How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot?

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pilot?

Learning to fly is one of the world’s most unique opportunities, and now it’s more accessible than ever. Many people ask, “How long does it take to become a pilot?” believing it takes years to get your certificate. In fact, with a good amount of dedication and commitment, you can become a pilot in as little as three months- or less!

The experience is different for each student pilot, but one thing we can guarantee is that almost anyone can learn to fly quickly, affordably, and love their training with High Sierra Pilots. Our flight school was designed in two parts- flight lessons and ground school- to ensure each and every student pilot gets the experience they need to excel. This article will focus on the cost and time requirements for flight lessons, but you can read more about our ground school here!

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot Legally?

FAA seal. How long does it take to become a pilot
Photo from our club trip to tour the Reno-Tahoe Intl control tower.

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires student pilots to have a minimum of 40 flight hours before they are eligible to receive their private pilot certificate. However, the US National average for student pilots is somewhere around the 65-70 hour mark. This is because life very rarely goes as planned! Whether it’s a change in your financial situation, issues with getting your medical, or struggling with a certain topic, like landings or passing your written exam, the High Sierra Pilots has seen it all, and is there to support you in any way you need to become a pilot in the time frame you imagined.

But, How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot, Really?

In general, most student pilots take two or three flight lessons a week (about an hour of flight time each). That means, if they consistently stick to that schedule, they will reach the 65 hour average in about 26 weeks, or a little over six months.

However, this is just one option. Some students opt for an intensive program where they fly four or five days a week for a few hours at a time. If they commit to this schedule, they can get to the 65 hour average in just under five weeks.

Some students who have busy work schedules or need to spread out the expense of flight lessons may take a year or more to get the hours they need. So, when you ask, “How long does it take to become a pilot?” you really need to ask yourself two questions: 1. How much time can I dedicate to flight training, and 2. What will my financial situation allow?

How long does it take to become a pilot, based on your personal situation?

To help you decide how quickly you can become a pilot, we at HSP have done a little math to make your life a little easier. We’ve laid out a few scenarios with a variety of limitations, both time and money, to illustrate the realistic time line of becoming a pilot.

If you can spend $1,000 a month

Renting our Piper Cherokee as a “Frequent Flyer” club member costs $29 per hour. Additionally, flight lesson costs include fuel (about $40 an hour), and instructor fees (as low as $50 an hour). That means, each hour of flight time will cost about $119 an hour. If you have a flight lesson budget of $1,000 a month, you can log about 8.5 hours of dual instruction. That’s about two lessons a week. Considering the 65 hour average, it will take you 32.5 weeks, or just over eight months to become a private pilot.

If you can spend $3,000 a month

how long does it take to become a pilot ... if you're broke
One of our “Frequent Fliers” checking the oil.

Using the figure of $119 per flight hour, if you have a budget of $3,000 a month, you can fly over 25 hours in a month. That means you can get your private pilot certificate in just about two and a half months!

Money isn’t the only thing that limits students, however. Many student pilots have time constraints, such as jobs or families. So, let’s say money isn’t a problem, but time is. Continue reading for a couple examples.

If you can only fly on weekends

Many instructors don’t like to fly on weekends because they have families and hobbies of their own, but we have at least one club instructor at all times who is willing to be more flexible. If you can only fly two days a week, but can commit to three hour flight lessons, you can get your private pilot certificate in under 11 weeks, or just under three months!

If you can only fly one day a week

Some people have very, very busy lives, and are aware that they can only really commit to one day a week of flight training. If this sounds like you, we recommend scheduling the airplane for five hours, and flying for two hours at a time with a break in the middle (unless you feel you don’t need it!). Working off this scenario of four flight hours a week, you can get to the 65 hour average in a little over 16 weeks, or just about four months.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot for you?

As you can see, even the most difficult situations with extreme time or financial restrictions are manageable, and take much less time than you’d think! Discuss your goals and limitations with a club official or your flight instructor, and we will help to construct a plan that works just for you. We believe everyone should learn how to fly, so we’re happy to help you make your dreams a reality.

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