Flight School Survival Guide for the Aspiring Young Aviator

Aug 28, 2023

Deciding to go to flight school is a BIG decision. If you want to get the most out of the experience — and pass with flying colors — you have to be prepared.

While preparing for aviation education will probably look different for each person, there are definitely some basic steps any and every soon-to-be student pilot should take. We hope this guide serves as a high-level reference to make that ramp-up to flight training less steep and smoother going.

This framework for flight school readiness includes:

  • Questions you should answer and considerations you should ponder about your learning experience
  • Prerequisites and other fundamental knowledge you should have before your program starts
  • Helpful skills you’ll want to have or develop by the time you get your pilot’s license
  • Guidance on logistical elements of flight training
  • A build-your-own flight school survival cheat sheet to help you prep for your specific journey
  • And much more!

Preparing for flight school - small airplane in the air

How to Prepare for Flight School

Readiness is a success factor. Not only will preparing for flight school put you at an advantage when you actually start your training program, but it’ll also set you up to thrive afterward.

Why Prepping Is Worth Your While

Getting ready for flight school can help you excel in many ways, such as:

  • Facilitating better decision-making before, during, and after your program
  • Clarifying your training goals and post-training path
  • Shortening the time to complete your flight training and getting your pilot license
  • Reducing your sense of overwhelm and boosting your confidence
  • Opening you up to new and different opportunities (that you’ll be better positioned to take!)

Know the Basics

Flight training programs can vary, a lot, based on the school, type of aircraft you’re learning to fly, or the kind of pilot certification being pursued. Having a firm grasp on what you can expect with your program can make the whole experience more enjoyable, productive, and straightforward.

So, take an “inventory” of the basic details. Here are some things to consider and have answers for.

  • School type. Are you going to a 141 flight school or a 61 school?
    • The type of school impacts your training regimen. Part 141 schools have different curricula and requirements than Part 61 schools. Pureflight is a 141 school that offers training under Part 141 as well as Part 61.
  • Pace/schedule. Is your program full-time or part-time? What’s the weekly time commitment? What time during the day or week? Is this set in stone or do you have some flexibility? And what if you want to speed up or slow down your training midway through your program?
    • You’ll find a variety of options. Pureflight offers both standard and customized schedules so we can accommodate the diverse needs of students. 
  • Format/setting/location. Are classes in person, online, or a hybrid? Are they live or on-demand? For classes or training you have to physically show up for, where are they held (and do you know how to get there)?
    • While all schools and programs need to meet FAA standards, to a certain degree, each program will offer its own blend of teaching styles. For example, Pureflight lets you do ground school online or in person. And, your practical training is a mix of air time and  flight simulation. 
  • Qualifications/prerequisites. What’s needed to get a pilot license — coursework, tests, medical clearance? At what age can you start flight training and obtain certification?
    • You can begin flight training anytime but the earliest you can get a student pilot license is 16. Most schools have a minimum age requirement to enroll. At Pureflight, you need to be 15 or older.
    • Before you can get your student pilot license, you’ll also have to get a medical certificate, pass various exams, and meet other eligibility requirements.
  • Gear/materials. Do you need to have any specific equipment, clothing, etc. prior to Day 1? Are there any supplies or resources you need in advance?

Preparing for flight school - empty cockpit

Get Clear on Flight Training

Does what you think of when you hear the phrase “flight training” match reality? Again, flight training will differ depending on your program and goals. That said, it’ll have two components: ground school and flight lessons.

  • Ground school. What is ground school? Can you do ground school before entering a flight program? Is it possible to do ground school virtually?
    • Ground school covers aviation basics, like how airplanes fly, meteorology, and flight planning. If you complete your FAA knowledge test prior to beginning flight lessons, your ground training will be focused on understanding of concepts and oral exam preparation. Pureflight offers both classroom-based or online ground school. 
  • Flight lessons. Will all your training be aloft in a plane? Do you have an option to use a flight simulator? What will lessons be like?
    • Your flight lessons are probably going to be a mix of piloting an actual aircraft and using a sim. There are merits to each approach. Pureflight offers both kinds of flight lessons.

Additionally, it’s essential to understand that flight school isn’t just about learning to pilot a plane. It’s also about the protocols and responsibilities to go along with flying — like logging your flight hours. If you want to attain your pilot license or advanced endorsements, you’ll need to accrue and record approved flight time.

