FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Note: Unless otherwise stated, the following FAQ pertains only to single-engine land airplanes (ASEL).

Note: Many of the documents referenced in this FAQ are available in PDF form for free, or in printed form for a nominal fee. You can usually find the hard-copy version at your local or on-line pilot shop, or via on-line sellers such as Amazon. Use whatever form works best for you.


What are your rates, policies, and availability?

My availability, rates and policies are listed on my Rates & Policies page.

Private Pilot Training

What is required to earn my Private Pilot's License?

You can find the details in FAR Part 61, Subpart E, but here is a summary of the highlights:

To earn you private pilot's license (ASEL - airplane single engine land) you will need to:

    • Meet all eligibility requirements - Be at least 17 years old (16 for student), be proficient in English, pass a medical

    • Pass the FAA Private Pilot Airplane knowledge written test - receive 70% or better on a 60 question test in 2.5 hours

    • Receive and log the required aeronautical knowledge - ground instruction with your CFI

    • Receive and log the required aeronautical experience - 40 flight hours minimum, 80-100 flight hours typical; consisting of flight time with a CFI, and solo flight time

    • Pass the practical test - oral and flight test, typically takes all day

The training is done in three phases, with a specific milestone at the end of each phase:

    • Phase I - Solo

    • Phase II - Cross-country solo

    • Phase III - Checkride practical test

A phase is complete when you meet all of the requirements of that phase (knowledge, flight training, experience, proficiency), your instructor endorses your logbook as appropriate, and you pass all tasks associated with that phase (such as a WVFC phase check).

Would you tell me more about the Private Pilot training and knowledge requirements?

The FAA minimum requirement is 40 hours of flight instruction, of which at least 20 hours must be flight training from an authorized instructor and at least 10 hours of which must be solo flight training. These minimum times are then broken down into further detail in the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations). These and other details can be found in FAR Part 61, Subpart C and Subpart E, with the basic hours (aeronautical experience) specified in 61.109 and the flight proficiency specified in 61.107. Additionally, there is an aeronautical knowledge requirement which is specified in 61.105.

With that said, most student pilots have more than the minimum number of hours before they are able to meet all of the specific requirements and are able to meet the level of proficiency required to pass the practical test. This is usually not so much a reflection on the student pilot, but on the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills that must be mastered, especially in the Bay Area's complex and busy airspace. You will likely require 80-100 hours of flight training before you will be ready for your flight test. The upside of training in the Bay Area is that once you complete your training and earn your pilot's license, you will be well prepared to fly virtually anywhere.

How long does it take to earn a Private Pilot's License?

The time that it takes to earn a pilot's license varies greatly from one person to the next. Most people train one or two times per week and take about a year. In general, if you want to earn your license in a shorter period of time, you will need to train more often. Additionally, there is some added efficiency if you train more frequently since you will retain more between lessons. So, for example, if you train three times a week you might be able to finish in six months. But keep in mind that everybody is different; people learn different things at different rates, and have different levels of comprehension and retention. These rough estimates take into account time for vacation, illness, personal scheduling issues, coordination of phase checks, checkrides, etc.

How much does it cost to earn my Private Pilot's license?

Obtaining your pilot's license in the Bay Area will cost you approximately $30,000 (estimate as of 2021). This is based on 85 hours of dual flight instruction, solo flight, ground instruction, ground school, aircraft rental, club membership fees, testing fees, books, supplies, etc. Some clubs or instructors might give you a lower estimate, but I believe that this is a more realistic cost in the Bay Area.

Always keep this in mind: The more prepared you are for a lesson, the more efficient and effective it will be. Being prepared for each flight lesson is often the single most effective thing that you can do to save time and money while training. Being prepared can mean completing all appropriate reading, making sure the aircraft is fueled and thoroughly pre-flighted, obtaining a weather briefing, etc.

How do I choose which model of aircraft to train in?

There are a number of aircraft suitable for Private Pilot training, including the Cessna 172SP, Diamond DA40, and Cirrus SR20. (I also like the Piper Archer and Warrior, but there aren't many left in the training fleet these days and those that are left are getting pretty tired. I haven't seen a new Archer or Warrior in years.) All of these aircraft models are available with the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit.

The Cessna is the slowest of the three, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for with almost bullet-proof design that can take rough runways, or rough landings, with aplomb. It is a high-wing aircraft with a steerable nose wheel, which can make taxiing a breeze. And the hourly rental rate is relatively inexpensive.

