If you’re thinking of becoming a pilot, you are in for a thrilling journey.
Whether you’re beginning your aviation journey or just want to learn some facts about pilots, you are in the right place.
Becoming a pilot takes years of hard work and many hours of flying.
However, the question many budding pilots ask is, how many solo hours do you need to be a private pilot? While you may think this a straightforward answer, it depends on what type of pilot you want to be.
The flight time also depends on the type of aircraft you intend on piloting and the flight school you use.
Other factors include how often you fly, your aptitude, the airspace you fly in, the weather you generally fly in, and the experience of your flight instructor.
This is not to say that some pilots can do a few hours of flying and then get a private license. There are minimum hours that exist but you will generally need more than this minimum amount to become a pilot.
The national average is around 55 to 70 hours to become a private pilot which is nigh on twice the FAA minimum hours required.
In Part 141 flight school, you will need at least 35 hours in the sky and of these 35 hours, a minimum of 20 hours need to be instruction time and 5 hours of solo flight.
In Part 61 flight school, the threshold goes up to 40 hours with 20 hours of training and 10 hours of solo flight.
How many hours before you can fly solo?
There is no actual regulation on the minimum flight hours you need before your first solo flight.
However, the average is usually around 15 hours. On occasions, it is not uncommon to see someone do their first solo flight after just 10 flight hours.
The number of hours spent training before your first solo flight depends on your progression through your flight training program.
Additionally, it can also depend heavily on your flight instructor’s discretion when they sign your logbook to certify you for a solo flight.
Many people wonder how many lessons you may need before your first solo flight but flight experience is more important than just lessons.
During the beginning of your training, most flight lessons will be around an hour and a half long. As time goes on, cross-country fights will become longer but an hour or a little more is the general average in the beginning.
An average of 15 hours before your first solo flight amounts to about 10 to 12 lessons.
What is a cross-country flight?
A cross-country flight is one of many milestones a pilot has to reach in order to become a fully-fledged pilot. Arguably the most significant of all these milestones is the first cross-country flight.
A cross-country flight must consist of 50 nautical miles from the departure airport to another airport. There is a further long cross-country flight required too which consists of:
- A flight of 150 nautical miles
- Full-stop landings at three different points
- A straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the plane’s takeoff and landing points
- Three takeoffs as well as three landings to a full stop at a certain airport with an operating control tower. Each landing must involve a flight in the traffic pattern
To obtain a private pilot certificate, students have to meet these special cross-country flight requirements. This is in addition to the minimum of 20 hours of flight training with an instructor beforehand.
Students also have to complete a minimum of 10 hours of solo flying a single-engine airplane with the solo cross-country requirement.
Before a student can fly a solo cross-country flight in a single or multi-engine plane, they must have received and logged training in various locations and areas.
These include the understanding of airspace regulations, the reading of weather patterns, and the completion of certain maneuvers.
What are the minimum hours for your private pilot license?
There are a range of requirements that students have to meet to achieve a private pilot’s license. These include:
- Being at least 17 years old
- Being able to speak, read, write, and understand English
- Obtaining at least a 3rd class medical certificate
- Holding a U.S. student, sport, or a recreational pilot certificate
- Passing the knowledge test
- Passing the practical test
- Meeting all of the aeronautical experience requirements
As well as this, to acquire a private pilot license, you will need to have a minimum of 40 flight hours with Part 61 school and 35 hours with Part 141. This includes:
- Flight time with an instructor - Part 61 and Part 141 Schools (20 hours)
- Solo flight time - Part 61 (10) Part 141 (5)
- Cross-country flights - Part 61 and Part 141 Schools (3)
- Takeoffs and landings - Part 61 and Part 141 Schools (10)
- NIght flight time - Part 61 and Part 141 Schools (3)
- Instrument training - Part 61 and Part 141 Schools (3)
- Practical test - Part 61 and Part 141 Schools (3)