Understand the Academics

Pilots rely on many math, science, engineering, and technology principles. So, studying up on these subjects and their applications will serve you well and often. With this knowledge tucked under your flight cap, you’ll be better able to comprehend the complex systems at work in and around your aircraft so you can make flight adjustments if needed.

Additionally, you’ll learn about protocols and regulations surrounding aviation.

If your English proficiency isn’t sufficient enough to meet the certification requirements, you may also need to add language studies to the mix.

Tips & Strategies to Ace the Academics

Maximize your efforts and get better results with these smart tactics. 

  1. Start early. Don’t wait until flight school to board the math and science bandwagon. Take relevant classes in high school or college. Join science and technology clubs. Get involved with aviation programs for kids and young adults.
  2. Make it a habit. Repetition helps to reinforce both the knowledge you’re trying to acquire as well as the practice of studying. Allocate a dedicated chunk of time each day or week to learn about aviation-related topics. Scheduling these sessions on your calendar can help make them happen.
  3. Accommodate your learning style. Are you a visual learner, or is learning by doing more your speed? Discovering how you learn best and then finding learning opportunities and approaches that align can make soaking up and retaining all that new stuff so much easier.
  4. Leverage high-quality resources. Don’t waste your time or energy on low-grade info sources. Seek out reputable educators and educational materials. Learn from known and trusted subject matter experts.
  5. Make it fun! If learning is an activity you enjoy, you’ll look forward to doing it. Plus, the content is more likely to “click and stick” if consuming it isn’t a drag. (This is important because pilots need to be lifelong learners.)

Subjects Covered in Flight School

You’ll encounter a range of interesting academic fields during flight school. These may include:

  • Math (e.g., arithmetic, trig, and geometry)
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Technology and computer science
  • Avionics
  • Navigation
  • Meteorology
  • Mechanics
  • Flight maneuvers
  • Aviation regulation
  • Pilot duties and flight protocols
  • Airport operations

Continuing Education

Academic endeavors aren’t a “one and done” sort of thing for pilots. 

Pilots need to keep abreast of technological, climatological, regulatory, and other developments that may affect aviation or their flight certifications.

You should expect that you’ll periodically need to do various recertifications or get CE credits after your initial flight school days in long out of sight from your rearview mirror. 

Hone Essential “Soft” Skills

To be a good pilot, you’ll need to cultivate and master several competencies. Beyond having knowledge of and a knack for the hard sciences, you’ll need to be adept at some soft skills, too.

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
    • Piloting an aircraft requires engaging with flight instructors, ground crew, air traffic control, etc. The ability to relate to and interact with others, establish rapport, and build functional relationships is key.
  • Leadership skills
    • A pilot in charge needs to be able to take command of their aircraft as well as situations that may arise.
  • Critical thinking skills
    • Talented pilots know how to gather and evaluate information and logic and reasoning in real-world contexts.
  • Problem solving skills
    • Being capable of critically — and creatively — assessing issues and finding solutions is a must for any savvy aviator.
  • Decision making skills
    • As a pilot, you’re making choices all the time. Often you don’t have long to weigh alternative courses of action.
  • Multi-tasking skills
    • When flying, you have to keep tabs on many things at once. You need to be able to manage several tasks simultaneously.
  • Wellness skills
    • Being in charge of an aircraft (especially with passengers or cargo) can be physically and mentally demanding. Your mind and body need to be in condition to handle these responsibilities (and pass the medical certification).

Figure Out the Financials

Going to flight school is an investment in your future. It isn’t a cheap undertaking so being fully aware of the money matters is a must. You have to know what you’re paying for, when, and how much.

  • Flight school costs. What costs are associated with going to flight school? How much will it all cost?
    • All in, you’re looking at tuition, course materials, flight hours, equipment and gear, and tests and licensing. The average price tag to get a private pilot license is $15,000 (airplane)/$25,000 (helicopter).
  • Other costs. Are there any additional expenses you might incur? Are there things not included in the flight school costs?
    • You’ll need to account for any travel, transportation, housing, food, missed work, and miscellaneous fees.
  • Deposit. How much do you need to put down to reserve your spot in the flight school program? When is it due? Is it refundable?
    • Each school has its own prices and policies. Pureflight offers a few payment options. You can pay in advance or as you go (settle up after every flight or ground session). While payments can be made by credit card, we offer incentives for paying with cash or check.
  • Installment payments. Can you set up a payment plan? If so, when will each payment be due and how much will they be?
    • We can only speak for ourselves, but Pureflight offers students the option of paying for their flight program over time. You can contact us for more details on terms and conditions.
  • Funding sources. Do you have savings (and if so, how much)? Will you have income while in flight school?
    • Some students work while in flight school while others rely on money they’ve set aside. Financial aid may also be available.

