Instruction FAQ

What Do I Have To Do To Get my Private Pilots License?

newstudent-aYou’ll need to take ground school and pass a written test on aeronautical knowledge. Options for ground school include doing it yourself with a self-study course, such as the one offered by Jeppesen. There are also some good web-based resources; go to and for starters. You can be taking your flying lessons at the same time you do ground school — in fact, it’s recommended you do, so that the ground school will make more sense to you.

You’ll need to take flying lessons and pass a flight test which includes an oral exam. You must have passed your written exam before you can take the flight test.

Once you have your license, it is good for life. You just need to fly with an instructor occasionally to keep up your skills. Of course, you can go on and get advanced licenses and ratings, all the way up to Airline Transport Pilot. It’s up to you….

How long will it take?

That depends to some extent on how frequently you can fly — and how fast you learn. You must have a certain minimum number of flying hours, doing various required things, such as night flying, instrument flying, and cross-country. The minimum number of hours is either 35 or 40, depending on the school you go to (with the AAC it’s 40), but almost everybody needs 60 to 70 hours to really master all the skills.

It is best to fly 2 or 3 times per week. More and you can get burned out. Less, and you forget what you learned and have to backtrack more. You will need to set up a schedule that works for both you and your instructor.

How much will it cost?

Flying is not cheap, but it’s worth every penny!

About half of your flying will be with an instructor and half by yourself. An instructor at our club can start at $45 per hour, and you can run up about twice as many instructor hours as flying hours, because of pre- and post-flight practice. Our rental planes — the Cessna 172s — cost $130-$140 per hour.

Our rates are “wet tach” which means they include gas and oil, and you actually pay for when the engine is running, figured as hours at cruise speed. Since you do a lot of low-speed stuff in training, it averages out to about 80% of clock hours. Therefore, our rates are more like $110  per clock hour. Instructors, however, do not have tachometers — they’re paid on clock time.

For a detailed account of one member’s learning to fly with the Alameda Aero Club (although this was some time ago), see

Student Pilot Documents

AAC Pre-Solo Written Exam (PDF)

Rules & Regulations

Licensing Requirements

The Federal Aviation Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation lists licencing requirements in Federal Aviation Regulation, Part 61. Highlights of those regulations include the following:

61.109 Airplane Rating: Aeronautical Experience

An applicant for a private pilot certificate with an airplane rating must have had at least a total of 40 hours of flight instruction and solo time which must include the following:

(a) Twenty hours of flight instruction from an authorized flight instructor, including at least —

(1) Five hours of cross country;
(2) Three hours at night, including 10 takeoffs and landings for applicants seeking night flying privileges; and
(3) Three hours in airplanes in preparation for the private pilot flight test within 60 days prior to that test.

(b) Ten hours of solo flight time, including at least —

(1) Ten hours in a single-engine airplane.
(2) Five hours of cross-country flights, each flight with a landing at a point more than 50 nautical miles from the original departure point, including one flight of at least 150 nautical miles total distance with one segment of at least 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations.
(3) Three solo takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport with an operating control tower.

ß 61.103 Eligibility requirements: General.

To be eligible for a private pilot certificate, a person must —

(a) Be at least 17 years of age…
(b) Be able to read, speak, and understand the English language…
(c) Hold at least a current third-class medical certificate issued under part 67 of this chapter…
(d) Pass a written test on the subject areas on which instruction or home study is required by ß 61.105;
(e) Pass an oral and flight test on procedures and maneuvers selected by an FAA inspector or examiner to determine the applicant’s competence in the flight operations on which instruction is required by the flight proficiency provisions of ß 61.107; and
(f) Comply with the sections of this part that apply to the rating he seeks.