Young Aviators: The Journey from High School to Flight School

Apr 9, 2023

Why wait to become a pilot when you can literally go from high school to flight school? That’s right. If you’re interested in learning to fly, there are viable paths for students and recent grads to earn a pilot certificate.

Pursuing a career or hobby in aviation can be fun, exciting, and rewarding. But, it can also seem like a challenging endeavor. That’s why, in this blog post, we explore the various steps involved in getting from the schoolyard to the skies, including:

  • Prep and pre-requisites 
  • Helpful subjects to study in school
  • Flight training options and programs


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Discovering Youth Aviation Programs

Before you ever don those aviator sunglasses and take off, you’ve got some pre-work to take care of. Attending flight school and being a pilot are major commitments and responsibilities. Spending a bit of time and effort before you rush ahead will help ensure you’re progressing in the correct direction.

Validate Your Interest

Before embarking on your journey, it’s a good idea for aspiring pilots to explore the world of aviation. This might include:

  • Taking part in extracurricular activities and clubs related to aviation
  • Using flight simulators and remote control aircraft
  • Attending airshows and visiting aviation museums
  • Talking to licensed pilots
  • Attending an aviation camp or overnight event
  • Take a single flight lesson
  • Go up for a ride in a small plane or helicopter
  • Getting a job or internship in an aviation-related organization (e.g., the airport, a flight school, or a charter company)

By doing this, you’ll put your interest to the test. Is flying a passing fancy or something that really sparks a light inside?

Get Grounded in Some Basic Research

Once you know taking flight is definitely something you want to continue pursuing, it’s time to do some practical research. You’ll want to gather fundamental information that will help you decide what kind of pilot you want to be and how you’ll achieve your goals.

  • Think about what you’d like to do with your pilot license. Do you want to fly for recreation or in a professional capacity? Do you want to be able to have passengers? Do you want to have access to land at more airfields?
  • Begin learning about the different types of aircraft. Do you ultimately want to fly a single- or multi-engine plane or a helicopter? Will you need to know how to fly using instruments only?
  • Start looking into training options and programs. Are there any youth aviation programs near you? What do they offer? How long will they take? Do they accept teens as student pilots? Will you be able to fit flight training into your other commitments (work, school, etc.)?
  • Find out about obtaining your pilot license. What are the eligibility requirements? How do you accrue flight hours?
  • Consider the financial commitment aviation education requires. How much are the programs that meet your needs? What’s included in the tuition and what’s not? Can you get financing?
  • Envision your career possibilities. If you want an aviation-related job, explore the different companies and positions in this sector. Are opportunities abundant and growing, or scarce? What level of compensation is offered for roles that interest you? How would this career trajectory impact other areas of your life?
  • Find out if there are any age-related factors to address. Does being young or still in high school present any other challenges you need to face? Are there certain things you won’t be able to do because of your age?

The knowledge you gain as you investigate points, and your answers to these questions, is invaluable. They will guide you forward on the right track.


High School Courses to Support a Career in Aviation

It’s never too early to start prepping for your future in aviation. There are many courses you can take and activities you can do during high school to make reaching your high-flying dreams easier to attain. They can give you a jumpstart on developing the skills and knowledge you’ll need to be successful.

Math & Science

Math is essential for being able to perform the calculations involved in flight and navigation. Taking courses in trigonometry, algebra, and calculus can be beneficial in developing the number-crunching skills you’ll need.

Science classes, such as physics and chemistry, can provide a deeper understanding of the physical principles of flight. Additionally, having a working knowledge of meteorology and weather can help with understanding the effects of weather on flight. And, studying geology and geography might be a useful complement.

If your school offers aeronautics, this would be a terrific course to have under your belt. Taking classes in aviation safety and regulations can give you a head start when it comes to learning the rules of the tarmac and airways.

Engineering & Technology

Engineering and technology are — unsurprisingly — foundational to aviation.

Taking classes in engineering and computer science can educate you on the mechanics of aircraft as well as the underlying software used to control them. You’ll also gain experience working with sophisticated technology, which is core to most modern flight systems. Lastly, these courses help you build a greater appreciation for the engineering principles that make flight possible.

