In Order to Start FLying...
Welcome Future Aviator/Aviatrix,
At this point on your aviation journey you may have looked at pictures of airplanes, seen them in person, or even have taken an introductory flight. You’ve seen and understood the coming challenge of learning to fly airplanes but now you’re ready to tackle it head on. The question is what materials do you need to begin your journey?
There are many flight schools out there that will sell you materials and mark up the price of them just to meet their bottom line/profit. This is the first red flag for you to take note of when deciding for a place to begin your training. It is knowledge nuggets such as that previously stated that knowing whats necessary to pay for, and what isn’t, is crucial to saving money. It is my goal to provide the information and guidance to those who are looking to get into this wonderful world of flying to maximize their learning, training and cost efficiency. Flight training is very expensive, but there are ways to be discerning with your investment as you gain experience of how to operate within the industry.
A properly trained student is not going to just have the knowledge and skill required to pass a checkride; they will be a more proficient, confident, and business minded individuals for their own training/career. Part of being a well prepared pilot is showing up before the clock starts, over prepared and well studied for the coming lesson. It is your duty to show up with the required materials for every lesson as needed, so the instructor does not have to spend time explaining concepts or giving materials that should already be readily available. You are reading this article before so you are already on the right track. This article is my personal client’s materials list and an overall suggested guide of what you need to start your flight training in Southern California and show up prepared for your training.
The knowledge you will need to know originates from a bunch of “handbooks” as the FAA calls them. I call these books your new best friends. The primary two you will be using for your private pilot license will be the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge also known as the PHAK, and Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH). They are all downloadable for free on two main different sources. One is firelight and the other is the FAA’s main website. I personally keep all the handbooks on my iPad on an app called notability (downloaded from the FAA’s website) so I can mark them up. I also quick reference them on fore flights saved books. Here’s the link for the FAA’s website resource which you can download onto your iPad.
The other book that can be found for free online is the FAR/AIM. The running joke is that this is the “pilot’s bible.” It’s an interconnected text written over hundreds over years by many different authors… Just kidding, it’s a book written by lawyers explaining all the rules of the airplane world which you will get to study and come to know. However, this is the one book I recommend buying to be able to mark up/tab out for your private pilot license (to be discussed in training). Make sure the book is the current year, as each new year brings updates to regulations.
After you’ve gathered your required books with a format that works for you, it’s time to begin gathering the tools you’ll need to begin training.
The pilots best record they’ll have to keep track of their hours is inside of a logbook. I have been using the same logbook since I started training two years ago. Once I became an instructor I then utilized Foreflights “logbook” feature which you’ll learn later. I highly recommend buying a paper logbook as well as using an electronic logbook from the start because the “someone stole my logbook out of my car” story is far too common. It can be hard and nearly impossible to get the investment back if all of your training is inside one paper log. It is crucially important to have backups throughout your training.
A logbook is only as good as the nice fine pens to be able to sign the logbook. G-2’s I’ve found are the best! Here’s a link to the same logbook/pens that I used for my primary training:
Cross Country flight planning the old school way is a necessary skill to have. I will always encourage the use of Foreflight with my students but this does not neglect the responsibility they must assume for their first cross country to plan and implement all aspects of the flight using old school methods. The list to follow is the required tools to plot and plan a cross country.
There are a couple types of plotters, but I have found the best to be the one that rotates to determine true course is often the easiest to understand for students:
The E6B is often the most resented but necessary tool to know how to use when it comes to primary flight training:
The VFR Sectional/TAC for *insert region* (Los Angeles for my students) is the primary means of navigation and both the (VFR) Visual Flight Rules sectional and (TAC) Terminal Area Chart must be purchased as much of navigation stems from being able to understand and interpret these charts:
If you do not already have a small iPad, I highly recommend getting an IPad Mini. It’s not mandatory to do your training with one but it would be highly irresponsible to not utilize the resources that it can provide; especially when connected with Foreflight for situational awareness. It is also recommended that you get the iPad with GPS capabilities, and a minimum 120GB to be able to store all the future documents for flying on it. You will use this tool for the rest of your career in aviation. It’s worth the investment to get a good one.
