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Private Pilot - Start Here!

ServicesFlight TrainingPrivate Pilot - Start Here!
ServicesFlight TrainingPrivate Pilot - Start Here!
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Private Pilot License (PPL) Program -- Part 61.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A medical is required prior to solo flight. We recommend obtaining a FIRST CLASS medical if you want to become a professional pilot. If you are looking to fly recreationally, then a THIRD CLASS medical is required. Click here to find an Aviation Medical Examiner near you. Additionally, ll solo students or pilots acting as PIC are required to carry a Rental Policy with a minimum of $50,000 physical damage coverage.  California Airways suggests solo students or pilots acting as PIC check with for a quote. Proof of coverage must provided to California Airways prior to any solo flight.

Why learn how to fly?

Once you’ve taken to the skies at the controls of an airplane, you’ll never look at the world in quite the same way. Imagine leaving the Bay Area on a busy Friday afternoon, speeding over the choked-up freeways below, and landing in Tahoe less than an hour later. Or heading to L.A. for the weekend, without dealing with overbooked airlines, lost luggage, and all the hassles of airline travel. Or you could simply take your friends on an awe-inspiring aerial tour of the beautiful Bay Area. In fact, once you have your private pilot certificate, you can pretty much fly anywhere in the world you want. You set your own schedule, enjoy the freedom of the skies, and witness gorgeous views that are far better than those you’ll get on an airliner. And if you share the cost of the flight with your friends, you can often fly somewhere for less than you’d pay for a coach-class ticket.

Is it safe?

No human activity is perfectly safe. But despite all the overblown news stories to the contrary, flying is simply the world’s safest form of transportation. General aviation fatalities occur approximately once every 100,000 hours of flight time, which means you’d have to stay in the air for eleven straight years (that’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year) before you’d be likely to die in an accident. To put that in perspective, even senior airline captains don’t log much more than 20,000 hours in an entire lifetime, while most non-professional pilots will log much less. At California Airways, we pride ourselves on our perfect safety record. Our aircraft are stringently maintained to FAA standards, and our veteran instructors have logged thousands of accident-free hours.

How difficult is it?

Flying isn’t as difficult as most people think. While it’s admittedly more complicated than driving a car, it’s still within the grasp of most people. Of course, experienced flight instructors make a huge difference. Our seasoned instructors have taught hundreds of people how to fly, ranging from 15-year-old high-school students to 75-year-old retirees. If you’d like to see for yourself, take an introductory flight with us. You’ll fly the airplane from the pilot’s seat, with your instructor assisting you. It’ll open up a world you probably never knew existed.

How long will it take?

That depends on how often you fly. The average person logs 70 hours of flight time before earning the private pilot certificate. If you fly twice a week, and log 1.5 hours of flight time per lesson, you should be finished in six months or less. Of course, you can fly more often if you prefer, and earn your certificate quicker.

How much will it cost?

Since every student has different skills, it's difficult to provide an exact cost number. However, assuming that you train in a Cessna 152 and complete your flight training in the average time, you can expect to spend approximately $20,000 to earn your private pilot certificate.

I am not a U.S. citizen. Can I learn how to fly with California Airways?

Yes. But you must first complete the Transportation Security Administration's verification process. Visit the TSA web site and register as a "Candidate" for the Alien Flight Student Training Program. Select California Airways, Inc. as your course provider. TSA approval must be granted before you begin training. TSA approval is required for all non-citizens, even if you have a green card and are a legal U.S. resident.

I am not a legal U.S. resident. Can I learn how to fly with California Airways?

Yes. In addition to TSA approval, you will need an M-1 student visa before you arrive in the United States. We issue I-20 sponsorship forms for the M-1 visa. Please click here for application information.

Can I wear glasses and still fly?

Yes. Many pilots wear glasses, including bifocals or trifocals. To fly an airplane solo (or with passengers,) you must pass a simple FAA exam. Assuming you’re in fair health, you should pass the exam. Special medical exemptions are possible. There are plenty of deaf pilots and even paraplegic pilots flying today. (There aren’t any blind pilots, however.)

How old do I have to be?

To fly an airplane solo, you must be at least 16. To earn your private pilot’s certificate (which allows you to carry passengers), you must be at least 17. You can start training before you turn 16.

There is no maximum age limitation for starting flight training. We have trained student pilots in their mid-70s.

What does the exam for the private pilot’s certificate involve?

There are three parts: the written, oral, and flight tests. The written test is a 60-question, multiple-choice, computerized test. After you’ve passed the written, and your instructor certifies that you’re prepared for the oral and flight tests, a Designated Examiner will administer the final exam, or “checkride.” If you meet the performance standards, congratulations! You’ll be issued your license that same day. 

What can I do with a private pilot’s license?

Just about anything you can imagine! Here’s a sample list:

•Take your friends on an aerial tour of the Bay Area

•Have lunch in Mendocino (a 1-hour flight from Hayward)

•Have dinner in Reno (90 minutes from Hayward)

•Fly somewhere remote and camp for the weekend

•Just fly around and enjoy the view!

While weekend trips might sound expensive, you don’t pay for every hour that you have the airplane. You only pay for the time the engine is running, so weekend trips are actually quite affordable. (We do have hourly minimums for weekend trips, however.)

While you won’t be able to fly for hire until you have your commercial certificate, or fly inside clouds until you have your instrument rating, the private pilot certificate grants you access to a magical, beautiful world in which traffic jams have no meaning, sunsets last forever, and birds look upon you as equals.

How do I become a California Airways member?

It's easy! There's no initiation fee (unlike most Bay Area flight schools), and dues are only $25 per month, charged only in the months that you fly.