With the proper training and dedication, almost anyone can become a private pilot. Earning your private pilot certificate will allow you to rent or buy a small airplane to fly at your leisure, or take passengers with you to enjoy your newfound freedom. Learning how to fly will require finding a local flight school, an aircraft rental, and a FAA certified flight instructor. Your training will include classroom work, home study, and flight instruction, culminating in an FAA written test and a flight test with a FAA examiner.
Your choice of a flight school and instructor should be made based on your aviation goals. Are you looking to become a professional pilot? Are you planning to use your license mostly for recreation? These questions will determine the route of flight training you should choose. You could go to your local airport and find a flight instructor through the flying club or enroll in a school more suited for professional pilot training. Some universities offer pilot training and a degree tailored for the aspiring professional pilot. If you are looking to fly as a hobby, then joining your local flying club is all you need to do.
Your flight training will consist of classroom work, flying with an instructor, and solo flying. You will also need to do some home study to prepare for your FAA examination and to keep yourself safe as a knowledgeable pilot. Your classroom education will cover many areas of aviation including FAA regulations, navigation, basic aerodynamics, aircraft systems, and emergency procedures. Once you have mastered this information, flying with an instructor will teach everything else you need to know to safely pilot the aircraft solo. In these flights, you will learn the skills required to land, deal with emergencies, and navigate cross-country, as well as develop safe decision making abilities. Once you and your instructor feel confident that you have the skill to fly on your own, you will need a medical exam and certificate before you can solo the aircraft. These medical exams are normally performed by general family practitioners with an FAA certification. Once your exam is complete, you can begin to do some solo flying. The FAA requires a minimum 40 hours of flight time, but most students need around 50-60 hours before they are ready for the final examination.
Once you complete your required flight training, you will be ready for your FAA testing. There is a written test, oral exam, and flight test. You may complete the written exam at a testing facility anytime before your flight test. On the day of your FAA practical test, an FAA examiner will spend a couple hours with you on the ground asking questions. The examiner will make sure you have the knowledge and strong aeronautical decision making skills required to be a safe pilot. Next, you must pass the flight test. You will go fly with the examiner and must show your skills in maneuvers, navigation, emergency procedures, and landings. If you pass, then you will have become a new private pilot.
Acquiring your license will give you the freedom to fly whenever and wherever you want. Most new pilots rent small single engine aircraft from the local flying club and take friends or family with them. You will be allowed to take passengers, but not for hire. You will also be able to fly cross country or at night. Flying is an adventure, challenge, and respectable accomplishment.