Foreflight proficiency will smooth the process of training, it boosts overall situational awareness, and allows the pilot to accomplish tasks quicker and more seamlessly with the desired information being easily accessible. The app interface will be covered in your training, while showing how to navigate and maximize the efficiency of your training with it. There are three levels of subscriptions you can purchase. I highly recommend the $200 tier as it gives much situational awareness features the first tier does not offer you. I as an instructor currently run with the second tier and it handles everything I need it to.
Notability is a phenomenal app that is a notepad and file saver for all your highlighting and annotating needs. Foreflight gives you some highlighting options but it’s not as organized and streamlined as Notability. I used Notability in high school to do all my school work and took that same format into my training. I used this app extensively to make drawings and take notes while going through my CFI training, however it is still applicable to every part of training as a tool inside my ipad. Notability App Subscription: $5.99
The iPad you’re going to purchase needs a place to rest in the cockpit, when it comes to instrument training I highly recommend getting a suction mount you can place on the window near the instruments so your scan does not have to go down to your lap which will lead you to spatial disorientation when in the clouds.
Here’s A Few Options:
For the majority of your flights during training you will be entering busy practice areas and going to new destinations. The risk goes down when you are using a Sentry (optional but highly recommended). The sentry allows your iPad to receive ADSB-IN which gives you precise positioning, traffic awareness, and inflight weather. I highly recommend getting a sentry, it is expensive but worth the money as it just may save your life. I personally have my own, and if you choose to do your training with me at California Flyers, you will have access to club aircraft that each contain one of these life saving tools:
As long as clouds exist you won’t be able to fly into them without losing your vision to outside the airplane. We practice for that by using simulations in the airplane by using a device called a hood. The first one is my favorite and second is another popular one.
Part of every training pilots materials will be a “binder” to organize the materials they have. It comes in the form of a kneeboard. It’s the most commonly used way to stay ahead of the airplane and keep your materials organized. There are a different variety of options for kneeboards but these are my favorite two with the Fly Boys brand being the most practical.
Your Kneeboard will have these items organized on it ready to go each time you go flying from top to bottom. If you have any questions, bring them to your first lesson!
- Checklist (to be provided)
- Nav Log, Pencil, and Pen Attached
Paper and Pencils:
Flying lessons is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a place you go where you’re expected to show up ready to learn and take notes. Taking notes involves writing down information and concepts that you will need to remember. In your backpack of materials you will bring make sure to have a book of white paper and a pencil/colored pens to take good notes on. The initial briefing and debriefing for every flight is where most of the learning occurs. It is also the most crucial part to remember so that’s why we take good notes!
Large, loud, obnoxious, and annoying are not just the adjectives you use to describe that one particular family member at Thanksgiving, you can also use them to describe airplanes. There is no debate on which headphones are the best. They have been and most likely will continue to be Bose A20’s:
The true debate is whether or not they’re worth the whopping $1,000 investment. On my journey I’ve personally found that if you’re looking to spend anything more than 100 hours in an airplane, I highly recommend the investment. It makes long cross countries or take off’s and landings with students much more bearable when you don’t go home with a headache due to the sound of airplane engine. If you’re not going to get the Bose due to price, I highly recommend getting a set with noise canceling capabilities. It makes training much easier when you can actually hear ATC’s instructions.
Here are some other reliable options some people choose to buy.
Everybody wants to fly on that perfect sunset evening or during a no wind day, however other flight conditions exist that require specific equipment, particularly this crazy dark environment called nighttime. Here’s the necessary gear for preflight and airplane operation at night:
You want to be able to be able to preflight at night and see the interior cockpit at night right? Make sure to see if the headlamp has red light capability.
