Stars and Stripes learning to fly in the USA
  • summary

  • These pages are mainly for germans who want to go to the United States to obtain a pilots licence, however some of it might be interesting for people from other countries as well, so therefore I have an english summary of the most important issues. I left out the things who are specific for Germany such as for example the conversion of the american licence which is quite different in each country.

    Contents :

    Everything written on these pages is my own opinion and based on my own experience. However I will take no responsibility at all for any kind of harm resulted in any way by the use of these pages. (Whatever happens, do not blame me !!)
    These pages are protected by national and international copyright laws. You may copy and distribute this document for any noncommercial use as long as it is not modified in any way. Commercial use of any kind requires my written permission.

    Marco Roth, january 1999
    EMail the author: marco at mcroth dot de


    Almost everyone is sometimes dreaming about learning to fly. But for most people it remains just a dream because flying is considered to be very expensive and difficult. Yet there is a way to get excellent flight training at a very reasonable price: learning to fly in the United States. The USA is a great place to fly and to be, there are a lot of public airports, nice people and nice scenery, almost no flight restrictions and almost no landing fees.

    If you learn how to fly in the USA you will learn what flying is really like: "Flying is Fun !"


    There are three types of flight schools in the States. FAR Part 61, Part 141-Schools and the Aviation Colleges. The Aviation Colleges are only for people who wants to combine the flight training with a college degree and therefore I won't write about it here.

    Now what is the difference between Part 61 and Part 141 schools. Actually only the Part 141 schools are really flightschools. They have to meet certain standards and they are regularly controlled by the FAA. Part 61 schools do not need to meet the requirements so therefore these schools are often smaller, it can be only one flight instructor who gives instructions on his own plane. The training itself is not much different between the two types. Part 141 schools can offer an accelerated course during which you only need 35 flight hours to complete the PPL (whereas with training according to Part 61 you need at least 40 hours). This usually doesn't make much difference because as a beginner you will very likely need more than 40 hours anyway.

    Even though the flight training is mainly the same you should try to go to a Part 141 school because these schools are controlled by the FAA and so it is very unlikely to get to flight instructors who care more about their earnings than about your training.

    When choosing the flight school you should not only look for the costs but also consider other things. Especially the location of the school is quite important. Choose a location where the climate is good for the time of year you want to get the training, so that it is unlikely for any long weather-related delays. Other things for example are the possibility and price of accomodation, the distance between school and city, wether you need a rental car or not, or the types of airplanes the school is using.

    If you have gathered all the information about the schools it is best to put everything on a big table and then choose the school which is the most suitable for you. If there are still some open questions do not hesitate to ask again, it is your money.

    Flight training

    The flight training consists mainly of three parts. The first is the presolo stage, where you learn how to handle the plane, to fly different manouvers and of course how to depart and how to land. At the end of this stage you will have your first solo flight. This is also one of the best moments in your flying career, you fly the plane alone for the first time. It really feels great! In the second stage you will learn the other things you need to fly, especially navigation and radio communication. You will also do your first crosscountry flights to other airports, both with an instructor and solo. The night flying lessons are also part of this stage. The third part of the training is the preparation for the checkride. Here you will practise and improve all your skills and all the manouvers to the required perfection. If your instructor is satisfied he will sign you up and you are ready to do the checkride. After that you hopefully will get your private pilots licence.

    Once during your flight training you also have to pass a written exam. This consists of 60 multiple choice questions and you need to have at least 70% of them answered correctly. You can do the written directly at a computer and you will immediately get the result. There are really good materials available for studying and so it is usually not a big problem. However if you have limited time it is a good idea to start studying before you begin with your flight training

    The whole flight training takes at least three weeks. But this is the absolute minimum and everything must work out really well (especially the weather) to get all done in such a short time. It is much better to plan for at least four weeks, so there is a bit of reserve for bad weather or for other problems. Still, getting a pilots licence in a short time like this is a full day job and you won't have much time to relax or to do other things during your training.


    One of the main reasons for getting a pilots licence in the United States are the relatively low prices compared to other countries. But it still is quite a lot of money. Here I have a list of what you typically need to complete a Private Pilots Licence, including accomodation:

    point US$
    45 flight hours at 45$ each 2025
    25 hours instruction at 25$ each 625
    books, materials 150
    10 hours ground school, 25$ each 250
    fees 100
    accomodation Motel, 4 weeks, 30$ per night 840
    misc., 10$ per day 270
    COMPLETE 4260

    This list does not include the airfares to reach the flight school, a rental car you might need and all the costs you will need to convert your american licence into your national one. These costs can of course vary greatly and you should check it out before so there won't be any bad surprises.

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