Learn to Fly!

You've been dreaming about it since you were little.

The exhilarating sensation of flight.

You've gazed into the sky and watched airplanes whisk their passengers to far away lands. You've read about Lindbergh and The Right Stuff. You've always dreamed of flying. But you thought it would take too much time, or that it was too expensive. Maybe you thought only daredevils became pilots.


1. You must be at least 16 years old.
2. You must speak English.
3. You must pass a basic medical exam.

That's all. If you meet these requirements, you can fly. (You can actually fly at any age, but you must be 16 to solo).

Prepare for Take Off

Once you've made the decision, it's time to begin training.

Pilot training consists of both ground and flight courses which cover flight rules and regulations, flight planning, navigation, radio procedures and weather. In order to receive your certificate, you must pass the Federal Aviation Administration written exam (rules and regulations) and then the fun part -- the flying exam.

As a pilot, you choose the level of involvement you want. The more you take on, the more stringent the FAA requirements. From a recreational pilot certificate to an air transport pilot certificate.

It's up to you.

Safety First

Now, let's address the issue of safety.

More so than anything else, safety comes first in the general aviation industry. In fact, safety is the foundation of flight training. Today's training aircraft are engineered and built to rigid federal standards and are constantly checked to make certain they're in ship shape.

Also new technology, like GPS (Global Positioning System), makes navigation safer than ever. Innovations in weather tracking radar and radio communications, combined with the world's most sophisticated and safest airspace system, make today's general aviation aircraft one of the safest vehicles ever invented.

Fly Now, Buy Later

The best part is, you don't even have to own an airplane in order to fly.

Instead, you can rent an airplane, much like you would a car. That's where we at Shoreline Flying Club come in the picture.

Costs to obtain a pilot's license vary, depending on the area of the country you fly in and the amount of time you can devote. A recreational pilot certificate can be as low as $2500 with an average of 35 hours of flight time. A private pilot certificate will take a little more time and money - $8000-9000.

You're In Control

Imagine flying to a nearby community for breakfast or lunch.

Or taking your friends (or family) on a weekend getaway, traveling at more than twice the speed of a car.

Flying is fun! You decide where you're going, when you want to arrive and when to return. And there are more than 5,300 airports across the country in communities just like ours...just waiting for your arrival!

Getting Off the Ground

Like the philosopher said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step" and your first step is to get into an airplane and experience piloting for yourself.

To get started, go to our Membership Application to sign up at no charge. Then, contact one of our Certified Flight Instructors to set up a Demo Flight.

Demo Flight!

Are you interested in taking a Demo Flight? What is a demo flight you ask?

Come down to Sundance Flying Club, and for only $159, you will actually fly with a Certified Flight Instructor in a Cessna 172. You will actually put your hands on the controls and experience up to a one hour flight over Palo Alto! By flying with a highly trained and experienced Flight Instructor, you can just relax and enjoy the flight while you determine if flying is for you.

See you in the sky!

Stop Dreaming.

Start Flying.

I was just wondering...

If you're like millions of Americans, at some point in your life, perhaps when you were stuck in traffic and saw an airplane buzz overhead, you've thought, "I wonder what it takes to BE A PILOT?" Wonder no more. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about learning to fly. While they will not answer all your questions, they should point you in the right direction -- up. For more complete answers, and answers to other questions, call us. Before long, you'll be buzzing over the traffic and smiling to yourself. You'll BE A PILOT.

How long does learning to fly take?

Learning to fly is not difficult, but it does require study and practice. Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61 itemizes the things you must learn and requires a minimum of 40 hours of training (20 with an instructor and 10 solo) to earn a private pilot certificate. Few people complete their training in the minimum time, however; most people take 60-80 hours. The Federal Aviation Regulations were written many decades ago when flying was much simpler! There is much more to cover and learn now than there was 60 years ago.

How long it will take you depends on how often you fly. If you do anything every day, you'll learn it quicker than doing it once or twice a week because you won't have to "relearn" what you "forgot" between lessons. If you fly every day, you could possibly earn your certificate in 50-60 hours flown in a month or so. If you can only fly part time, it may take you a year or more, and more than 80 hours to earn your private ticket.

