Getting started

Flight training will enrich your life in countless ways. You’ll learn to balance technical training with the freedom of flying toward an endless horizon. You’ll adopt new ways of speaking, navigating, and calculating your position. What initially feels like a complex process will slowly become second nature, and you will always have a great story to tell.

Your first flight

Your first flight in a small airplane will introduce you to new and exciting sensations. Did you know that you steer with your feet when you’re on the ground, and use your hand to control the “gas pedal”? In the air, you’ll get a priceless view of local landmarks, and your instructor will give you an opportunity to take the controls yourself! Want to know more about the basics of flight before you leave the earth behind? The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Pinch Hitter course, designed to introduce frequent passengers in small aircraft to important systems and principles of flight, could also help you understand what to expect on your flight.

Free student resources from AOPA

Special membership offer for student pilots

Students who sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association get six free issues of Flight Training magazine and other benefits of membership, including flight planning tools and a training helpline with one-on-one answers and support from instructors.
Start today!

Interactive learning

AOPA’s Air Safety Institute provides free educational resources for all pilots. Log in with your AOPA member login or create a free account to access interactive online courses, quizzes, and other tools to reinforce your learning. You can even track your progress in a transcript.
Learn online!

Training milestones

Get information about some of the important milestones on your way to becoming a pilot.

medicalMedical/student pilot certificate

As a prerequisite for solo flight, students pursuing a private pilot certificate must pass a basic medical exam that also serves as their student pilot certificate. Students pursuing a sport pilot certificate don’t need to take the medical exam. Find out more…

Solo flight

When your instructor deems you’re ready, he or she will step out of the aircraft and let you fly solo. This is an exciting accomplishment that showcases all the hard work and training you’ve done up to this point. FAQs…

testKnowledge test

Once you’ve completed your ground school training, you will take the “written” test—a computer-based multiple choice exam created by the FAA. It will test your knowledge of the theories covered in ground school. Find out more…

checkrideCheckride (practical test)

The “checkride” is an oral and practical test of your aviation skills that brings together elements from every aspect of your training. A designated pilot examiner will ask you questions to evaluate your aviation knowledge and measure your flying kills against practical test standards. FAQs…

More student resources

Tips for getting started

AOPA and Flight Training magazine have a number of resources designed to help you through your training. Check out the topics below or see the Learn to Fly section of Flight Training Online for more information.

Find a flight school
Find a flying club
A new pilot’s guide to communication
Learn the phonetic alphabet
Avionics and instruments
Choose your training aircraft

FAA publications

Educational guides and reference materials are available from the FAA for free online and as downloadable PDFs. Check out some of the important resources you can access.

Airplane Flying Handbook
Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
Federal aviation regulations
Aeronautical Information Manual
FAA Risk Management Handbook
Written exam test guide
Practical test standards


AOPA members can get one-on-one answers and personal training support from instructors at 800/USA-AOPA.