Have you always dreamed of learning how to fly airplanes?
If you’ve always wanted to learn to fly and get your pilot’s license, then you’re in the right place. The path to learning how to fly starts with you getting your student pilot license. This license is what allows you to fly alone (solo) in an aircraft. Whether your end goal is a private pilot certificate so you can fly your own plane or to earn your airline transport certificate and become a commercial airline pilot, the first step is getting your student pilot certificate.
When you have made the decision to learn to fly, the first thing you should do is get in contact with a certified flight instructor (CFI) so you can discuss both taking flight lessons and getting your student pilot certificate. Once you start taking flight lessons, you should apply for your student pilot certificate right away since it takes 3 weeks or so before you receive it in the mail.
You can begin the process by applying online. This is done through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website (found here). In many cases your flight instructor will process your application, but you can also work with your local FAA flight standards district office. Make sure to talk to your flight instructor about this early on since you won’t be able to fly solo until you have it.
Student Pilot Certificate Requirements
The requirements to earn your student pilot certificate are as follows:
- You must be at least 16 years old (or 14 years old if you plan to pilot a glider or balloon)
- You must be able to read, speak, and understand English
Medical Exam and Medical Certificate
In addition to the above requirements, you must also obtain a medical certificate. Getting this certificate includes providing the FAA with background information on your medical history and getting physical exam done by a licensed FAA Medical Examiner. More information on the Aviation Medical Certificate can be found here.
How Much Will it Cost?
Although submitting your application through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website is free, you will still need to pay to take flight lessons and eventually pay to use an airplane for your solo flights.
Remember, the goal of the student pilot certificate is to allow you to start flying solo and working towards another pilot certificate. Taking lessons with a an instructor does NOT require a student pilot certificate.
These costs vary based on things like your flight instructor, airport, aircraft, and more. My suggestion would be to reach out to a couple of local flight instructors and ask them to walk you through what they charge.
How Long Does it Take?
Getting your Student Pilot Certificate in the mail will take approximately 3 weeks. Keep in mind that you will still need to take flights with your instructor and pass an exam before you’re able to put your pilot certificate to good use and fly solo. Don’t rush the process. The goal is to make sure you are getting the skills you need to fly safely.
Another thing to keep in mind is that in order to take a solo flight, you’ll have to get your actual student license in the mail. You can no longer just print out a temporary one while waiting for the real one to be delivered. This is all the more reason to start the process sooner rather than later.
What Will I be Able to Do?
Your Student Pilot Certificate will allow you to fly solo as you continue learning to fly and taking lessons. It does not allow you to fly with passengers. If you want to fly cross-country solo flights you will need to have your instructor review your pre-flight planning and determine that you can safely make the flight.
Student Pilot Test
Before flying solo, you will have to take a test. This test will make sure you have an understanding of the FAA’s rules and an understanding of your aircraft and other details needed to fly solo. You flight instructor will give you materials and information to study before your test. They will then also be the ones to test your knowledge.
When you pass, your instructor will endorse your pilot’s logbook for solo flight. This is your instructors way of documenting that they have tested your knowledge and that they think you are ready to make a solo flight safely.
How Long is a Student Pilot Certificate Good For?
As of April 1st 2016, student pilot certificates will no longer expire. If you continue on to earn a higher certificate (like a private pilot certificate) your student pilot certificate will be surrendered and suspended.
If learning to fly is something that interests you, you should absolutely consider taking lessons and applying for your student pilot certificate. Although the term “student” id often used when referring to young people, there are a lot of adults who decide to pursue their dream of learning to fly later in life. Don’t hesitate, reach out to a flight instructor near you with questions right away. You’ll be glad you did.