How long does it take to earn a Private Pilot Certificate?

The short answer is that it depends. A committed student who can fly multiples times a week can complete their license in 3-4 months. More typically, it takes 9-18 months with a standard Georgia Tech student’s workload. To get a better idea on how long it’ll take, if you think of flight training as a

Credits Flight Training (hrs/wk) Study (hrs/wk) Total Flight Hours Total Instruction Hours Number of Semesters
5 6 6 40-50 30-40 ~1
3 3 3 50-60 40-50 ~2
2 2 2 60-80 50-70 ~3
1 1 1 at least 80 at least 70 at least 4-5

to earn your license

I’m not a US Citizen. Can you tell me more about the TSA process?

Non-US citizens can still train with the YJFC and get a pilot’s license, it just requires some additional paperwork. First, students must get clearance from the TSA to begin flight training, which involves filling out an online application and then providing fingerprints. Once this is complete, by US law, the YJFC is required to maintain copies of certain documents for every foreign citizen that receives flight training. If not a US citizen, you must also be sponsored by GT under an F-1 visa or have a green card.  Beyond this, non-US citizens can complete flight training in the same manner as US citizens do.

Is there an age limit?

Students can take and record flight instruction hours at any age. However, the FAA requires pilots to be at least 16 years of age to solo and 17 years of age to take the checkride exam. Other than that, there is no age too old for flight training!

Can you tell me more about the medical exam?

The medical exam is performed by an FAA-approved doctor, called an Aviation Medical Examiner.  The doctor will perform a standard medical evaluation for a “Class III” medical, which is valid for five years if under 40 years of age, or three years if 40 and over.  The exam consists of a basic screening that checks if you can pilot and airplane without any impediments.  The areas the doctor will look at are

  • Visual:  vision correctable to at least 20/40 and can see colors that will ensure safe airplane operations
  • Audio: can you have a conversation from 6 feet away?
  • Mental: any neurological or mental concerns
  • Physical screening: cardiac health, heart replacement, pacemaker, etc.
  • Review your medical records
  • Review current prescription medications
  • Urine drug/sugar exam

Since there are a myriad of questions regarding the medical exam, visit the Airplane Owners and Pilot Association’s website on aviation medical certification for more specific information.

If you have any medical concerns or questions, it is best to consult with a doctor before going in for the exam.

What’s covered in flight training?

You will be paired with one of our highly qualified instructors who will lay out a lesson plan and teach you everything about how to fly and how to do it safely.  Throughout your training to earn your license, you will learn:

  • how to fly and handle the airplane
  • how to takeoff and land
  • how to prevent and recover from stalls
  • what to do when things don’t go as planned
  • how to navigate in the air
  • how to communicate with Air Traffic Control
  • how to plan trips
  • basic meteorological information
  • the rules and regulations that will keep you safe and out of trouble
  • and a lot more!

What are the requirements to get a Private Pilot License?

Student pilots will learn to fly with an instructor in the airplane. The FAA requires that student pilots:

  1. Complete at least 40 hours of flight time
  2. Pass an FAA written exam.  The exams covers basic knowledge of aviation, e.g. aerodynamics, weather, navigating, and other important topics.
  3. Pass a flight exam, called a “checkride,” with an FAA examiner to earn a private pilot’s license.  The checkride consists of an oral portion and a practical portion where you will show the FAA examiner that you are a safe, skilled pilot.  The checkride will be scheduled when you’ve met all the previous requirements and your instructor feels you are ready.

What is required to begin flight training?

Before flight training begins, student pilots need the following:

  • English verbal proficiency.  The US and the rest of the world use English to communicate with Air Traffic Control. If you can carry an English conversation with friends or in a business setting, then you are probably proficient enough for flight training.
  • TSA permission to pursue flight training.  Foreign student pilots are welcomed, but you will need permission from the TSA in order to begin flight training. Their process usually takes about 2 months – we’ll walk you through it step-by-step after you’ve joined the Club. US Persons (Citizens and Permanent Residents) are automatically granted permission.
  • A Class III medical evaluation by an FAA-approved doctor.  The doctor will perform a series of medical evaluations to ensure you are healthy enough to fly.  The medical is required before you can solo.

In addition, from the club side, you’ll need:

  • To be an active club member.  This means having paid the current semester’s dues ($20 for GT students, $30 for other members of the GT community).
  • Be in touch with our Chief CFI.  Once you are voted in as a member of the club, you will receive emails from our Chief CFI detailing what you need to start and giving you some basic paperwork.  Make sure to fill it out quickly so you pass through the wait list as fast as possible!
  • Pay flight fees.  Once you’re assigned to a flight instructor by the Chief CFI, make sure to pay flight fees ($95) to gain scheduling privileges on our online scheduling website.

If I don’t have a car, how do I get to the airport?

DeKalb-Peachtree Airport is conveniently located just 8 miles north of campus off of I-85, so getting there is easy. For students who don’t have a car, there are several options:

  • The airport is located directly across the street from the Chamblee MARTA station (Gold line), which is on the same line as the MARTA stations near campus
  • YJFC members are also very friendly, so often students can find others to carpool to the airport with
  • Finally, for students who prefer to drive themselves, car-sharing companies such as ZipCar are easily accessible around campus

What is required for Flight Training?

Student pilots will learn to fly with an instructor in the airplane. The FAA requires that student pilots complete at least 40 hours of flight time, including 10 hours of solo flight without their instructor. On average, students complete their training with about 50-70 hours of flight time. Students must also pass a written exam that will cover basic knowledge of aviation, aerodynamics, weather, and other important topics, but this need not be done before starting training. When the instructor feels the student is ready, the student will take a practical test flight, called a checkride, with an FAA examiner to earn a private pilot’s license.