Learning to fly and having a full time job – Can it be done?

We get many aspiring pilots that ask us about learning to fly but other commitments often result in a packed schedule. The thought of taking on flight lessons while maintaining a 40+ hour work week can be daunting. Do not be deterred! There is a path to earning your Private pilot certificate while still paying the bills. We’ve seen many success stories and here is the insight on how to get it done.

Tip #1. Open up your schedule. 

Obviously you need to make time for lessons. For those of us with 9 to 5 jobs, it’s a little more difficult. If you can sacrifice a little sleep or less time at the gym, fly early morning. I highly recommend it. There are even some hidden benefits to the dawn flight hours – smooth air, cool temps and better aircraft availability. Before the sun has had time to warm up the ground and cause some afternoon bumps is my favorite time to fly. It’s peaceful and quiet. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the airport to yourself too. If you’re flying in the evening, you usually can get in two to three hours before the sun goes down depending on time of year. Both early in the day and late in the evening you’re likely to have less traffic in the pattern to slow you down so better efficiency when it comes to getting more takeoffs and landings in each lesson.

Tip #2. Make the most of your weekends.

If you can free up your Saturdays and/or Sundays you’ll be much better off. The weekend is where we see students get the most training requirements knocked out. If you can fly 4-8 hours in a weekend plus a couple mornings and evenings during the week, it is possible to log 12+ hours in a week. While the minimum number of flight hours for your Private pilot is 40 hours, most pilots exceed the minimum by up to 50%. Let’s say it will take you 60 hours of training, that’s really only five weeks of calendar time to meet the requirements. Sounds a little manageable, doesn’t it?

Tip #3. Use a home study course for ground lessons.

Learning to fly is like any other type of school these days, you can study online at your own speed. With the Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course you can complete all your ground training at home or wherever you are, online or in the app. It’s a great way to save time with the instructor on ground lessons and learn the material needed for flying. This online course takes you step-by-step through all of the material you’ll need to know to be a competent pilot. The lessons are divided into easy-to-follow study material with video segments and review quizzes. When you complete all the videos and pass two practice exams in the course you’ll automatically be emailed your written exam endorsement which you need to take the FAA written exam. It makes that process simple and painless and will prepare you well for the actual exam.

Tip #4. Find an instructor that can work with your schedule and an airplane that does too!

Finding the right flight school is one of the more difficult steps in this process. You can use our online database to locate the nearest one to you but that’s only half the battle. More than anything, a flight school needs to be a good fit for you – your schedule, your goals, and your personality. Meet with the staff and tour the facilities and airplanes. Ask any questions you may have about the flight training process, flight school policies, scheduling, rates, and instructors. Your personal opinion counts here. Do the airplanes look clean and well-maintained? Are the instructors friendly and helpful? What is your general feeling about the school as a whole?

Flight schools vary from large training facilities to one airplane flight schools with part-time instructors. But bigger doesn’t always mean better, so look for some signs of a well-run flight school:

  • A bricks-and-mortar facility with classrooms, helpful teaching aids, and a supportive learning environment.
  • A staff of flight instructors from which to choose.
  • A proven training curriculum.
  • A well-maintained fleet of training aircraft.
  • An efficient scheduling system for aircraft and instructors.
  • Flexible hours to fit your training schedule.
  • Experience in teaching primary students.
  • Financing arrangements to help you manage the cost of learning to fly.

Tip #5. Once you start, don’t stop.

If you’re tempted to take a week off, don’t. It’s too easy to let life get in the way of your flight training. And it’s difficult to retain all of the knowledge if you let time pass without studying. Learning to fly is like any other skill, practice makes perfect. You’re going to have to remain dedicated to learning to fly if you want to make this dream a reality.

Set aside some time to find a flight school that will work with your schedule. Dedicate your time to this goal and have an expected timeline for completion. Having a full-time job and learning to fly is 100% possible, so what’s holding you back? You never know what doors that may open for you.

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I'm a pilot and part of the Sporty's Pilot Shop team in Cincinnati, OH. I'm also a University of Cincinnati alumnus. I've been flying and working on airplanes with my Dad since I was old enough to hand him a wrench. I've worked at Sporty's for more than 8 years and love every minute of it.