Real Answers from Real Pilots

Actual study time for PPL

(Bradley W Backus) #1

Hey Tory, I was looking at the breakdown of the 9 months program and I noticed that the first 3 months getting your private pilots license is all study and briefing time 7 hours a day and only 1.5 hours flying time? Does that include simulator time in those 7 study hours too? I’m confused if we have already passed the written exams before we start ATP flight school, why is there so much study time just learning to fly, shouldn’t it be more simulator and flying time if we’re already knowledgeable in the study and written aspects of flying and just need to learn how to actually fly? I really don’t know what will I be studying during the first 3 months but I read and heard at my intro flight, it’s the toughest part of training. Was told if I passed the PPL I should be able to pass the final 6 months, and was wondering why it would be tougher than the commercial part & ME training or am I wrong?



Learning to fly is not just about passing the written exams. There is an incredible amount of knowledge that needs to be learned and there is a lengthy question and answer section with each FAA checkride. As a pilot, you are taking people’s lives into your hands, that involves more than just an FAA written exam.

The private is the hardest because it is the foundation for everything else to come, you are starting from scratch. Everything else simply builds on that.


(Bradley W Backus) #3

Oh so I’m boning up for the knowledge on the check rides and overall knowkedge on flying, okay I understand now, thanks Chris. I didn’t mean to sound like all i had to know was passing the exams, I just had no clue on what I was going to be studying for 7 hours a day, so thanks for shedding some light on that for me. :airplane: :wink:

(Tory) #4

Hi Brad,

An average of 1.5 hours of flying per day sounds about right. Learning how
to fly is actually easier than the knowledge/decision making/critical
thinking aspect of flying.

The Private Pilot phase is hard, but I don’t think that the Private Pilot
phase is the most difficult. I think it depends on the individual. I would
argue that the instrument phase is harder.

Also, saying that passing the Private Pilot check ride means that you can
pass the others is presumptive. That’s a huge generalization. Everyone’s
experience is different. Some are more successful than others. The students
that struggle typically get hit with reality at some point down the line.
Check ride failures means extra training and a re-check, which means more
money. Some people just don’t have the funds to continue. Some pilots just
aren’t cut out to be CFIs. They’ll take their commercial certs and find
work flying right seat in a citation or doing aerial photography or you
name it.


(Bradley W Backus) #5

Ya that’s what I thought it definitely sounds like the check rides are the hardest along with the instrument rating; I’m sure I misunderstood the CFI that told me that during my introductory flight. Thanks Tory, great info! Would you say the pilots that make CFI are cool under pressure and the others crack? I’ve never been very cool under pressure but my job is very stressful and I thought that in some ways I might handle pressure better in flying because it’s always been what I really want to do.
I drive a truck with a bunch of crazies everyday you constantly have to be on the defensive and the winters are very tough! Been doing it 10 years now and I’ve always thought flying no matter what kind of pressure has got to be much better and more rewarding than this and I don’t like driving a truck, thought I’d do much better and enjoy flying so much more.



I would say staying cool under pressure is important for ALL pilots, not just CFI’s. I don’t want to burst your bubble, and I don’t know what kind of “crazies” you drive with, but I can tell you there are some SCARY new students out there. Unlike a truck, you can’t just pull over and stop. What it comes down to is having confidence in your abilities. I find there’s a direct correlation to insecurity and pilots who are lousy to fly with.


(Tory) #7

Comparing flying to truck driving is hard to do. They’re two very different

I think it’s safe to say that all pilots are cool under pressure. At least
at the professional level.

What makes a pilot a good CFI, on the most basic level, is being
likeable/personable, a good listener, one that is always learning, and one
that is not afraid of admitting when they don’t know.

Aside from that, CFIs have to be exceptionally knowledgeable, skilled
aviators, and good at explaining things.

The pilots that I’ve seen that didn’t become CFIs, or did but
didn’t/couldn’t get their CFII, tended to all have one thing in common:
they had “dumped” their private pilot knowledge. ATP’s program is too fast
and the instructors are too busy to re-teach things that should already be

So, for you, and everyone else that’s reading this, do whatever you have to
do to retain the information learned.


(Bradley W Backus) #8

I have cars cutting me off all the time and it’s crucial that I keep my space cushion for safety especially in the winter, a lot of times i can’t just pull over, i have to react quickly and maneuver out of dangerous situations. Cars are nearly sliding into me and going off the road all winter. I still have a safe record after 10 years and there’s been some very close calls! But now I drive in WY and SD and I deliver heavy parts for Ford which keeps me sharp and in shape, instead of just driving the whole time. it’s much better than the NW, especially Southern CA that was a nightmare.
So you’re saying that when a student gets outta control the CFI needs to calmly assess the situation and take a safe plan of action to recover… what do you mean by SCARY students, one that put you in danger? Hopefully I can learn all this and build some confidence the more I learn and fly.

