Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
top of page


What does it take to become a pilot?


So, you want to learn to fly — fantastic! It is a very rewarding experience, which for most is the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream.  It also teaches skills that are transferable to all aspect of life and is a great talking point for your next interview (whether in aviation or not).


But what does it take to become a qualified Private Pilot? How long, how much and what are the steps?

The minimum required hours of flight time to gain a Private Pilot’s License (or PPL) is 40 hours, however most people take 50 to 60+ hours.  This time is split between Dual flights with an instructor onboard, and Solo where the student is flying on their own.

In addition, you will have to pass a written multiple-choice, closed-book exam.


Your first Solo flight is hugely exhilarating, and self-affirming. You will remember it for the rest of your life.  It can take as few as 10 hours of training to achieve, but usually takes 15 to 20 hours, with an instructor sign off required.  Once you are qualified “Solo” you can then book the aircraft to fly on your own any time provided your instructor has signed off your planned activity and the weather is suitable.

Phase 1



  • Basic training on critical skills to control the aircraft

  • Foundational aeronautical knowledge

  • Culminates in ability to fly "solo"--recognized as licensed "student" pilot

Phase 2


Advanced Maneuvers

  • Further training in advanced maneuvers

  • Some training flights conducted solo to hone skills

  • Development of skills to competency required to pass check ride

Phase 3


Cross Country

  • Training on navigation planning, operations en-route and night qualification

  • Training includes dual and solo navigation flights beyond 50 nm and preparation for check ride (practical examination)

  • Culminates in check ride from FAA Examiner--qualification as Private Pilot.


Cross Country flights are some of the most enjoyable experiences a student pilot and is one of the best reasons to get a PPL - to go places!  General Aviation offers a unique opportunity to travel to thousands of airports in locations that are hard or impossible to get to via car or public transport.


A flight to Martha's Vineyard is less than 2 hours vs driving for 6 hours.

Martha's Vineyard_edited.jpg

Hudson River Skyline flights are thrilling. Fly along the Hudson River next to Manhattan & around the Statue of Liberty. Experienced only through general aviation!

Cost of Piloting

Costs Associated With Becoming and Maintaining Your Pilot License

What about once you have your PPL?  Well, you can rent the Somerset Flight School aircraft on an hourly basis to fly your friends and family wherever you want to go that is safe and within your capabilities, and those of the aircraft.

The table below gives you a rough idea of what costs are involved in learning to fly, and can be used as a guide for your total budget:

Required or Optional
Aircraft rental & instruction
Minimum 40 hours
$130 Aircraft +$50 Instructor per hour ($180 total)
Ground school
Recommended at least 20-25 hours
$75 per hour
Online Training Tool (e.g. King Schools)
$125 to $279 +
Medical Exam
As needed depending on age
$75 to $150
Aircraft renters’ insurance (Rent Solo)
Per Year
$400 to $700
FAA Written Test
Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) check ride fee
$400 to $600
Starting at $300
Textbooks, E6B flight computer, plotter, charts/publications
1 with some publications requiring renewal
  • Who Can Learn To Fly?
    Any US Citizen over the age of 14 can start to learn to fly, however you must be 16 years old to fly solo and 17 to be achieve the Private Pilot License (PPL).
  • What if I am not a US Citizen, can I still learn to fly?
    Yes, however you require TSA approval before you can begin training. Give our office a call on 908 722 2444 so we can guide you through the process.
  • How long does it take to become a pilot?
    The PPL syllabus can be completed in as little as a few months of dedicated study and training. Most often our students are learning around other commitments, so it can take 9 months to a year, and in some cases longer. Flying is a “hands on” activity, so the more consistently you take lessons, not only will the overall time to get your license be shortened, but it is likely you will need to pay for less hours.
  • Do I need a medical examination?
    Yes, student and private pilots require a medical exam to be completed (usually either a Class 3 or BasicMed). Speak to your Aeromedical Examiner (AME) for guidance. Need us to point you in the right direction? Give our office a call and we can help find an AME.
  • Will I need to study and is there a lot to learn?
    You will be expected to study outside of your lessons. There are numerous materials prepared by the FAA and others that are free or paid that can help you. You will have to study in order to pass your written test. Students often underestimate the need for further study while learning to fly.
  • How much does it cost to learn to fly?
    We offer pay-as-you-go training at Somerset, so you only pay for the hours you use. See our latest price list for our rates (see above). You should expect to need 50+ hours of aircraft rental and in-the-air instruction, plus about 25+ hours ground school. For example, an hour lesson is currently $130 (aircraft) plus $50 (per hour rate for the instructor’s time). An average 2-hour lesson (which is our normal schedule) is 90 minutes of flying and 30 minutes of pre/post flight discussion--that comes to $270 for the flying and $25 for the ground training meaning a total of $305. These rates can be broken down into a 1/10th of an hour, so the cost of each lesson can vary.
  • Where can I go visit by flying from Somerset Airport?
    Within about an hour or two of Somerset are many places to visit including Atlantic City, Martha’s Vineyard and Cape May. Your instructor will be able to guide you to where you can go as a student. Once you have your PPL your options are almost unlimited and we'd be happy to guide you.

Ready To Start?

You can check out our flight school page for more information or reach out to us by emailing us or calling us at 908-722-2444.

bottom of page