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Becoming a Private Pilot in Airplanes

If you are thinking about becoming a pilot, either for recreation or a career, the Private Pilot Course is where you begin. If you aren’t quite sure you’re ready to commit yourself to this exciting program, then we recommend you try an introductory flying lesson with Steve Shaner, who conducts all of the flight training at American Air. You will receive ground and flight instruction and you will do most of the flying under Steve’s careful guidance. This investment ($1400.00) will give you “hands – on” experience at the controls and allow you to see for yourself the challenge, enjoyment and adventure that comes with every flight.

The Private Pilot Course involves a combination of classroom ground instruction, home study, flight briefings, flight lessons and student solo practice flights. For the first two months of the course you will attend classroom sessions and take at least two flight lessons a week. Afterwards, you will continue the flight lessons weekly until you complete the course.

When you enroll in the course, you don’t have to put down a large payment for your flight lessons and there is no obligation to continue the course at any time if you change your mind. You can pay as you go for each flight lesson as you receive your training.

Once you receive your Private Pilot Certificate, you can rent aircraft or fly your own to exciting destinations, taking your family and friends along with you! You can share the cost with your passengers to make your flying more economical.

Private Tutoring for Students Enrolled at Other Flight Schools

If you are already enrolled at another flight school in the Private Pilot Course or any other pilot course and would like some additional one-on-one ground or flight training on challenging areas, you can schedule an appointment with Steve Shaner and receive help from a veteran Flight Instructor / former FAA-Designated Pilot Examiner. Steve can also thoroughly prepare you for the FAA check ride oral and flight test. Students in the Atlanta area and elsewhere have taken advantage of this very helpful service Steve has offered for over 46 years.

How to Become a Private Pilot

Getting started with your flight training is easy. You can start taking flying lessons at any time on a schedule that suits your lifestyle – weekdays or weekends.

The program begins with a visit to our school. We will explain the course to you in detail and answer any questions you might have. You will  be able to schedule your flying lessons at this time and purchase your books and materials. You can get started right away with your flight training.

Next, you will need to schedule an appointment with an FAA Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) for your pilot physical exam. This is a simple medical evaluation that can usually be scheduled with one to two weeks notice. A master list of FAA – approved Aviation Medical Examiners can be found on the internet at Click on the city or county and enter your location. Click on the number in the left column next to your selected doctor to access the phone number and address. Before you appear for your medical exam, you will have to register online and obtain a password and PIN. Then you will have to complete FAA form 8500-8 (medical history) online. The website for registration and completion of the form is Two Aviation Medical Examiners we recommend are Dr. Michael Schaufele (2nd and 3rd class medicals only) – given at DeKalb- Peachtree Airport – 770-376-7083, Dr. Charles Harper II – 770-457-3532, Aeromed, Inc. and Dr. Alan Kozarski – 404-357-2020, When you call for an appointment, be sure to specify that you need a third class airmen physical if you intend to only fly for recreation. Aviation career pilots may want to take a second or first class physical to be certain of qualifying for advanced certification. Also, mention any special medical conditions you may have had or are currently experiencing so they can advise you on any documentation to bring. After passing the medical exam, the doctor will issue you your medical certificate. Show this certificate to your flight instructor on your next lesson.

As you begin your training, you will be learning about a wide variety of subjects related to flying, such as principles of flight, navigation, aviation weather, night flying, radio communications, aeronautical decision making, aircraft systems, pilot flight physiology, aviation regulations, aircraft performance computations, accident analysis and much more. Books and DVD materials will provide you with a basic foundation of knowledge at the rote level. This represents approximately 50% of the knowledge you will need to be a safe, competent and self – confident pilot. It is important for you to attend our comprehensive ground school along with your flying lessons to learn how to apply your knowledge and skill to more than just “text book situations”. Our ground school is not just a “test prep” class, but rather a thorough, state – of – the – art program to help you understand the “why, how, where and when” of applications related to flight procedures and theory. This will make you a safer pilot who is equipped to handle any emergency in your flight training. This will also make your flying lessons easier, more productive, cost effective and enjoyable. The ground instructor will cover a lot of important information not found in any textbook or DVD. Your ground school at American Air will be conducted in a comfortable classroom with state – of – the – art training aids, including excellent power point graphics, interactive video simulations, actual aircraft components and helpful handout materials. Our comfortable, cushioned chairs provide great comfort during the presentations. Some ground school sessions can be given personally one-on-one online using Zoom.

The flight program is covered in three stages. Stage one takes you from the beginning through your first solo flight. Stage two takes you through your first solo cross country flight as well as night flying. Stage three involves polishing up your skills with dual instruction and solo practice. The chief flight instructor will conduct an evaluation with you after completing each stage of training. Just before you solo, you will be given a brief pre solo written test. After you complete the ground school you will be given a computerized knowledge test. When you complete the entire program you will take a practical test (oral and flight) with an FAA – Designated Pilot Examiner. Upon passing the practical test, you will receive your Private Pilot Certificate. The pre solo written, knowledge test and the practical test are required by the FAA at almost all flight schools.

