How long does it take to learn to fly?

The length of time it takes to earn a pilot’s certificate varies widely (anywhere from a few weeks to a year), and depends on how spread out your training schedule is. A major milestone in your training is your first solo. This is when you fly the plane without your instructor. Most students reach this point after 15-20 hours of flight instruction.

From there, you will train for the Sport, Recreational or Private Pilot Certificate (see above). Federal Aviation Regulations require a minimum of 20 hours of training for the Sport Pilot Certificate, although many students need more time. The requirement is 30 hours for the Recreational Pilot Certificate, and most students complete this certificate in 30-40 hours. For the Private, the minimum is 40 hours – 20 with an instructor and 20 solo – but most students take 60-80 hours. Note that these figures represent only flight time, and do not include time spent on ground school or personal study.

The biggest factor in determining how long training will take is how often you fly. If you fly only once a week, you will spend half of each lesson “relearning” concepts that you have forgotten. This approach will take longer, so it’s is best to try to fly at least twice a week. In that case, you could earn your certificate in only a few months.

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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.”