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You Have Your Private Pilot Certificate: Now What?

Posted in Hangar Talk

Tags: training, currency, proficiency

You Have Your Private Pilot Certificate: Now What?

You have spent countless hours studying, have been in training for probably months, and have committed a large amount of your time and resources to completing your goal of becoming a pilot. So, now that you have your Private Pilot Certificate, what do you do next?

You Have Your Private Pilot Certificate: Now What?

Written by: Jacob Kasprzyk CFI, CFII, MEI, ATP
Image from: http://tailspinstales.blogspot.com/2007/05/aviation-glossary-circa-1945.html

You have spent countless hours studying, have been in training for probably months, and have committed a large amount of your time and resources to completing your goal of becoming a pilot. So, now that you have your Private Pilot Certificate, what do you do next?

This is a question that many student pilots never ask themselves during their training, yet it is important to have at least a rough idea on how you will use your Private Pilot Certificate. Not only is it important to have an idea of how you will use it, but also how you plan to support it. Let us first dive into what is required of you to remain a legally current Private Pilot.

To remain a legally current Private Pilot, an individual must complete a Biennial Flight Review (BFR) every 24 calendar months or pass another practical check ride during that time. Any qualified flight instructor can conduct a BFR. The review must consist of at least 1 hour of flight time and 1 hour of ground review time. BFRs vary in their content from CFI to CFI, but the FAA does give guidance on what should be discussed and reviewed during the review. BFRs are a pass/fail based on the instructor’s discretion. Other than maintaining a Class 3 Medical, a BFR is all that is required to legally remain a current pilot. Remember though that just because you are legal, it does not mean that you are proficient or safe!

If you intend to fly with passengers, remember that you must also complete at least 3 full stop landings every 90 days to legally carry passengers. To carry passengers at night, you must make 3 night landings (1 hour after sunset) within the preceding 90 days.

Ok, so lets assume that you are legally current to fly, what else should you do with your pilot certificate?

Maintaining your skills to a proficient and safe level should be your next concern. It is likely that during your training you may have missed a few lessons due to weather, maintenance, sickness, etc and when returning to flying you realized that you had accumulated a good amount of rust on your flying skills. Every pilot varies in how long they can stay away from flying and still remain proficient in the cockpit, but it is important to set a game plan in place for maintaining your proficiency. You should know yourself better than anyone else, and you should ensure that you receive enough time in the cockpit to ensure your safety and the safety of others. It is not a bad idea to maintain a regular flying schedule at least every few weeks. These flights can be done solo, with another pilot, or with an instructor. I know your instructor wouldn’t mind accompanying you on what would probably be a joy ride for them! It is best to vary what you do on each flight. Do a cross-country for lunch one week, practice air work the next, and perhaps a night flight the next week. Set your own schedule, but it is important to cover all aspects of flying.

Ok, so now that you are maintaining your currency, proficiency, and safety what else should you do? I recommend looking back on why you wanted to become a pilot in the first place. Did you want to travel to new destinations faster and easier than ever before, did you want to enjoy the freedom of being aloft detached from the world below, did you want to accomplish a life long dream, or maybe you just thought it would be fun to do! Whatever your reasons, go back to those roots.

If you are using your pilot certificate for travel then maybe it is best to focus on obtaining your Instrument Rating or Multi-Engine Rating. Both of these ratings will make your travels much safer and more reliable. You cannot expect to travel without encountering weather eventually, so your Instrument Rating is almost a must. There is a good reason why your life insurance rate drops by nearly 50% after obtaining an instrument rating. Statistically your new skills have proven to be extremely effective in helping pilots survive many of the dangers of flying! A multi-engine rating will also increase your proficiency as a pilot and flying on two engines after being properly trained is almost always safer than a single engine.

If you decided to become a pilot for the thrill of it or the freedom of it, I would recommend looking into taking aerobatic flight lessons. I personally have never experienced a greater thrill flying than when at the controls of a capable aerobatic aircraft! The feeling of freedom and control is amazing! Not only will you have a ton of fun doing it (assuming you have the stomach for it), you will without a doubt become a safer and more proficient pilot by learning how to manipulate your aircraft’s controls to a precise degree that is required of aerobatic flying! Learning to fly a glider is also extremely rewarding and the peaceful soaring is incredibly surreal. There is nothing else like it!

If flying was a life long dream of yours, why not pass it on to someone else? Becoming an ambassador for aviation at your local airport could be very rewarding! Give the gift of flight to children who have dreamed of taking flight, donate your skills and time to charities that transport medical patients in need, demonstrate to your local elected officials the benefits of aviation to the community, or you can even transport rescue dogs to a new home! There are countless ways you can help your community and others by being a pilot! It is up to you how you want to use your skills!

In conclusion, there is a lot to do after you obtain your Private Pilot Certificate. Some of the seasoned flight instructors that I have worked with have often said, “The private pilot certificate is your ticket to learn”. It is important to understand that your job of being a safe, proficient, and legal pilot is never done. It still takes determination, dedication, and commitment. That does not mean that you cannot have a ton of fun along the way!

Happy and safe flying!

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