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Steps in Learning to Fly

(the Reader's Digest version)

Becoming a pilot is an exciting, orderly, fun, memorable, life-changing activity. Here's a brief description of the steps involved.

1. Call 209/295-7761 for a Tour of MHA Facilities
We'll be glad to walk you around the airport, show you the hangar and airplane, and introduce you to a few pilots or other students. There's no cost or obligation for the tour; it's just an opportunity for us to meet you and give you some basic info.

2. Schedule Your First Flying Lesson
This can be done over the phone, or during your tour. This first lesson is offered at the reduced rate of $99, and will give you a good introduction to the airplane. After takeoff, your instructor will guide you through the use of the controls, and before you know it, you'll be flying yourself! This is also a great opportunity to see the surrounding areas by air.
To schedule, simply call Jeff at 209/295-7761.

3. Get Your FAA Medical Exam
To earn a Private Pilot Certificate or to fly solo in the airplane, you must first obtain a 3rd Class Medical/Student Pilot Certificate from a designated Aviation Medical Examiner. This is not a requirement to begin training, but it's a good idea to get the exam fairly early in your training. For a list of Examiners in the area, click here.

4. Continue with Flight Training
Most students require 50-60hrs of in-flight training to complete their Private Pilot Certificate. The FAA requires only 40 hrs of training, but very few students can pass the required practical exam after so little training. Your training will progress most quickly if you can fly 2-3 times per week. Each lesson is approximately 1 hour of flying and 45 minutes of ground time.

Can't fly that often? No problem. Just get started and have fun. The important thing is to make steady progress, and come prepared for each flight.

5. Take Your First Solo Flight
When your instructor feels you're ready to take the airplane out by yourself, he or she will endorse your logbook and your Student Pilot Certificate for your first solo. This is a never-to-be-forgotten experience for every pilot. You'll do three supervised solos with your instructor watching, and will then be "cleared" to fly to the practice area as your schedule permits.

6. Prepare for and Take Your Knowledge Examination
Along with your flight training, you will be reading and studying in preparation for the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Exam. Many students complete this exam prep through self-study. Others prefer a formal ground school. Your instructor will provide details of these options early in your training so you'll have plenty of time to prepare.
The actual examination is done at a computer testing center in Stockton or Sacramento. The fee for this exam is around $100.

7. Begin Cross Country Flight Training
In this phase of your training, you'll learn several navigation techniques, including VOR, GPS, dead reckoning, and pilotage. You'll fly to various airports at least 50 miles away with your instructor, and will then solo to those destinations. Many pilots recall this phase of training as the most fun and the most gratifying, for it is here that you are truly Pilot in Command.

8. Prepare for Your Practical Exam
All you training culminates in a Practical Examination administered by an FAA Designated Examiner. This exam consists of an oral portion and a flight portion. The exam will take 4-6 hours to complete, at a cost of approximately $400. If you pass the exam, you will be given a Private Pilot Certificate before you leave the testing center. If you fail the exam, you will be required to retake the exam, but only on those maneuvers or parts of the exam that your failed.

8. Take Your First Passenger on an Airplane Ride!
Most new pilots stay pretty close to their home airports during the first weeks and months after getting their pilot certificate. Then, slowly, you'll branch out into longer flights to overnight destinations. Before you know it, you'll have the confidence to fly into most any airspace, anyplace in the US, Canada, or Mexico.

9. Continue Training and Learning
As a pilot, you'll never stop training and learning. Many pilots continue their formal training right away toward more advanced certificates and ratings, such as an Instrument Rating. Others chill for awhile, and enjoy their newfound freedom by making recreational or business flights to familiar places. In either case, the FAA and MHA provide ongoing educational opportunities and safety seminars, and every pilot should take advantage of these to ensure that they stay sharp and safe.