Build a Support Network

Flight school is exciting — but it can also be overwhelming at times. Having people you can turn to for comfort or guidance can help.

That’s why finding a few people who care about you and want to see you succeed is invaluable. Because you’ll be progressing from aspiring aviator to student flier to pilot, you may benefit from having a support network composed of family and friends, teachers and instructors, and mentors and industry professionals. Each kind of support person may be able to provide just the right type of support at exactly the right moment along your journey.

Explore Post-Flight-School Options

It doesn’t matter if you opt to become a helicopter pilot or captain of an airliner — the prospects for a bright future are abundant! You’ll have so many options awaiting you as pilots are in extremely high demand right now.

With a student license, you’re able to fly solo and continue working toward advanced certifications and endorsements. You’re well on your way to getting a sport, recreational, or private pilot license. Others go after instrument or multi-engine ratings.

As far as careers go, pilots can work in the private or public sector. Private sector jobs include everything from operating charter jets to flying an air ambulance to transporting cargo. The military and search and rescue are examples of public sector roles.

One thing’s for sure — you’ll have no problem finding new horizons to conquer after getting your student pilot license.

Preparing for flight school - airplane taking off

Learn More

Want to flesh out your knowledge a bit more? Check out these resources for more in-depth looks at some of the topics we’ve touched on today.

Create Your Own Flight School Survival Cheat Sheet

Feel free to print out this table or download this pdf to record your answers and information to the questions and considerations discussed above. This can be a handy, one-stop resource to have as you lead up to or go through your flight training.

Update the details you’ve given as needed.

Program Basics – Supply your details

Start Date

 

 

End Date

 

 

School/Program Type

(141 or 61)

 

Pace/Schedule

(Days, Times & Duration)

 

Format

(Virtual, Live, On Demand, Etc.)

 

Setting/Location

(Online or Address)

 

Qualifications/Prereqs.

(Which You’ve Met)

 

Qualifications/Prereqs.

(Which You Still Need to Satisfy)

 

Gear/Equipment

(What You Have)

 

Gear/Equipment

(What You Still Need)

 

Supplies/Materials

(What You Have)

 

Supplies/Materials

(What You Still Need)

 

 

Flight Training Details – Supply your training and flight details

Ground School

(Format, Location & Dates)

 

Flight Lessons

(Format, Location & Dates)

 

Training Hours Logged

(# Hours & As-Of Date)

 

Flight Hours Logged

(# Hours & As-Of Date)

 

 

Academics – Summarize your competency with each. Identify areas needing improvement.

Mathematics

 

 

Sciences

 

 

Engineering 

 

 

Mechanics

 

 

Technology

 

 

Flight Maneuvers

 

 

Pilot Duties & Flight Protocols

 

 

Airport Operations

 

 

Aviation Regulations

 

 

 

Soft Skills – Summarize your competency with each. Identify areas needing improvement.

Communication & Interpersonal

 

 

Leadership

 

 

Critical Thinking

 

 

Problem Solving

 

 

Decision Making

 

 

Multi-Tasking

 

 

Fitness & Resilience

 

 

 

Financial Details – Supply your details.

Total Program Cost

(Amount & What’s Included)

 

Deposit

(Amount & Due Date)

 

Monthly Payments

(Amount & Due Date)

 

Additional Costs $

(Books, Gear, Fees, Etc.)

 

Financial Aid

(Types, Amounts & Payout Dates)

 

Funding Sources

(Types, Amounts & Income Dates)

 

 

Support Network – List people who are in your support networks.

Personal

(Family & Friends)

 

Educational

(Teachers & Instructors)

 

Professional

(Mentors, Bosses, Peers)

 

 

Post-Training Options – List any desired or required paths for after you finish flight school.

Continuing Education

(Coursework & Programs)

 

Advanced Credentials

(Ratings & Endorsements)

 

Career

(Ambitions & Opportunities)

 

Recreation

(Ambitions & Opportunities)

 

Preparing for flight school - instructor and student

Get Ready to Take Off, with Pureflight

Flight school is an adventure worth taking. It may seem daunting at first glance but it’s entirely doable — more so if you’re well prepared.

And, when you select the right program, readying yourself for flight training is simple. A world-class flight school, Pureflight has a vested interest in your success. We’ll work with you to achieve your high-flying dreams.

Take the first step. Contact us today.