East Coast Flying

East Coast Flying

Becoming a Pilot

If you are not already a pilot, but are interested in getting your license, there are some things you need to know. Mainly, the requirements and time commitment involved. However, the very first license is the biggest step and usually the most expensive. However, this is your gateway to an amazing part of aviation that less than one tenth of the population can enjoy.

The Private Pilot's License

Must be 17 years old (16 to solo the airplane)
Be able to maintain a 3rd Class Medical Certificate (if you can pass a sports physical, you will easily get the medical certificate)
Pass the FAA written exam
Fly a minimum of 40 hrs of which, the following requirements must be met
Fly 20 hrs with an instructor
Log 10 hrs of solo flight
Fly 3 hrs of instrument training
Fly 5 hrs of solo cross-country time (flying more than 50nm from your home airport)
Of this time, you must fly a cross country which is greater than 150nm with full stop landings at 3 different airports (on leg with a strait line distance greater than 50 nm)
Fly 3 hrs at night
At least 10 take-offs and landings to a full stop
One night cross-country with total distance greater than 100nm
 3 take-offs and 3 landings to a full stop at an airport with a control tower
 Log 3 hrs in preparation for your flight exam
Pass an Oral and Flight exam commonly known as the Private Pilot Checkride Exam
 So, the big question......"How much does it all cost?"
 Well...this question is not easily answered. There is no fixed cost to learning how to fly. Some people take longer or shorter than others. It really depends on how much time you can invest.
An hour a week? Two hours a week? Once every other week?
The short answer is that it will cost you less the more time you devote. If you can fly twice or even three times a week, it will most likely cost you less and take less time than if you only fly once every other week.
 Many flight schools will "quote" you a cost estimate and they will even break it down into categories. Generally these schools will give you a cost estimate assuming the bare minimum flight training of 40hrs. I DONT KNOW ANYONE who has gotten their license in only 40 hrs and I probably wouldn't fly with them if they did. The national average is around 70 hrs which is a much more reasonable number. But you are still asking me: "Aaron, cut to the chase! How much?" Well. Don't let the answer scare you, but I would be comfortable telling you $10,000. I would break it down as follows:
Pilot Training Cost
Ground School + Book, Plotter, E6B  $500.00
Written Test and Checkride Exam  $600.00
Medical Exam  $120.00
Charts, AFD, FAR/AIM
 $200.00 +
40 hrs Aircraft Rental and 20 hrs Instruction  $5,600.00
"Bare Minimum Total"  (unrealistic)
       Additional Training      $2,800.00
 The Believable Total

The Sport Pilot's License

Be at least 17 years of age

Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English

Log at least 20 hours of flight time of which at least
  • 15 hours must be dual instruction with a qualified flight instructor
    • 2 hours must be cross-country dual instruction
  • 5 hours must be solo flight
Fly one solo cross-country flight over a total distance of 75 or more nautical miles to two different destinations to a full-stop landing. At least one leg of this cross-country must be over a total distance of at least 25 nautical miles (46 km).

Have received 2 hours of dual instruction in the preceding 60 days, in preparation for the Practical Test

Pass a Knowledge (written) test

Pass a Practical (oral and flight) test

Have a valid US State drivers license AND not been rejected for your last Airman Medical Certificate
...or have a current 3rd class or higher Airman Medical Certificate
Sport Pilot Restrictions 
No more than one passenger

Daytime flight only (civil twilight is used to define day/night)

Maximum takeoff weight of 1320 lbs.

No flight above 10,000 feet (3,000 m) MSL or 2,000 feet (610 m)AGL whichever is higher.

No flight in any of the airspace classes that require radio communication B,C, or D, without first obtaining additional instruction and instructor endorsement

The Sport pilot certificate is also ineligible for additional ratings (such as an instrument rating), although time in light-sport aircraft can be used towards the experience requirement of other ratings on higher certificate types.


Foreign Student? You can learn too!

