How to Get Started in Aviation

You’ve decided to become a pilot.  That's incredible!  Whatever your motivation, pursuing the Private Pilot License is a great goal, and the experience of a lifetime.  But there’s a lot of information you need to consider before you get started. 

In today’s day and age, all great endeavors begin with a good internet search.  Lucky for you, yours landed you on  I’ve been in your shoes and taught the rating.  Allow me to assist you in fulfilling your goal of soaring the blue skies.

First, as with any great journey, a word of warning.  Working toward the Private Pilot License can be  frustrating.  There’s lots of unfamiliar information to digest.  Very little of it makes sense in the beginning and a good foundation is critical, which presents dilemma number one.

Your guide through the jungle of aeronautical knowledge is the Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).  The better the instructor, the more successful you’ll be.  Unfortunately, finding a good instructor can be a crapshoot. 

How do you know if an instructor is good when you don’t know what you’re looking for?  What can you do to ensure you aren’t stranded in the jungle alone?  

Are you scratching your head?  Are you reconsidering your decision?  Don’t stop reading yet, we’re about to teach you how to sharpen your own machete! 

Starting out, most people drive to the closest Part 61 flight school and take an Introductory Flight with no idea of what to expect.  Assuming the school is like others I’ve taught at, most of the intro flights are given to the newest instructors.

The senior instructors (if the school has any) typically have a healthy stable of students, or they’re very part time and don’t want one.  So be wary walking in the door, and don’t be surprised if your instructor looks younger than you. 

There’s a very good chance the person about to take you out to introduce you to the miracle of manned flight only has about three hundred hours.  He could also have two thousand.  You just won’t know.  So how do you stack the deck in your favor? 

Knowledge my ambitious friend, knowledge.  Pilot Mall offers a full selection of books, guides and software that will set you up for success.  Take a quick look at what we have to offer.  Then let’s continue our discussion on formulating a smart strategy for using them to achieve your goal. 

The Private Pilot Practical Test is broken down into a set of tasks that an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner will evaluate on what we call a “check ride.”  The standards of every task are published in the Private Pilot Airman Certification Standards.  Get this manual and read it before you ever get into an airplane. 

Many students start out by reading the Airplane Flying Handbook.  You need this book, but it won’t get your there on its own.  The Airplane Flying Handbook gives you the theory of how to fly a maneuver, but the ACS breaks down the test criteria standards your examiner is looking for.  You need them both.

Some instructors will just teach you the maneuvers “their way.”  This should be a red flag, which will become immediately apparent to you if you’ve absorbed the ACS.  The knowledge you’ll gain will help you to judge your own progress.

Think of the ACS as the what (as in what do I have to do to get this ticket?).  The  Airplane Flying Handbook is the how.  The two books complement each other.  You need them both.   

Once you understand what you have to do, and the basics of how you will accomplish the task, it’s important to know why you’re doing certain steps in a task.  For example why do steep turns need to be completed at or above Va?

You can find the answer to that question, and many others like it in The Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.  This must-have manual is absolutely critical for every pilot at any stage in their training.  Don’t wait until you’re going for your instructor rating before reading this book!

Take my advice.  Take the initiative.  Use these training aids to build the basic structure of the safe, competent pilot you know you can be. You will never regret it.  Your investment will pay dividends throughout your career.

Once you’ve established a good base, I recommend purchasing a Private Pilot Kit like the Jeppesen Private Pilot 61 Kit.  Pilot Mall has a wide selection to choose from.  Look for what suits you, and keep in mind that many of these kits provide plotters, logbooks and flight computers to help get you started.  

Remember this is all about mastering the basics.  In the Fundamentals of Instruction, the FAA emphasizes the Law of Primacy to budding new instructors.  Simply put it states, “What’s first learned is best remembered.”

That means learning the basic aviation principles correctly is critical for your future success.  Don’t leave it to chance!  Rugged individualism is deeply rooted in the aviation culture.  Accept it and forge your path in aviation an career with the help of

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