You and your instructor will follow a structured syllabus throughout the entire course. This will ensure that every detail is covered in a logical sequence, which will make your learning process easier and more complete. You will be issued a copy of the syllabus, which will outline each lesson unit so that you will always know exactly where you are in the program and what is remaining for you to complete. You will stay with the same flight instructor – Steve Shaner, for the entire course. Steve has been giving full-time, professional flight and ground instruction at PDK airport for over 46 years and was formerly an FAA – Designated Pilot Examiner for over 32 years in the Atlanta area. Steve has trained hundreds of students in many courses including: Private Pilot to Airline Transport Pilot, Aerobatics, Tailwheel and Wheelchair Pilot.

The minimum requirements for the Private Pilot Airplane Certificate are as follows:

  • Age: to solo – 16 years old, to take the Private Pilot practical test – 17 years old
  • Ground instruction – As necessary to cover all subjects (AAFT graduates average approximately 120 hours ground school)
  • Pass the FAA knowledge test (minimum grade 70%) (AAFT graduates typically make a grade of 90-100%)
  • Pass a third class pilot medical examination before solo flight
  • Log at least 40 hours flight time including: (AAFT graduates typically have over 110 hours of flight training)
    • At least 20 hours instruction (3 hours cross country, 3 hours night, 3 hours Instrument and 3 hours test preparation)
    • At least 10 hours solo (including at least 5 hours solo cross – country)
  • Pass an FAA practical test (oral and flight)

These are the legal minimums for certification. The actual amount of training will vary greatly with each individual. The national average of flight hours (dual and solo) at average quality flight schools to complete the Private Pilot Course is around 70. Since many students across the nation are being trained only to the minimum standard or less for passing the tests, these hours are the average to become a minimum standard pilot. It can take over 110 flight hours to become an exceptionally safe and confident pilot by the end of the course. At American Air, everyone graduates at the excellent level of performance with exceptionally safe pilot skills and knowledge. Several factors will affect exactly how many hours you will need to meet the standards for course completion, such as previous experience, frequency of scheduled lessons, natural ability, quality of training, type of airport, study habits etc. The students at American Air average approximately 110-120 flight hours (including simulator time), 120 hours of one-on-one ground school and 80 hours of post-flight and preflight briefing time over a 12-14 month period of time.

There are two overlapping sets of Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) that govern pilot training and certification – part 61 and part 141. FAA – approved schools operate under part 141 regulations and are more closely scrutinized by FAA inspectors. Non – FAA approved schools are not inspected and operate under part 61 regulations which have higher total time requirements for pilots to obtain certain pilot certificates. Some non – FAA – approved schools also use free – lance instructors who are not given regular standardization training and who’s standards of conduct are not supervised by school management. American Air Flight Training far exceeds the quality standards of FAA part 141 requirements, but operates under part 61, because we work with just a very few students each year, which provides more personalized and higher quality training. More than 60% of the flight schools nationwide are not FAA – approved. Being FAA – approved does not guarantee high quality training. There are good and bad part 141 schools and good and bad part 61 schools.   Graduates of both part 61 and part 141 programs receive the same pilot certificate with the same privileges.

In order to complete your Private Pilot course in a reasonable amount of time, you must be prepared to budget an appropriate amount of time for study and training as well as finances on a weekly basis to ensure continuity in your training and to maximize the benefit of each lesson. The cost of the course can vary by several thousand dollars as the required amount of training time varies with each individual based on previous experience, aptitude for flying, frequency of attendance, frequency of good weather days, student study habits and other factors. When you train at American Air, you will spend a significantly higher amount (paying as you go after each lesson over approximately a 1 year period).  It takes several more hours of training to meet the high standards of safety and competency that you will achieve with us.

Here are some tips on how to minimize the cost of getting your Private Pilot Certificate:

  • Schedule regular lessons. Three lessons a week is ideal, a minimum of two lessons a week is necessary to make meaningful progress. The more often you fly up to a point, the more retention you have for each new lesson, so you will achieve more learning in fewer hours of training.
  • Study the material thoroughly before each lesson and arrive twenty minutes early for each flight so you can review and get your mind focused on flying by the time you meet with your instructor. This will make the lesson far more productive.
  • Ride along and observe other students training – this is very educational, fun and it is free!
  • Sit in the aircraft on the ramp when not flying and practice with your normal and emergency checklists for cockpit familiarization – this is also free!
  • Join AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) and get an AOPA credit card and use it for your training to receive points or cash back.
  • Come in well – rested for your lessons and not on an empty stomach. This will also make the lesson more productive and enjoyable.
  • One cost–cutting measure to avoid – trying to find training that is quick and cheap. Lower prices mean cutting corners on training quality and aircraft maintenance, which ultimately impacts your safety!

