Pilot Training in USA



If you’re not sure whether or not you would like to pursue a career as an aviator, our advice to you is go to a nearby Flight School and take a 'Discovery Flight'. A Discovery Flight or Familiarization Flight is known by various different names depending upon the Flight School, but generally involves a 30 minute First Flight at a reduced rate to introduce you to the world of flying. Here you will get to see the world around you from the best view window you’ve ever dreamed of. You will also get to hear the sounds of aviation on the headset, as well as from the roaring engine immediately in front of you. If you wanted to become a pilot before this first flight, you’ll most likely NEED to become a pilot afterward! There is truly no life like it! No question the best offices are in the sky!

The views from your first training flight until your last airliner flight are amazing. The variety is unparalleled; the pristine modern flightdeck, the remote places an airplane can take you, the professionalism and team work of an airline cockpit crew, the natural beauty seen daily by Alaskan bush pilots, teaching a student from day one right up and until the successful conclusion of their Multi-Engine Instrument Rating, the beautiful designs of the modern business jets, the personal reward in flying a critically ill patient to the safety of an advanced medical facility, flying food and mail as a ‘lifeline’ to remote communities in northern Alaska aboard a Piper Cub, flying all over the USA as a Southwest Airlines Pilot, flying the new Boeing 777 aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean as a Delta, United, or American Airlines Pilot, watching 5 skydivers fall out of your plane to meet up seconds later for their favorite Sky-Dive Assembly, flying between beautiful mountain sides in Colorado, defending your country as an Air Force F-18 Pilot, are just a few of the hundreds of unique opportunities you will come across as a Pilot in the USA.



Have a look through our popular A Pilot’s Life section to learn first hand from actual pilots in our industry about their lives and careers. Find out what the job is really like, what the living conditions are, where these people often fly, what the equipment is like, what their flying schedule entails, what it is like to fly overseas, and much more. Simply click on the yellow link above for further information, but remember to return to the Training Section to find out how you can become a Pilot yourself!



Pilot Training in the USA is not unlike Pilot Training in the rest of the world. There are a series of steps one must accomplish before you are employable as an FAA Certified Pilot. You can accomplish these steps on your own, at your own pace, at a Flight School or through a Full Time program within a Flight College or University. Do note though that most, if not all, Flight Colleges & Universities in the USA require that you have your Private Pilot Certificate completed before you commence their program.

The first step is to take a Discovery Flight – a quick 30 minute flight which will either make you really want to become a pilot (most likely) or may make you realize you are not meant to be a pilot. This flight is not a test of anything, merely an introduction to aviation itself! We, the pilots at the PilotCareerCentre all absolutely loved our first flight and knew right at that moment, that this was the best career for us!

The next step is to get an FAA Pilot Medical done - just to ensure that nothing medical is holding you back from becoming a pilot. Once you receive a valid medical, you can start your Private Pilot Certificate Training. At the end of this training, usually you will have logged between 45 and 80 flight hours (45 hrs is the minimum), you will be recommended by your Flight Instructor to do the Private Pilot Certificate Written Exam and Flight Exam. Passing the FAA Multiple Choice Exam, and successfully flying the required maneuvers will result in you receiving your first certificate – the Private Pilot’s Certificate. This allows you to fly Single Engine Piston Airplanes without an Instructor onboard, but not for remuneration.

Next up is the Instrument Rating where you will learn to fly by the instruments in the cockpit alone; without reference to the horizon. An Instument Rating and the Private Pilot Certificate are required before you make the next step.

The next step in the Pilot Career Path in the USA is the Commercial Pilot Certificate. A common misnomer is to think that this is the Training you need to fly for the ‘Commercial Airlines’, when in actual fact it is simply the licensing required for you to be able to be paid to fly airplanes. This certificate involves more advanced training and maneuvers, and also more advanced theory. At the end of this training, and once you have successfully logged the required flight time totals; usually between 200 - 250 hours (Minimum 200 hrs), you will again be recommended to do the FAA Written Exam as well as the Flight Exam. Once both are successfully completed, the FAA will grant you a Commercial Pilot Certificate.

From here you have a variety of options. You can work and be paid as a Single Engine Charter Pilot - although there are not a lot of companies employee pilots solely in this capacity. You can elect to train to become a Flight Instructor. Another option is to continue training to get your Multi-Engine Rating. After this rating, most continue on to learn how to fly in clouds under Instrument Flight Conditions or 'IFR' with no reference to the earth other than your instruments, while flying a Multi-Engine Aircraft. This is called the Multi-Engine Instrument Rating, and is the most popular option as it enables you to be the most employable when you commence your Job Search - Why? Because the majority of Fixed Wing Aviation Companies in the US have Multi-Engine Aircraft, and also need you to have your IFR Instrument Rating to be able to employ you. Like the rest of your initial training, there is an FAA Written Exam and a Multi-Engine IFR Flight Test. Once these are successfully completed, you will receive a new license in the mail with the Multi-Engine Instrument Rating endorsed near the top of the page.

