Learning to Fly

What is the process for learning to fly?

Learning to fly, both for helicopters and airplanes, is in a number of ways analogous to learning to drive. Earning a pilot’s license means mastering both a knowledge component and a skills component.

The knowledge component is usually taught through ground school classes, one-on-one training with an instructor, or self-study. It involves aspects of weather, aerodynamics, engine systems, and other fields that we must know and understand in order to be safe pilots. This culminates in a 60-question multiple-choice knowledge test administered by the FAA.

The skills component involves one-on-one learning in the aircraft with a flight instructor. It starts with basic and advanced aerial maneuvers and then focuses on takeoffs and landings. About a third of training is also devoted to learning emergency procedures, even though most pilots will never need to use these. When these skills are mastered, the student takes a flying skills test with an FAA examiner to receive their pilot’s license.

How long does it take?

Everything in flying is competency-based. At every phase in training, once you’ve learned a skill, they will move on to the next phase. Some students have a mindset where they’re able to pick up the knowledge and skills quickly. The national average is 65-70 hours in the aircraft working on their flight skills, and about one and a half times that on the ground preparing for flights and mastering the knowledge component.

We recommend flying two to three times a week to ensure that your progress advances quickly. Most students who are able to do so will finish their training in 6-8 months.

How much does it cost?

The cost varies widely by individuals because the number of flight hours and instructor time needed to learn the knowledge and skills is different for each student. We generally estimate the process to cost around $12-14,000 for airplane pilots. Because helicopters are more complicated machines to operate and maintain, helicopter training usually hovers between $20-22,000.

What aircraft will I fly?

Most of our students will train in the four-seat, high-wing Cessna 172 Skyhawk, the most popular training aircraft in the country. We offer these aircraft equipped with traditional round-dial instruments or high-tech Garmin 1000 computer displays.  

Some students may also choose to train in our smaller, two-seat Cessna 152 aircraft, our low-wing Piper aircraft, or our vintage-design tailwheel aircraft.

Students looking to learn to fly helicopters will learn in our Robinson R22 trainers.

Check out our training fleet.

We encourage our students to try flying with their instructor in a variety of different aircraft to figure out which one works best for them. Because you’ll be spending dozens of hours in the airplane, we want to ensure you’re flying the aircraft that you get the most value out of.

How do I get started?

You can start at any time. We recommend beginning the process with what we call a “Demo Flight” where we put you up in an aircraft to try out, with an instructor. You’ll spend about an hour in the aircraft to get a feel of the aircraft’s movements and you’ll be able to see whether flight training feels like the right thing for you, if you like that type of aircraft, as well as if you have a good communication style with that instructor.  After the flight, you’ll be able to sit down with the instructor and have all your flight training questions answered.

Stop by our office or call us at (650) 946-1700 today to schedule your first flight.