What's the difference between Part 61 and 141?

Whether you train under Part 141 or Part 61, you'll learn the same things and take the same FAA tests. The only real difference will be the order in which you learn things. Part 141 schools must use a structured curriculum that teaches skills in a specific order. If you fly every day, this curriculum ensures the effective, efficient use of your training time. Part 61 schools are not bound to a structured curriculum (many Part 141 schools also train under Part 61); they can rearrange the order in which you learn things to suit your schedule, which benefits those who can only fly on weekends and evenings. Shoreline Flying Club operates under Part 61, so your Flight Instructor will be able to tailor your curriculum to you specific needs.

How long does a lesson last?

While most lessons are based on a 1-hour flight, they may take 2 hours from start to finish because there's more to it than flying. There are pre- and post-flight discussions, where you and your certificated flight instructor (CFI) talk about what you're going to do, how you did, what you did well, what needs work, and what you'll do on your next lesson.

Will I get airsick?

Maybe. If you do, it will most likely come early in training, when you're getting used to the new sensations of flying. The important thing is to not worry about it. In most cases, if you are affected, it will quickly pass as you get comfortable. Let your instructor know how you feel, look out the window, and open an air vent. If the feeling persists, discuss the use of anti-motion sickness drugs with an aviation medical examiner. They can help you over the rough spots, but you should only take them when flying with your instructor.

How safe is it?

General aviation is as safe as any other mode of travel, if not safer. You don't need a parachute because airplanes (and helicopters) do not fall out of the sky, even if the engine stops. An aircraft without an engine, even if it's supposed to have one, is a glider. If an engine quits, for example, the most common cause is because the pilot ran out of gas. In other words, flying is as safe as you make it. How to fly safely, and to deal with the rare emergencies that are beyond the pilot's influence, will be covered in your training.

What kinds of licenses are there?

Pilots earn certificates, not licenses. Student certificates are good for 24 month; all the rest do not expire (but you need a current medical certificate, which does expire, to use your pilot certificate). Students work toward either a recreational or private certificate. While the training for both is the same, the recreational certificate is designed for fun flying close to home during the day only. In other words, rec pilots don't need or get training private pilots must have for flying at night, cross-country, and at airports requiring communication with air traffic control. Recreational pilots can earn a private certificate when they get training in these areas.

Once you earn a private certificate, you can move up the ladder, if you so desire, to a commercial certificate, which enables you to fly for hire. A flight instructor certificate enables you to teach others to fly, and an airline transport pilot certificate is needed to captain an airliner. You can add a number of ratings to these certificates that let you fly airplanes, seaplanes, gliders, helicopters, and balloons, airplanes with more than one engine, and on instruments in bad weather.

Which certificate should I get?

It depends on why you want to fly. The recreational certificate is a good choice if you plan on spending most of your time around your home airport. If you plan on flying cross-country for pleasure or business, or plan on earning advanced certificates or ratings, the private certificate may be the right choice. But this doesn't mean you can't earn a recreation certificate, and then get the additional training for a private certificate at a later date.

Can I carry passengers?

Student pilots cannot carry passengers when flying solo. Friends or family may ride along on dual lessons (when your instructor is in the plane) however, and it's a good idea to discuss this with your CFI in advance. Recreational pilots may only carry one passenger at a time; private pilots may carry as many passengers as the airplane will legally hold. While recreational and private pilots may share the expenses of a flight, they may not charge people for flying them someplace. Pilots must have a commercial certificate and fly for an air taxi operation to get paid for transporting people.

Where can I fly?

Because CFIs must endorse (approve) their flights, students can basically fly anywhere their instructors say they can. Recreational pilots are limited to 50 miles from the airport at which they received training and they cannot fly to or from airports that require talking to an air traffic controller. There are more than 12,000 airports in the United States, and only around 800 have control towers. Private pilots can basically fly anywhere they want, so long as they follow the applicable regulations, such as calling the control tower to request a landing clearance.