ATP - the "ATP" stands for Airline Transport Pilot and this license is highly respected in the USA and worldwide by ICAO. This is also the license you need to fly for the airlines in the US. The requirements are experience (Minimum 1500 Flight Hours, incl. 250 PIC, 100 PIC Cross Country, 100 Night, and 25 Night Cross Country PIC, and 75 Hours Instrument) and successful completion of a 2 Part Written Exam. There is also an extensive Ground Briefing and Flight Exam required for the issue of an ATP in the US. Some pilots on larger aircraft complete this training in a simulator with an FAA Inspector onboard, wile others use conventional Twin Engine training aircraft like the Beech Baron to complete this exam and Qualification.



Timeline vs Post Secondary Education vs Total Cost vs Reputation of School vs Success of School's Past Students, etc. It seems every future-pilot has a different predicament so we will address some of them below:

Many people who choose aviation as a second career do not feel they have the time to go through a 2 Year Aviation College Diploma or 4 Year University Program. Often already equipped with Post Secondary Education and life experience, these types of wanna-be pilots usually want to get all of their flying licences in hand in the least possible time. Please note that if this is you, and if you have money set aside for your complete Flight Training, it is a good idea to go into a Flight School and try to get a cheaper 'block rate' for your aircraft rental by guaranteeing many 'block' hours or perhaps through pre-paying for a large block of hours. This can save you a lot of money over your training period.

Younger people graduating from high school with the flying bug often want to 'kill two birds with one stone' by enrolling in a 2 Year Aviation College Program or a 4 year University Degree Aviation Program. Here you can get all of your flying licences up to the Multi-Engine Instrument Rating, and CFI Flight Instructor Rating, in addition to a 2 Year Post Secondary College Diploma, or a 4 year University Degree. These programs by nature can be more expensive as you receive Flight Training and College/University Studies simultaneously. But at the same time they often provide you with excellent training and professionalism before heading out into the real world. For those interested, there are financing programs from the banks in place. Many of the major airlines in the USA require their pilot applicants to have 4 year university degrees - but at the same time are not anticipating hiring pilots in the medium term, while the Regional Jet Operators who do not require a degree are constantly looking for new pilots as they take new deliveries of regional jets every month.

Some students want to research the success rate of the previous students at that particular flight school. If it is a highly respected Training School, it may have a very good record in regard to it's students finding jobs. Some schools may have a record of hiring their own students into Flight Instructor positions - which is a great way to get your first job.

Other students can be extremely cost conscious and look to train at the least expensive school. The only caution we have here is to make sure you are receiving adequate training at such a school.



The USA is an excellent place to take your Pilot Training and learn how to fly!

The United States has by far the largest aviation industry in the world. When you think about the number of successful global corporations based in the US (Corporate Jet Departments), the largest military and air force in the world - the USAF & US Navy, the largest economy in the world - including 5 of the 7 largest airlines in the world, and the recent Regional Jet explosion in the states, you can get an idea for how truly huge this market is.

Why Train in the USA?

Training Schools – The US has excellent Training Schools and Facilities. Also many UK Based Pilot Training Schools have set up schools in the USA for Europeans to be able to acquire the JAA Pilot Licences while training in the USA. Click on the following to research the Flight Schools:
Training Schools in the US

FAA Pilot Licences - respected and validated around the world as ICAO Pilot Licences. Most US Pilots stay within their own massive US Pilot Market, but their Training and Licenses are so highly respected throughout the world, that many US Pilots have ventured away to fly abroad for companies including pilots flying for airlines such as Korean Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airlines Cargo, and more. As mentioned above - there are many schools now in the US that provide JAA Flight Training and JAA European Pilot Licences.

Optimum Weather in the USA – In many parts of the US the weather is perfect for Flight Training - with many sunny days for weeks on end. In some of the northern states, pilots in training can take advantage of the cooler seasons to get practicial experience flying in cloud in IMC conditions, sometimes even within Snow showers and icing conditions.

Training Costs in the USA – Training in the US is extremely cost effective when compared with training in Europe and Asia - in fact it is estimated to be between 30-35% less. This reduced cost in building flight hours and training can be a real advantage to Pilots from European & Asian countries. When estimating costs for Training in the US, remember that 1 Euro is about equal to 1 US$. For this reason many schools in the US have set up Foreign Licence Training Programs and pilots from Europe come to the USA to do their pilot training to save costs. Also many Asian airlines have set up Ab-Initio Training Programs for their new cadet pilots to train them from day 1 of flying right through to their first Airliner Simulator Training Flight - this saves these airlines millions of dollars each year due to the relatively low cost of training in the USA.