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Learning to Fly Overview


Learning to fly in San Diego can be an exciting and personally rewarding adventure.  While it does require a serious commitment of time and money on the part of the student, almost anyone can become a pilot.  The perspective pilot needs to be at least 16 years old to fly solo, 17 to receive a pilot certificate, and be in generally good health with vision correctable to 20-40 using glasses or contacts.  More information on medical requirements can be found on the Useful Numbers and Links page.

The flight training process can be divided into three phases. The first is the pre-solo phase. In this phase, the flight student receives dual instruction in the basics of aircraft control, airport operations (including takeoffs and landings), and FAA regulations. The second or Solo phase consists of the student practicing on their own intermixed with dual flight instruction in the local area. The final or Cross Country phase consists of both dual flight instruction and solo practice of the procedures involved in flying from airport to airport over long distances. Concurrent with these three phases the student will complete the knowledge portion of the training either through a ground school or home study course supplemented by the instructor.

A student applying for a pilot certificate in San Diego must meet minimum knowledge and experience requirements established by the FAA, as well as pass a written and practical test given by FAA Designated Pilot Examiners. The minimum hour requirements are 35 hours of total training if using a FAA approved flight school, or 40 hours if receiving independent instruction. The reality, however, is that the average student needs much more training to achieve the necessary competency level. The national average according to an article in a 2012 FAA Safety Brief newsletter is 75 hours.

The cost of achieving a pilot certificate (based on the national average) can range from $10,000 to $21,000 depending on whether the student learns through an independent flight instructor and flying club (often least expensive) or through a flight school (often most expensive). The average training period is from 9 months to 1 year, based on one 1.5 hour lesson per week. The length and cost of the training can be reduced by more frequent training sessions. The type of airplane chosen for flight training will also effect the end cost. Miscellaneous fees for books, equipment, and exams range from $600 to $1000. The flight training links provided on the homepage will enable the future pilot to determine the approximate cost of training, depending on their personal preferences. 
I have tried to give the average (REAL) costs as opposed to the "bait and switch" prices that many flight schools and some independent instructors give out.
Please feel free to e-mail with any questions.

Contact the Author: Bruce J. Elig CFII/MEI/ATP