The Diamond DA40 is a sleeker, faster, more modern aircraft than the Cessna. It has a control stick, rather than a flight yoke, giving you that jet fighter feel. The visibility from the cockpit is amazing. The castoring nose wheel takes more time and effort to master than the steerable nose wheel of the Cessna. The Diamond is typically a little more per hour to rent than the Cessna.

The Cirrus SR20 is a sleek, fast, modern technical marvel. It has a larger engine than the Cessna or Diamond, and it is the fastest of the three. The interior is more like a high-end automobile than the utilitarian cockpit found in most training aircraft. Like the Diamond, the Cirrus has a castoring nose wheel that takes some time to master. Learning to land a Cirrus also takes a bit more time and effort than a Cessna or Diamond. The Cirrus is the most expensive, and least forgiving, of the three. But it is also the only one with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) — the ultimate safety option.

I recommend doing your training in an aircraft equipped with a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit (Cirrus calls their variation of the G1000 Cirrus Perspective by Garmin.) The G1000 is a modern and reliable platform, and when properly used it can greatly enhance your situational awareness and safety, including real-time traffic display and alerting. The G1000 is also an excellent platform for when you decide to continue your training for your instrument rating, or when you are ready to move on to more advanced aircraft. The G1000 provides a significant amount of uniformity between different aircraft makes and models, making it much easier to transition from one make and model aircraft to another.

Some students want to train in an aircraft with a more traditional cockpit based on mechanical flight instruments (these are often referred to as a 6-pack, or sometimes as steam gauges). Perhaps you own an aircraft with a 6-pack, or maybe you've been told by others that you should do your initial training in such an aircraft. I will train in these aircraft, as long as the instruments and avionics are in good working condition. This bar is particularly high for IFR flight.

Note: Most manufacturers of certified aircraft stopped making their aircraft with traditional mechanical 6-pack cockpits 10-20 years ago because they could no longer compete favorably with glass cockpit reliability, performance, or cost. As a result, all of the existing 6-pack cockpits are getting old and worn out, it's getting difficult to find good replacement parts, and the repair and replacements costs have skyrocketed. This in turn is impacting 6-pack aircraft availability, reliability, and cost.

Do you have a recommended reading list for the Private Pilot student pilot?

Yes. Please see my recommended reading list for the private pilot student pilot.

What supplies will I need as a student pilot?

Please see my recommended pilot supplies list.

Instrument Rating

How long does it take to earn a Instrument Rating?

My training statistics show that it takes most people an average of 8 months (+/- 3 months) to complete their instrument rating. This is total calendar time, accounting for various issues, including life. The training can be completed in less time, but it takes considerable effort and coordination (not to mention scheduling availability) to pull it off.

How much does it cost to earn my Instrument Rating?

There are many variables involved, but my records show that, on average, it will cost approximately $10,000 (+/- $4,000 or more) for your ground and flight time spent with me (including G1000 aircraft rental during that time). The large variance depends greatly on how much training you do with me vs how much you fly with a safety pilot to meet your requirements. Regardless, you need to gain the required proficiency, cross-country, and actual or simulated instrument flight time as specified in the regulations. I provide my clients with list of pilots who are interested in flying as safety pilot.

Do you have a recommended reading list for the Instrument Rating student?

Please note that this is only relevant for already licensed pilots seeking to add an Instrument Rating.

Yes. Please see my recommended reading list for the Instrument Rating student.


Do you have a recommended reading list for the Garmin G1000 / Cirrus Perspective?

Yes. Please see my recommended reading list for the G1000 pilot.

Do you have a better way to access the information in the AIM?

Yes. The AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual) is a great publication, but it can be a bit difficult to navigate due to the cluttered Table of Contents, extraneous pages, missing internal links, etc. So I have been working on a web-based index to make it easier to find and navigate to a particular section. Please note that this is a work in progress.

What is BasicMed, and can I fly with BasicMed rather than a standard FAA medical exam?

Please read my BasicMed page for more details about this possible alternative to the standard FAA medical exam.

Do you have a list of useful information and resources?

I certainly do. My Flying & Pilot Information page is a very basic web 1.0 style web page, but it is chock full of links and information about various aspects of aviation and instruction. It may take you some time to look through everything there but I am confident that you will learn something that you didn't know, or at least find something that catches your interest.