What about a medical exam?

Your student pilot certificate is also your medical certificate. This dual-purpose piece of paper is good for 24 months, and you get it from an aviation medical examiner (AME), an FAA-approved doctor. There are approximately 6,000 AMEs in the United States, and your instructor or flight school can connect you with one. You will need your student/medical certificate before you can fly an airplane solo, but it's often a good idea to get it before you start training, especially if you think you may have a medical condition that may delay its issuance.

The exam is not rigorous. It begins by filling out an FAA application/medical history form. Don't omit information when completing this form. Just like your mother, the FAA doesn't look kindly on people who lie, deceive, or don't tell the whole truth -- especially when it comes to a conviction for driving under the influence. Medically, your vision must be at least 20/50 without glasses or contacts, or at least 20/30 with them, and you must be able to see red and green. You shouldn't have a nose or throat condition that would be aggravated by flying, you must have proper balance, and you must be able to hear a whispered voice from 3 feet. You can't have any mental/neurological problems, such as psychosis, alcoholism, epilepsy, any unexplained loss of consciousness, any serious medical condition such as heart attack or chronic heart disease, diabetes mellitus, or any other debilitating illness.

If you do have a problem, it's not the end of your flying career. Depending on the problem, your medical certificate will be deferred until further testing is done. Your AME will be able to help you in such cases, and if you and your AME can prove to the FAA that your condition will not make you unsafe to pilot an airplane, there's a good chance you'll get your medical. If you have a condition that automatically disqualifies you, such as chronic alcoholism, history of heart disease, or loss of consciousness, you can still petition the FAA for special issuance of your medical.

Do I need Transportation Security Administration approval?

Click here for information on the TSA requirements to train as a pilot in the United States.

How do I pick an instructor?

You and your instructor will be spending a lot of time together in a small classroom, so chose a CFI that matches your personality. Different people learn differently, and different instructors teach differently, and when student and CFI differences clash, your training will probably not go well. If you can't understand a prospective CFI's answers to your questions, and the CFI can't reword answers so you do understand, you will likely have similar problems in training. If the two of you can communicate clearly, take an introductory flight lesson to see how you get along in the airplane. In the end, only time will validate your CFI selection. But if your CFI isn't working out, don't be afraid to change. Take a look at our list of CFIs and click on their names. Most CFIs have background information which can help you narrow down your selection. We have CFIs from around the world who speak many languages. Hebrew, Chinese, Czech, French, Farsi, Arabic, German, Italian and Spanish just to name a few.

What's ground school?

Flight training is divided into two parts, ground school and flight training. Ground school teaches you the principles, procedures, and regulations you will put into practice in an airplane -- how a wing generates lift, how to navigate from one airport to another, and in what kind of weather you can fly. Before you can earn a pilot certificate, you must pass a computerized FAA knowledge test (with a score of at least 70 percent) on this information. You have several ground school options. You can attend a scheduled classroom course that may be held at Shoreline Flying Club, independent ground school, high school, or community college. There are also intense, weekend-long ground schools. Or you can take a home-study course, which is composed of videotapes and may include computerized test preparation software. Regardless of the option you chose, you'll need an instructor's endorsement to take the knowledge test.

When will I actually begin flying?

You'll be flying on your first lesson, with your CFI's help, of course. With each lesson, your CFI will be helping less, until you won't need any help at all. When you reach this point, you will make your first solo flight, an important milestone in every pilot's training. After you solo, you and your CFI will work on such things as flying cross-country. And when you're ready, you'll make several solo cross-country flights. When you have demonstrated your ability to consistently demonstrate all of the FAA-required skills, your instructor will recommend you for the FAA checkride.

What's the checkride like?

The FAA checkride is broken down into two parts, an oral quiz, where the examiner will ask about things you learned in ground school, and the flight test, where you will demonstrate your ability to perform the skills you have learned in an aircraft. Don't be intimidated. The examiner isn't out to fail you. He or she just wants to ensure, just as your instructor did, that you are a safe pilot.

