Pilot Training

North Coast Air offers a full spectrum of pilot training services. Click the category at left for more information.

Congratulations to all of our graduates! Click here to see our graduated pilots.

Pilot’s Training- Where Do I Start?

NOT SURE? Interested? Curious? Never been in a small aircraft before? A little scared?

Try an introductory flight. Intro flights at North Coast Air, Inc. are short and sweet – a half-hour mini flight lesson in either our 2-seat Cessna 152, or the somewhat larger 4-seat Cessna 172 (both the “Ford Truck” of small trainer planes they are sturdy, reliable and easy to operate). The Intro Flight is an opportunity to meet an instructor, and meet an airplane, at a discounted rate from normal rental costs. Get in the pilot’s seat and try it out. You’ll have the opportunity to fly the airplane, see the gorgeous Sonoma County from the air, and…if you don’t like it, you get to come back down. If you do like it we can help you out.

Am I Old Enough?

There are no minimum age requirements to begin pilot’s training. We have seen young pilots in their pre-teens and younger. There is, however, the minimum age of 16 years old to fly solo, and 17 for a pilot’s license. Also the minimum age to take the Private Pilot Written Exam is 15 years of age. Many young students begin training with the aim to fly their first solo on or around their 16th birthday, for the sake of timing in the completion of their pilot’s training, though the exact timing relies on the student and the frequency of lessons.

Am I Too Old?

No! You are never too old to try new things! If you can hold a Airmen’s Medical Certificate, you can hold a Private Pilot’s License, no matter when you start.

Ground School

In addition to learning how to operate an actual airplane, there is also a considerable amount of book or ground learning that needs to be accomplished. Ground school addresses the basic knowledge of how an aircraft functions, weather, FAA rules and regulations, communication skills and safety. You will be required to pass a written exam prior to your practical examination, based on that information. You will also be required to verbalize and exhibit an understanding of this knowledge during your practical exam. We recommend that a new student take ground school and flight lessons simultaneously for the best immersion, but this course of action isn’t strictly necessary. If you are curious about learning to fly, but perhaps not entirely certain, starting with ground school alone may be a good course of action.

Self Study

There are many test prep guides and textbooks published to help a new pilot, or a pilot seeking higher ratings, prepare for their written exam and ground knowledge. There are also now many video, DVD, and online courses with much the same goal, but at a more interactive level. Self study is not for everyone. A busy lifestyle may make it difficult to set aside the time and focus required for self study. Some people may learn better in a classroom environment, or by one-on-one instruction. It is up to each individual to decide what method works best. Your flight school or instructor can help you select training manuals and test guides

Ground Instruction with a CFI

Some students opt for one-on-one ground sessions with their instructor, augmenting self-study, at their own pace.

Ground Schools

We offer in-house ground school to prepare students to pass the FAA written exam. We highly recommend prospective pilots attend this class

Flight Training

We recommend that a student begin their flight training at approximately the same time they begin their ground studies, for optimal immersion, but one aspect of learning to fly doesn’t immediately require the other as a prerequisite.

Selecting an Instructor

Learning to fly is a one-on-one teacher-student relationship. Since everyone is different, it is extremely important to select an instructor that you find easy to communicate with, and that you feel secure with, and who can accommodate to your learning needs. Most professional flight instructors know how to make this easy for you, but learning to fly with someone you dislike or distrust can be stressful and potentially unsuccessful. We will do our best to match you to an instructor, but if you are unsure, it is OK to contact several instructors personally, and talk with them, or ask for meetings. Another good way to try out a flight instructor is with an introductory flight. Introductory or sometimes called Discovery flights are a short, low-cost flight lesson where you can see first hand what your instructor is like, as well as the aircraft.

Choosing a Flight School

Choosing a flight training school is just as important as choosing an instructor. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel safe with the airplane(s) you will be flying? What is the schools’ procedure for aircraft maintenance? Are the costs of rentals and instruction competitive and fair? We encourage you to pay us a visit and tour the facility. Come meet the staff and other student pilots, and have a look at our aircraft.

How Long and How Much?

According to FAA regulations, a student pilot can earn his or her airmen’s certificate in as few as 40 hours of training. On average, it may take 60 to 80 hours (or longer) of flight training to be ready for a student to be fully prepared for their practical exam. The time spent on pilot’s training depends on multiple factors including the student’s learning and study capabilities, time allotted weekly for training, and other unforeseeable obstacles such as poor weather or health.

Plan Accordingly

The quickest and most effective schedule for flight training is to arrange for flight lessons at least twice, if not three times a week. Frequent flight lessons keeps a student focused on the topic of aviation, and helps prevent key elements of previous lessons being forgotten. A student who flies only once a week or less might be prone to forgetting some of what they learned previously, and if a lesson is disrupted or postponed due to weather or personal issues, it may be two weeks or more between lessons. It is this more spread out lesson plan that often prolongs completion.

The Costs


There are several resources available to help future pilots fund their training. At the FAA’s official website, there is a list of scholarships here:

Also the company Flight Training Finance, LLC does exactly what its name implies: Loaning funds to student pilots so that they can complete their training in a quick and sensible way, while making paying off the loan simple and easy even for those with a limited income. North Coast Air, Inc. can work with Pilot Finance to help you if needed. Visit the Flight Training Finance, LLC at their website www.flighttrainingfinancellc.com.

Airmen's Medical Certificate

In addition to the Airmen’s Certificate, a private pilot (or higher level pilot) is required to hold an Aimen’s Medical Certificate. You do not need a medical certificate right away as a student pilot, but it IS required in order to solo, and becomes your Student Pilot Certificate until you complete your training.

Your average, healthy adult will have no problem passing the medical examination- a survey and basic physical. However, if you have any health issues, it may behoove you to pursue your Medical Certificate sooner rather than later, if not prior to beginning your pilot’s training, as additional examinations and correspondence with your doctor, your FAA Medical Examiner, and the FAA may be required before you receive your certificate. Fear not- most issues are overcome, but it will likely take extra time.

If you are chronically and extremely unwell however, and suspect without doubt that you will not pass your medical examination, do not apply for a medical. THIS DOES NOT EXCLUDE YOU FROM BECOMING A PILOT- but instead of pursuing your Private Pilot’s License, perhaps a Sport Pilot License may be a better fit for you. Consult your instructor, and your school about the best course of action. A Sport Pilot License, however, does not require a Medical Certificate, only a valid Driver’s License. The Sport Pilot Certificate comes with some additional restrictions including the size of the aircraft, number of passengers, and area of flight, but is a good alternative for those who may not be able to obtain a medical, and who only want to fly for the fun of it.

Please Be Aware- if you are considering training to be a Sport Pilot because your eligibility for a medical certificate is in question, do not apply for a medical. Even though the certificate is not required, failing a medical examination will bar you from eligibility as a Sport Pilot.

ONCE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE it is good for 1-5 years depending your age at the time of the examination, as well as the class of the medical. For those less than 40 years of age, the standard third-class, or the second-class medical is valid for five years, for those forty and older it is valid for two. A First-Class medical (generally used only for commercial operations) is valid for 6 to 24 months depending on the occupation it applies to. Once a first class medical expires it becomes a 2nd class, and then a 3rd class. Any Pilot Certificate (Student, Private, etc.) is invalid without the accompaniment of a current Medical Certificate.

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