(Bradley W Backus) #9

Wow very impressive Tory, I bet you were an excellent CFI, one I would like to have as a mentor! So you’re saying that they didn’t think the private pilot knowledge was important anymore and they were above it when they became a CFI, kind of like becoming a complacent driver, it’s very dangerous!
I talked to a private pilot and asked if I can prepare for the check rides before I start school, I need to get my brain more focused and clear after driving for 10 years and not having to use a lot of knowledge, mostly just tedious repetitive work no challenge at all. I’m studying the ASA private pilot videos and instrument rating prep DVD I also plan on going on more intro flights, I might be living right next to the ATP flight school in Centennial so want to do more flying for aptitude and familiarity and have some fun flying again, after 40 years. He said that there’s nothing you can do to prepare that they’ll teach me how to pass and prepare then it’s all up to me and putting those skills to work. But I was hoping to be able to prepare as much as possible beforehand.



You are comparing two very different jobs and asking to find some correlation between the stresses that each presents. The jobs are just so different that it is not possible. There are some serious stresses in aviation, from new students who are just learning the basics of flying, to handling serious mechanical emergencies in a heavy jet. And yes, a truck can always pull over, even if not immediately, an airplane never can. Flying presents all sorts of unique stressors that have to be handled very calmly as people’s lives are at stake and many times the public is watching you.

I would suggest that you start working on your “cool” now in your current job. Any sort of freaking out at, or in front of, students or coworkers (to include swearing) in aviation will not be tolerated and you will be dismissed.


(Bradley W Backus) #11

Yeah I’ve been working on staying cool under pressure I’ve improved a lot, still continually working on it thanks Chris. Mac my CFI at intro said that check rides are separate pay for student but I think the $5800 examiner fees cover those? Anyway I’m planning on having 10k saved up before starting but for emergencies of having to cover failed check rides, but hope it doesn’t come to that :drooling_face: Kirk in finance told me that you can’t fail more than 2 check rides and my guess is, that you won’t be a pilot if you fail 3 or have no business flying!
So I’m going all in, dunno if I have what it takes but I’m preparing as much as possible to be successful. I wanted to start in April but to pay off 8k and have no debt to apply, I dunno if I can do it that early; might not start til fall if I even get approved at all? It sure is great to have you guys as mentors, I had an awesome mentor and I believe it’s the key to success to utilize exert help when you need it; so thanks Chris!

(Tory) #12

Instead of reading ASA and watching DVDs, I would focus more on getting
some of your writtens out of the way. It may seem counterintuitive at
first, but by taking as many writtens as you can before your start date you
are reserving extra time during the program to focus on the check ride.

I can’t remember if you received your 1st class medical or not either. If
not, get that first and then start studying for your writtens. All of the
information you need for the writtens is on ATP’s website:

Aviation Medical Examiners can be found on the FAAs website:




I’m not saying what you do isn’t stressful but yes, while driving any motor vehicle on the road you have the opportunity to stop. If flight you don’t have that luxury.

You must always be assessing the situation as a pilot whether you’re instructing or not. Sometimes the CFI must calmly create a safe plan of action and others you must react immediately or you’ll both be dead. Imagine you’re driving you truck going 70 on the highway and the guy sitting next to you also has a full set of controls for that truck. For no reason whatsoever they decide to they want to get off the exit you’re passing to grab a Whopper with cheese and just crank the steering wheel full right without slowing down. That’s the kind of scary stuff I’m talking about.


(Bradley W Backus) #14

I thought we were supposed to wait to take written right before we start school? How many tests are there, thought it’s just the FAA exam? I can take medical now but isn’t that too early also? I’ve been waiting because I might have trouble with the exams was planning on getting basil surgery, not sure if both eyes are 20/20 I’ll be 54 next month and still have great health and in pretty good shape.

(Bradley W Backus) #15

Basil?? Stupid predictive text… Sorry lasik surgery! :drooling_face:

(Bradley W Backus) #16

That’s hilarious breaking right for the whopper!:rofl:Yeah my mentor was terrified of his students falling asleep at the wheel why he was back in sleeper he was always listening if they would hit the rumble strip! It sure is a lot of fun talking with you guys, great feedback and stories! So how was your CFI experience did you have any SCARY experiences?



There are 6 required FAA exams. We encourage students to take them prior to lighten the workload, just not too early as they expire if the practical corresponding exam isn’t taken within 24mos.


(Bradley W Backus) #18

I just read your story again… there are students that crank the time hard for no reason? That’s suicide! I saw a video of an American Airlines pilot who stomped on the aeleron or rudder so hard it broke off and the plane crashed immediately in the ocean killing everyone! When using controls it’s always supposed to be smooth, even pressure I think, no sudden jerks or stabs!

(Bradley W Backus) #19

6?? Wow, does that include instrument ratings ect? So that’s about a 3 month window before starting school if you average the whole program to be 15 months including CFI or how do you do that if the whole program is 2 years and it expires in 2 years you would have to take it the first week of school?

(Bradley W Backus) #20

Once again bad text sorry, I meant crank the yoke hard!