What kinds of airplanes can I fly?

There is no regulation saying you have to learn in a particular airplane, but most likely you will learn to fly in a two- or four-seat airplane with one engine and fixed landing gear. It may have a high wing or a low wing, but where the wing is really doesn't matter so long as there is a wing on each side, and they are both either high or low. How fast the airplane goes really isn't important either. You're learning to fly, not going someplace. How far you can fly is important during cross-country training, and the airplane's range is determined by how much gas it carries divided by the amount of gas the engine burns times the airplane's speed. Most training airplanes carry 4 to 5 hours of gas and fly at around 100 mph.

You can also learn to fly in higher performance airplanes that have retractable landing gear and seat four-to-six people. They carry 4-to-6 hours of gas and fly at 140 mph to 200 mph. The cost to rent these airplanes per hour is at approximately equal to their speed, so your training dollar may be better spent on a simpler trainer. You can save the go-fast airplanes as a personal present to yourself after you earn your pilot certificate. Many trainers have just a few communication and navigation radios and all the essential instruments. High performance airplanes generally have all the latest radios including GPS satellite navigation, advanced instruments, and autopilots. Trainers generally do not have autopilots because you're the one learning to fly -- the autopilot already knows how.

How do I get from one airport to another?

Learning how to navigate from one airport to another will be part of your training, and you'll put that into practice on flights with and without your instructor. You'll first learn pilotage, where you look out the window and compare the landmarks you see on the ground to an aviation sectional chart, and dead reckoning, which is used in conjunction with pilotage. Short for deduced reckoning, dead reckoning is flying a compass heading that has been corrected for such things as the wind for a certain time at a certain speed.

There are several forms of radio navigation, and you'll at least learn how to navigate with VORs, very high frequency omnidirectional ranges. Located across the nation, VORs transmit radio beams or "radials" for each point on the compass that are selected and indicated on a cockpit dial. Certain radials connect one VOR to another and create "highways" in the sky.

If your trainer is equipped with the required receivers, you'll learn how to navigate with an automatic direction finder (ADF), which has a needle that always points to the selected station, Loran-C, which uses a worldwide web of radio signals that precisely indicate where you are and an internal computer that will lead you to where you want to go. Then there is the global position system, which is similar to Loran, except it uses satellites rather than ground-based radio stations. You are probably familiar with GPS already as the technology is now pervasive in automobile and portable GPS moving maps.

Do I need special insurance?

Shoreline Flying Club provides rental insurance which covers the airplane and the pilot's liability. Our insurance is typical for flight schools and carries a $2500.00 deductible. You may want to look into additional renters insurance if you need higher liability limits and/or want to reduce the deductible. We have flyers at the club which provide information about attaining this insurance at very reasonable rates. Additionally, if you need specific details as to our coverage, we would be happy to let you speak with our insurance agent who can answer all of your questions.

Once I get it, what can I do with my certificate?

This is a question you should, perhaps, answer before you start learning to fly because it may have some bearing on the training you need. Flying offers a wealth of opportunities from which to choose. First, there is the obvious. You can make local sightseeing flights with friends and family on sunny afternoons, visiting near-by airports and making new friends. And you can also travel to more distant airports for visits or business. You can also learn to fly aerobatics for fun or competition, build and fly your own plane, or restore and fly antique/classic aircraft.

If you're an outdoors person, you can reach out-of-the-way locations by learning to fly tailwheel airplanes, which are often better suited to rough landing strips, floatplanes, and airplanes on skis. You can also fly for the good of society. There is the Civil Air Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which conduct search and rescue operations when called upon to do so, and a growing number of humanitarian flight organizations that provide transportation to people in need of non-critical medical treatment (the Air Care Alliance, (800) 296-1217, is the umbrella organization for these different groups). These activities are just a few of flying's possibilities. There are more, and you can learn about them by visiting us at Shoreline Flying Club.

Other Resources

Much of the information on this page was adapted from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association website. They are an organization that supports general aviation and a great resource for both pilots and prospective pilots.