Discovering Aviation | Part 1

Discovering Aviation | Part 1

STEP 1 – Introductory Flight

Give it a try!

Flying a small, general aviation aircraft is a much different experience than traveling in a commercial airliner. It is always a good idea to give this experience a trial run before committing your time, finances, and energy. If you determine that you enjoy it, terrific! If not, it was an experience for the books!

STEP 2 – Airman Medical Certification

What is an Airman Medical Certificate?

An Airman Medical Certificate certifies that you meet set medical standards specified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and assessed by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) through a physical examination and evaluation of medical history.

What Class do I need?

Airman Medical Certificates are issued as one of three Classes: 1st Class, 2nd Class, or 3rd Class. Your aviation goals, including the type of flying and desired pilot certificate privileges, will help you determine your required Class:

1st Class: Airline Transport Pilot 

2nd Class: Commercial Pilot (non-airline) 

3rd Class: Student, Recreational, or Private Pilot 

How do I obtain my Airman Medical Certificate?


Locate an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) near you. The following link, provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), will list local AMEs along with their contact information: https://designee.faa.gov/#/designeeLocator


Contact the AME of your choice to schedule an appointment.


Create a MedXPress account (https://medxpress.faa.gov/medxpress/) and complete your portion of the application.


Complete the process by attending your appointment. The AME will perform the examination and evaluation and provide his/her approval for your medical clearance and requested Class Airman Medical Certificate.

STEP 3 – Ground School & Written Exam

What is ground school?

Ground School is primarily provided through an in-person or online classroom setting with the purpose of preparing you to take and pass the FAA Written Knowledge Test. The instruction typically covers aeronautical theory and accompanying topics related to the certificate or rating pursued.

Where can I complete ground school?

Depending on your circumstances, multiple options are available:

Flight School

Many flight schools offer ground school customized to the schools’ procedures and aircraft, especially benefiting you as the instruction is purposefully designed to compliment your flight training at the specific school.

Online Options

Several organizations offer self-paced online ground school courses, benefiting you due to the flexibility of time and location as you work to complete the course.

How do I take my Written Exam? 

Once you have completed Ground School and received your endorsement or graduation certificate (authorization to take the exam), you will need to:


Create a PSI account (https://faa.psiexams.com/faa/login) to register for and schedule your exam.


Confirm you have the appropriate ID and authorization before attending your exam appointment (https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/media/testing_matrix.pdf).


Complete your FAA Written Exam.

STEP 4 – Flight Training

Which Flight School is right for me? 

Numerous factors could be considered when choosing a Flight School including the following:


Consider whether or not the Flight School is flexible and capable of supporting your personal and/or professional aviation goals.

  • Can they accommodate your desired flight training schedule?
  • Are they willing to adjust for your specific learning style?
  • Is the location within an acceptable travel distance from home?
  • Do they provide ample resources to aid your progress?


Recognize you are about to make a substantial investment of time and finances accompanied by a considerable amount of trust.

  • By what standard will your instructor conduct your flight training and measure your progress? Is there a specified curriculum or training track?
  • What is the condition of the training aircraft and instructional environment?
  • Does the Flight School hold any credentials or certificates on the federal, state, or local level?
  • Is priority given to safety and following regulations?

What is the flight training process? 

Meet FAA-determined requirements for your certificate. 

Most likely, you will initially train to earn your Private Pilot Certificate. Your instructor should be well-aware of the aeronautical experience requirements. However, you can look them up for yourself under 14 CFR § 61.109.

Reach knowledge and flying proficiency, as determined by your instructor. 

A common misunderstanding is that once minimum requirements have been met a person is ready for their Practical Test (Checkride). Based off the national average, students need nearly twice the required hours to become private pilots. So don’t be discouraged if you exceed the minimums, and trust that your instructor will let you know when you are ready.

Earn your certificate by passing the Practical Test (Checkride), comprised of an oral portion and flight portion. 

Upon reaching proficiency, your instructor will endorse you for your Checkride. After successful completion of both the oral and flight portions, the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) will provide you with your temporary Private Pilot Certificate to be followed by the permanent card in the mail. You are then a certificated, Private Pilot!