Now with all this material you’re acquiring you’re going to need a place to store it. Any old back pack will do, but there is some aviation gear that supremely fits your flying needs.
I personally use an amazon camera bag but that’s because I have a lot of extra film gear with me, yet I’ve made it work pretty well.
Amazon Camera Bag I converted into a flying backpack and Sporty’s Bags:
Your seats smell, you’re practically gagging, there’s a green fluid all over the dash. That’s your passengers puke because you thought it’d be a good idea to take everyone you knew flying without ever bringing a sick bag. I always keep a sick bag with me no matter where I go or who I’m flying with. You never know when you’re going to need one and you’ll be much happier you had one than if you didn’t.
Check out the SIC SAC Motion Sickness Bag on Amazon:
Let’s say you’ve gathered all the required materials you’ll need for your training and you organized your knee board knowing that all this will greatly impress your instructor when you show up. How else can you stay ahead of the curve?
Part of the requirements for taking a check-ride (your private pilot license test) is needing to have taken a written test before hand! There are many online resources that allow you to study and prep for that test before hand. I have gathered the most common and best for you here:
Written Test Prep:
Gleim Aviation is a great resource as it takes a long time to do; making you thoroughly understand the materials. I personally used Gleim for two of my written tests for ratings but eventually found them to be inferior to other resources. Still a very viable source for those who wish to study well:
If you have been on YouTube watching pilot videos and haven’t seen this guy pop up on your ads you’re missing out.
“So you want to become a pilot, what a wonderful idea” – Pilot Institute Ad
Pilot Institute is another great resource for written test prep with endorsement provided and overall beginning knowledge for private pilot:
After the first two ratings, I then decided to switch to Sheppard Air for my written test prep and never went back. The format is old school technology but they’re constantly updating their databases to the most recent questions on written tests. They also allow you to get the fee you paid for free if you can bring them a full question with an answer you didn’t see inside your test prep app. I always received higher than 92’s on my written test when I used Sheppard Air:
The first big step you will take in your aviation career will be to solo an aircraft. It’s when the instructor hops out of the airplane and with a wink sends you on your way to do some laps in the pattern as the sole occupant. In order to do that you must have a valid medical. There are three types of medicals, a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class medical. If you are looking to fly professionally I highly recommend getting the first class medical. If you are looking to fly recreationally all you need is a third class medical but it doesn’t hurt to get the first as it guarantees you more privileges. Ask your instructor for more info as needed.
You will get a Medical Certificate from your local Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). It’s a short test to make sure you’re a living and breathing human being with no major medical defects. I would highly recommend getting this done prior to taking more than three lessons as many people begin training, get all the way to solo stage, and then find out they are ineligible because of _________ reasons. The best way to get started is to find an AME around you with the FAA search tool.
In order to officially become a student pilot you must be at least fourteen years old. However you can be within 90 days of 14 to start the application process for a student pilot certificate. If none of those apply to you then head on over to the first link below and at the top right hit the box “register”. From there you will receive an FTN. Bring that number to your instructor and they will get your student pilot license application going so you can officially fly solo a plane!
Lastly, to show you’re extra savvy as a student I would look up the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH) for the particular airplane you are going to be flying. In my students case we are going to be flying a Cessna 172E model. Chapter 2 of this book will give you a description of the airplane and it’s systems. I also highly recommend reading Chapter 1 which is the procedures section for the airplane. If you have some time also take a peak at the limitations of the airplane found in Chapter 3.
If you’ve made it this far in the article you’re the type of pilot that is going to be safe, practical, and successful in this industry. If you desire the level of detail and insight in your training to the depth this article provides, please fill out my student application form. I am always looking and willing to accommodate students that wish to invest in their flight training the right way, while bringing the proper mentality of dedication. I am currently an independent contractor out of an amazing club in Corona called California Flyers with DPE’s in it that give great availability for check rides for students. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Where Leadership and Aviation Takeoff,