Future Pilot: What You Need to Know Before Beginning Flight Training

Future Pilot: What You Need to Know Before Beginning Flight Training

By Leslie Caubble, CFI/IGI

Starting flight training is very exciting! It could be the beginning of an aviation career or the lifelong joy of hobby flying. Learning to fly is also very demanding and challenging, both physically and mentally. Not only will you grasp the mechanics of flying an aircraft but also many subjects and regulations that you’ll need to learn. 

There are some things that future pilots should know before taking on the demands of flight training. It’s important to maintain reasonable expectations of your flight school, your instructor, and your capabilities throughout the learning process. You’ll quickly realize the abundance of mnemonic devices and acronyms as memory aids. 

Now, let’s explore some of the essential things you’ll need to know as a F-U-T-U-R-E  P-I-L-O-T.



Funding your flight training is probably one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face. Learning to fly is expensive. Talk to your flight school or Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) about the cost of training. Keep in mind that if you’re given an overall cost, many schools quote a dollar amount equal to meeting the FAA minimums in terms of hours. The national average that someone pays for training is well above meeting those minimums. 

You’ll pay an hourly rate for the aircraft rental, flight or ground instruction, and simulator use. There are other costs involved such as an online ground school, handbooks, a headset, knowledge test fees, possible fuel surcharges, and checkride fees.

Financing is an option but is a last resort for most pilots. Some creative ways to fund training are getting a second or side job, aviation scholarships, loans from family members, or working at your flight school in exchange for credit. One way to decrease the cost is to save up your money for your license, rather than pay-as-you-go. 


You’ll need to understand the minimum requirements for ground and flight training. The FAA requires certain maneuvers, tasks, and ground training to be completed to qualify for the checkride. Some of these include a knowledge test, solo flying, cross country flying, and checkride preparation. Ask your CFI for a copy of the syllabus so you can see how the lessons are planned out. Understanding how these fit into the overall training course will help you manage your time, finances and studying more efficiently.


The Dept. of Homeland Security/TSA will require your CFI to confirm your U.S. Citizenship and obtain a copy of your U.S. Passport or Birth Certificate. Avoid any training delays by having the required documents available at your first lesson. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, you must apply for a TSA security threat assessment, which requires a fee and fingerprinting. You won’t be allowed to proceed with flight training until cleared.


A simulator can be a valuable tool in flight training. For Private Pilot training, a sim isn’t great at teaching you maneuvers or learning to land, but it’s excellent for practicing procedures, checklist usage, emergencies, and communications. Simulating these between lessons can save you time and money. If your school doesn’t have a simulator, software and simple flight controls can be purchased for under $500. If that’s still out of your budget, find a poster of your plane’s flight deck and use that for “chair flying.” 


Purchase required resources so you’ll have them ahead of your training. Some of the books and resources recommended to get you started are the ASA FAR/AIM, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, Airplane Flying Handbook, and ASA’s Test Prep workbook. Don’t let the size and content overwhelm you. You’re not required to know it all! However, start familiarizing yourself with the subjects and how the resources are formatted and outlined.


Setting the right expectations for your flight school, instructor and for yourself is crucial. Your mindset and attitude significantly impact your success and motivation through the challenging times. Your CFI is dedicated to teach you to fly to standards and ensuring safety, but they may also be managing multiple students’ training simultaneously. Keep yourself accountable to stay on track with your training course, and don’t hesitate to ask questions if something isn’t clear. Being proactive and taking ownership of your training is essential.

Setbacks will happen in flight training, such as weather, maintenance, or CFI changes. These things happen in all flight schools and can cause delays. Additionally, personal matters like family, school, or job-related issues may arise, or you may face health challenges. Expect delays to happen, and plan ahead to maintain a positive outlook and momentum.


Unless you’re training with an independent CFI, you’ll need to choose a flight school. Basically, there are two training options: Part 141 and Part 61. Part 141 schools are generally more formal and regulated, and you’ll likely be part of a training class. These schools are ideal if you can commit to full-time training and able to finance all your training up front. Part 61 is more flexible regarding curriculum and scheduling. They often suit the student looking for a more personalized experience. 

Neither type is better than the other. Ultimately, the choice depends on your preferences, learning style, availability, budget, and career aspirations.


Some Part 61 flight schools will give you the option to choose your primary instructor. You may want to interview several independent CFIs in your area as well. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your CFI, so it’s important that your personalities are compatible. Communicate clearly about your schedule, goals, learning style, and hobbies. All of these will help your CFI train you more efficiently and have fun in the process. Don’t sign on immediately with the cheapest one or the one with the “best” personality. Find a CFI who will not only help you achieve your aviation goals but also make the learning experience enjoyable.


Be ready to learn! Ground training and studying can comprise half of your time as a Private Pilot student. It’s important to invest in a good online ground school if your flight school doesn’t offer ground classes that prepare you for the FAA knowledge test. Ask questions if you don’t understand the concepts. Utilize your resources, stay organized and review weak areas so you’ll absorb and grow in your knowledge as a future pilot.


Before your first solo flight, you’ll need to obtain a medicate certificate and student pilot certificate. It’s a best practice to get both early in your training to avoid any delays. Your CFI will assist you in applying for the student pilot certificate. You can obtain a medical certificate from an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) before you even start flying. It’s good to do this before investing a lot of time and money into flight training. 

The process for both is fairly simple. Getting these done early or before training may save you the risk of any surprises or frustrations.


Becoming a pilot is a huge time commitment. Most student pilots will fly 2-3 times a week. There is also the ground study requirement in addition to flying. The best way to manage your time is to schedule your lessons in advance, working around your other daily commitments. After that, schedule ground study into your calendar as time blocks. Committing to a structured, distraction-free study regimen will keep you on track and less overwhelmed while you’re balancing flight training with other responsibilities.


Becoming a pilot is one of the most exciting things you’ll achieve in your lifetime. Setting yourself up for success early in the process will make the journey even more enjoyable. Keeping your expectations and attitude in check, being disciplined in your study, and having a plan for your time and finances will all contribute to your success as a future pilot!

By Leslie Caubble, CFI/IGI

Northstar Aviation References brings you the Pre-Tabbed ASA FAR/AIMDIY tabs for your FAR/AIM and other pilot resources so that you can more easily study the regulations that form the foundation of your flying career or hobby. Have any questions? Check out our FAQs page or contact us. Check out other blog posts here