Many of my foreign friends at University of Maryland ask me questions about learning to fly and some of them are interested themselves but are afraid they wouldn't be allowed. Well, this is not entirely true. The TSA has something called the "Alien Flight Student Program" which allows foreign students who reside in the U.S. to take up flight training. There are a few more steps involved than for U.S. Citizens but it is still very easy. The application process is 6 steps and involves:

1. Basic Information (name, height, weight, DOB, etc)

2. Providing other Names

3. Citizenship Information

4. Document Information (Passport, Visa(s), Lawful Permanent Resident Car, etc)

5. Address Information (U.S. and Foreign)

6. Employment

After submitting the application, you will be accepted or denied. If accepted, you can start your training.Your flight school will want to take a Photograph of you for their records and will most likely make copies of your passport, drivers license, and other documents for their own personal records. (Even U.S. Citizens seeking to learn to fly must supply a copy of their Passport or birth certificate to most flight schools) To find out more, go to the AFSP website here. 

Maryland Flight Schools

Here you will find a list (not necessarily comprehensive) of flight schools in Maryland in Alphabetical order by airport.

'Specialty' Flight Schools:

  1. (H) - Helicopters
  2. (G) - Gliders
  3. (A) - Aerobatics
  4. (S) - Seaplanes
  5. (U) - Ultralights & Hang gliding
  6. (B) - Balloons

Operating in the D.C. SFRA

Operating in the New York City SFRA

Aside from Washington D.C., New York City is one of the east coast's largest tourist attractions. The Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, and Statue of Liberty are fun and exciting sights to see. It is no wonder that many pilots want to see this bustling city along with its huge sky scrapers from the air. After a helicopter and airplane collided in midair over the Hudson River in 2009, the FAA created a special flight rules area for sight seeing pilots to prevent future mishaps. Below are some resources for operating the New York City SFRA also known as the Hudson River Corridor. 


  FAA Online Training Course Detailing the New York City SFRA

 NYC SFRA Kneeboard.pdf



The Various Exams (PPL)

So there are a few exams that you must take in order to get your Private Pilot's License. These are listed below:

  1.  Written Aeronautical Knowledge Exam  (~$150.00)
  2. Pre-solo test  (free, some schools don't require it)
  3. Practical Exam (~$400.00)
    1. Oral Exam
    2. Checkride Exam

1.   The written exam will cover everything you have learned about weather, simple aerodynamics, charts, aeromedical factors, etc. that you learned in ground school. This exam requires a score of 70% or higher to pass and is relatively easy (if you study). There is a great site online where you can practice questions for this exam here.

2.   The pre-solo test is usually given by your instructor and is going to vary from instructor to instructor. Generally things that are going to be asked are found in your airplane's POH or on the Sectional and/or Terminal Area Chart. It will cover Vspeeds, Airplane dimensions, procedures, airspace (if there is any), etc. I will come up with a sample pre-solo test for the site shortly.

3.   When I took my checkride for the PPL, I wrote down just about every question the examiner asked me and then tried to remember some of the ones he asked once I had passed and gone home. Below is a summary of the questions and procedures I went through for the PPL Checkride. Hope it is useful!

Checkride Examiner Profiles

After writing up an oral and checkride guide after my exam, I thought that it would be nice to have my fellow pilot friends write up about their checkrides. By doing this, I hope to start an examiner profile so that future checkride takers can get an idea of what to expect from different examiners. If you have taken a checkride and would like your write-up to be included please contact me and I will provide an e-mail address for you to send your write-up.


  • Mike Deruggiero - Martin State Airport
Aaron Harrington Checkride Exam Guide
Matt Rich Checkride Exam Guide
  • Annabelle Fera - Frederick Municipal Airport

 Justin Shumaker Private Pilot Experience

  • Bill Nelson - Chester County Airport
Aaron Instrument Rating Oral Exam and Checkride

Airport Information

Easton Airport has put out a wonderful guide for people operating in and around their airport. The document explains the process and procedures that pilots should follow when going to or from Easton and was actually written by the controllers as a handy pilot's guide. You can view and download it below.


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