Leadership & Communication

You might think only “numbers” classes will come in handy when you’re a pilot. Not so!

Psychology, social studies, and language courses are incredibly useful, too. These can teach you how to better relate to and engage with people. Plus, being able to read, write, and speak English is a requirement to getting your pilot certificate. Foreign language studies can help if you’ll be traveling to destinations abroad or working with colleagues or customers from all corners of the globe.

Any activities you can do that help you develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills will serve you well as a pilot. After all, you’ll have to process a lot of details and make decisions quickly and confidently in the cockpit.

Physical Education

Some aviation roles can be physically demanding (like cargo operations) or have minimum physical fitness requirements (like the military). So, depending on what you envision doing down the line, taking PE may work in your favor.


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Researching Flight Schools & Aviation Programs

When it comes to instruction — you have so many alternatives, from nationally recognized flight schools to local community colleges.

It’s important to assess the different schools, programs, and costs to find ones that are suited to you and your budget. Doing your research and learning about the various options can help you make a more informed decision.

Flight Schools

There are two kinds of private flight schools. Here’s a breakdown of the differences and similarities.

Part 61

Part 61 flight schools are those that follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s guidelines for flight training, as outlined in Part 61 of the FAA’s regulations. These schools are typically smaller and more flexible, allowing for greater customization of lessons.

Part 141

A Part 141 flight school is an FAA-approved school that meets additional requirements and regulations related to the number of hours and types of instruction required for certification. It’s typically more expensive than a Part 61 flight school — but offers a more structured and comprehensive training program.

It’s important to note that some Part 141 schools also offer Part 61 program options. For example, Pureflight provides training under both regulations — we can tailor the curriculum to each student and their needs.

Part 61 vs Part 141 Comparison

So, how do these stack up against each other? Here are some dimensions to ponder….

  Part 61 Part 141
Flexibility More Less
Training More customizable, subject to instructor discretion More formal, structured, and regulated
Training Time Can be variable, not predetermined Set, pre-determined
Flight Time

40 hours for PPL

250 hours for CPL

35 hours for PPL

190 hours for CPL

Cost Set by instructor Set by school, often lower due to reduced flight hours requirements


College Aviation Programs & Degrees

College aviation programs are a popular alternative to traditional flight schools.

These programs offer the same basic curriculum and flight training as most flight schools. On top of that, students receive an in-depth academic and scientific understanding of the aviation industry and related topics.

The advantage of these programs is that they can give you a more well-rounded education, including the opportunity to earn a degree. Many aviation career paths require you to have a college degree in a relevant field — this would certainly check that box.

However, these programs typically take longer than flight school and may be more expensive because you’re taking additional courses. Moreover, some employers may prefer to hire pilots with flight school certificates as opposed to a college degree. 

Other Routes to Becoming a Pilot

If neither of the conventional paths above is quite right for you, here are some additional ways you might be able to go after your pilot license.

  • Join the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). This federally-chartered nonprofit is affiliated with the Air Force. Its youth aviation programs teach comprehensive community and emergency response skills, including how to fly.
  • Go into the military. Many people learn to fly as part of their service. The US Army, Air Force, and Navy all have pilot training and career paths. If you were planning to go into the armed forces after high school anyway, this may be a natural fit and smoother transition from student to working pilot.
  • Opt for an airline flight academy. With the current pilot shortage, commercial airlines are establishing their own training programs. These can be cost advantageous — but there are usually a lot of strings attached.


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Pureflight Aviation Programs for High School Students — The Right Way to Go

You’re set on learning to fly — either while still in school or upon graduation. That’s awesome!

There are plenty of opportunities to make your desire to become a pilot a reality. Just be sure to do your research, pick a high-quality aviation program, and move forward with your eyes wide open to what being a pilot entails.

At Pureflight, we’re here to help you. We’re an all-inclusive Part 141 flight school with world-class training from top-notch instructors. Contact us today for next steps — each one bringing you closer to that pilot certification!

Pureflight is Here & Can Help!

At our flight school, we strive to make pilot training possible for everyone. We offer a range of programs and payment options, including financing and scholarships. Our team of experts is here to guide you through the ins and outs of paying for your training. Give us a fly by today to find out more!