, I did pass the LSA written… and was pursuing LSA as an alternative. I’m anxious to finish this up and get my Private. Sports and Mt. Sterling are about the same distance and I would love to talk with you more about this at your convenience.

    Chris

  23. I follow advices FAA, bought all books plus charts users plus ski/float plus Aviaton Science. Will fly auxilary-engined glider, will build 24 HP pou d eau, drink bavaria beer (available in holland) and
    I’ll go bootcampin’ this winter, ciao, Jack.

  24. hello I have a quick question. I was 5 hours short of solo and was in a car wreck on the way to the airport. I now wear a brace on my left leg can I still fly. its been 4 years and I really want to get back at it. arebmy hours still valid and is my medical still good or do I get to bug my faa doc again. thanks for the answers ruth.

  25. I have a quick question. Do you think that a 11 year old would be able to do this course? Because I know some 11 year olds that would totally by interested. What do you think, John?
    ~ Grace

    • 11 might be a little young, but it doesn’t hurt to try some videos. In general, we advise kids get started around 14 or 15 – that way if they really get hooked, they can solo at 16. At 11, there are many years of not being able to “use” the flight training. Have you tried a Young Eagles flight?

  26. I have a question about the payment options.
    I recently got out of the military and I have full GI bill benefits, is there anyway I can use my GI bill to pay for my flight lessons. If So I would be 100% dedicated to getting my license asap. What would be the time frame it could take to do it as fast as possible?

  27. Jestem pilotem zlicencja szybowcowa z Polski.W USA
    polatalem z instruktorem 5 godzin I musialem przerwac
    dalsze szkolenie.Obecnie mam swoj wlasny gyroplan.
    nie wiem tylko dlaczego wszedzie gyroplan jest traktowany jako cos gorszego,w okolicy Chicago nigdzienie mozna znalezs zadnego instruktora do
    nauki latania gyroplanem,dopiero w Indiana daleko?

  28. Do you ever come across private pilots who live on their ranch with air strip or their home with air strip installed who are willing to teach a few people to fly? If not, will you ever run a private add to find out who else is out there willing to help?

    • Dave, a medical is not required to fly gliders, even with a Private Pilot certificate. You can also solo a glider as young as 14.

  29. You might want to include a link to your flight school directory in the body of your above Getting Started Guide so that people don’t have to navigate back to your home page in order to find the directory.

  30. Dear Mr. Zimmerman
    I am from Africa and have purchased Sporty’s iPad App and am studying it now. Sometimes with the help of friends who already have their wings, and as such I know a lot. I’ve scored over 80% in the written test preps. My question is; can I take the weekend ground course to prepare me to sit for the FAA knowledge test? And as a public worker, I want to use my annual vacation of about 40 days to take the weekend ground course, write the knowledge test and complete my practical flying courses and do a check ride and get my PPL. Can such a scenario work?

    • Yes, I think that scenario can work. We do accelerated training at our flight school, and if you show up ready to go–having studied hard and ready to pass the written test–it can be done in 3-4 weeks. It’s hard work, but it can be done.

      The more preparation you do now, the better off you’ll be. Good luck!

  31. I’m a 42year old Indian South African wishing to become a commercial airline pilot. Can u recommend a Airline anywhere in the world that will consider training me as a cadet pilot. I am willing to relocate with my family. Due to my race, I have being disadvantaged by both the then white and now black governments. Please help me achieve me dream.

  32. Hi John, I am 14 turning 15 soon and would like to get solo by 16 but I do not have any ways to pay for flight training, do you have any recommendations?

  33. Hello, I am 15 and soon to be 16 (in July). I’m very interested in flying and I have been for a while, I often practice on my desktop simulator and my parents are all for starting lessons. I have almost completed the first three volumes of the sporty’s video training course and I have had my intro flight at EAA. I have a logbook and I am ready to begin starting lessons to work towards a sport’s pilot license to begin with, however I was wondering what will happen when I have finished the twenty-some hours of training, but I’ll still have about 9 months until I’ll be 17. I won’t be able to get my license while I’m still 16, so how will I fly until then? Will I be able to solo without an instructor, but just not with a passenger because I won’t yet have my license? Or will I have to continue to pay the intructor for all that time?

  34. Hello! I am 13 and just did the Young Eagles course and received my membership code. I have signed up for the EAA and I am eager to begin the Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course but I am unsure as to how I can sign up to get it free. Thanks! -Ryan

  35. John HI ‘I value your opinion, so hear my question, in 1980 I decided to go for my Private Pilot Ticket. I went to a Flight school on LI NY I got my 3rd class medical did some Ground school there Solo after 20 or 30 hrs. I do have my log book here with me. I took my Faa Exam did my 3 solo cross country took a check ride as the school required it at that time just to see the progress a student was making all went well I have about so sixty hrs. solo with some dual cross country and I was ready for my Final Check ride with the FAA inspector also A weekend course I think it was with Jepp back then also several hrs. on the simulator .. so does sound feasible, but I had a business that required me to stop and I had to travel so I put my Private Pilot on hold so that was where am right now, I am 66 years old in good shape and would like to get my Ticket I have my log with receipts and even some duel in Hawaii it was fun flying over the mountains so will my time count? I believe the written expired but have not checked it out I have not did any research but if I have to do it all over I might rethink it I would love to finish now that I am retired and I guess you can guess why! I still have the desire all total I have over 130 hrs. . can you give me some insight and time frame .. I believe I am still ok with flying never had a problem in that area but will take a flight soon to see if I still have it Thanks Rich

    • Rich, you are never too old to take up flying. The best thing to do is find a flight school and schedule some time to talk to them. Sit down and review with them your past experience, where you are now and what you want to accomplish. They can craft a customized training plan for you and you can get flying again. Good luck!

  36. if i were get my license here in california and then move out of state, would i still be able to fly legally? or would i have to retake tests…

  37. I was wondering if I could get lessons I’m 14 never flew or know stuff about planes can I still get lessons?

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