Private Pilot Training

The 110 hour one-on-one ground instruction includes in–depth training and testing on the following subjects:

  • Aerodynamics
  • Aircraft Systems
  • Aircraft Preventive Maintenance
  • Aircraft Analog Instrument Panels
  • Aircraft Glass Cockpit Instrument Panels – Avidyne and Garmin
  • Crew Resource Management (CRM) / Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM)
  • The National Airspace System and Aeronautical Charts
  • Federal Aviation Regulations
  • Flight Publications and Internet Information Resources
  • Aircraft Weight and Balance Analysis and Computations
  • Aircraft Performance Analysis and Computations
  • Pilot Flight Physiology – Aeromedical Factors
  • Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) / Good Judgment Applications / Risk Management
  • Flight Scenarios and Procedures – including situational awareness
  • Night Operations
  • E6B Flight Computer Procedures
  • Cross Country Planning and Flight Procedures
  • Pilotage and Dead – Reckoning Navigation
  • Radio Navigation – VOR, NDB, LOC, DME, ATC, GPS, ADS-B, iPad Applications
  • Normal and Emergency Flight Procedures
  • Normal and Maximum Performance Take Off and Landing Procedures
  • Ground Reference Maneuver Analysis
  • Wind Compensation Procedures
  • Stall / Spin Analysis
  • Fatal Aircraft Accident Reports Analysis
  • Accident Prevention
  • Weather Theory
  • Weather Reports and Charts
  • Weather Information Sources and Their Use
  • Weather Analysis and Decision Making
  • In-flight Hazardous Weather Recognition and Avoidance
  • Traffic Awareness and Avoidance
  • Taxiway and Runway Incursion Avoidance
  • Basic Instrument Flight Procedures
  • Critical Attitude Recovery Procedures
  • Airport Signage, Markings, Lighting and Wind Indicators
  • Airport Ground and Flight Procedures
  • Air Traffic Control Radio Communications Procedures
  • Noise Abatement Procedures
  • Wake Turbulence Avoidance
  • Passenger Briefings and Supervision
  • Mountain Flying Precautions and Procedures
  • Overwater Flight Operations
  • Survival Equipment
  • Knowledge Test Preparation and Practice Tests

American Air Private Pilot Flight Training Curriculum

At least 15 hours of solo flight and typically over 110 hours of flight with an instructor are provided in our airplanes and simulator, along with thorough preflight and post flight briefings on the following procedures:

  • Aircraft Preflight Inspection
  • Aviation Weather Briefings – Ground and Flight
  • Aircraft Parking and Securing
  • Engine Starting Procedures – Hot, Cold, Flooded, External Power and Hand Propping
  • Radio Communications
  • Aircraft Systems and Equipment Operations
  • Four Fundamentals – Straight and Level, Climbs, Turns and Descents
  • Systems and Equipment Simulated Malfunctions
  • Emergency Flight Scenarios
  • Taxi Procedures
  • Wind Compensation – Taxi, Takeoff, Landing, Tracking, Maneuvers
  • Noise Abatement
  • Normal and Max Performance Takeoffs and Landings
  • No Flap Landings
  • Rejected Landings
  • Airspeed Changes – Straight and Level and In Turns
  • Slow Flight Maneuvers, Including Full Control Deflection Demonstration
  • Stall Avoidance, Recognition and Recovery – 21 Different Stall Demonstration Types
  • Spin Avoidance, Recognition and Recovery – Conducted In Our Super Decathlon Aerobatic Airplane
  • Steep Turns
  • Slips and Skids
  • Basic Instrument Flight
  • Critical Attitude Recovery
  • Wake Turbulence Avoidance
  • Traffic Avoidance – Surveillance, ATC Assistance and Evasive Maneuvers
  • Hazardous Weather Avoidance
  • Power Settings and Power Management
  • Airport Traffic Patterns and Operations – Controlled and Uncontrolled Fields
  • Aeronautical Decision Making and Crew Resource Management Practice
  • Planning Cross Country Flights
  • Cross Country Flight Procedures – At Least 2 Dual and 3 Solo Cross Country Trips
  • Cross Country Emergencies – Divert to Alternate, Lost Procedures
  • Actual Grass Short Field Runway Takeoff and Landing Experience
  • Flight In and Out of Actual Busy Airports with Airline Service
  • Ground Reference Maneuvers
  • Turns To Headings Using the Magnetic Compass
  • Aircraft Servicing
  • Actual Passenger – Giving Briefing and Supervising During Flight with Distractions
  • Restricted Airspace Avoidance Scenarios
  • Flight in Actual Instrument Weather and in Rain
  • Actual Flight at Higher Altitudes
  • Night Flights
  • Simulated Emergencies at Night
  • Actual Flight over Mountainous Terrain
  • Situational Awareness Scenerios
  • Simulated FAA Checkride Test – Conducted By Steve Shaner (Former FAA Examiner for Over 32 Years)