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Thinking of getting your pilot's license? Here are the steps you'll need to take:

1. Decide what you want to do - this will help you decide what rating's you'll need.
2. Choose a flight school/instructor.
3. Purchase the materials you'll need.
4. Take your written exam
4. Fly!
5. Take your FAA check ride - Pass and you're rated!

First you'll need to decide what you want from flying. For instance, are you primarily interested in recreational flying? or are you thinking of making a career as a pilot?  If you're looking at making a career in aviation, what would you like to do? Commercial Pilot? Corporate Pilot? Police Helicopter Pilot? Aviation Mechanic?

The various levels of pilot ratings comprise mainly of

Private Pilot
Instrument Rating
Commercial Rating
Instructor Rating

There is also a Recreational Pilot rating, but, in my opinion, unless you need to follow this route for medical reasons, if you are going for a Recreational Pilot's rating, you might as well get your Private Pilot rating.

Each of these ratings are further split into multiple types of ratings.

To get a rating, you must be at least 16, speak English, and be able to pass a basic medical exam.  You can start your training at any age, but you must be 16 years old or older to solo (fly by yourself). 

For a Private Pilot rating, it will cost between $3000 - $6000.  You can get your rating in as little as a week in an accelerated course offered by several vendors, but typically it takes about 3 - 6 months depending on how often you fly.  If you are looking at making a career in aviation, there are many schools with aviation programs, such as Daniel Webster College in Nashua, NH.  At a minimum, I highly recommend scheduling your lessons at least once a week, twice a week is better.  For a Private Pilot rating, you'll need a minimum of 20 hours flying with an instructor and 20 hours flying solo.  Plus you'll need to pass a written and an oral exam.

You don't need to own an airplane to fly or get your license.  There are lots of options from renting to finding an instructor who uses his own plane for training.

Next, you'll need to choose a flight school.  A great place to start your search is through the Be A Pilot tm program.  The best way is to choose a school at an airport that is convenient to get to, so you don't get stuck having to travel so far you end up stopping.  The time of year you learn isn't really important.  It's as much fun flying in the winter as it is in the summer and fall.  In fact, the air is typically smoother in the wintertime than it is during the summer.  When you've found a school whose airplanes look well cared for, you'll need to choose an instructor.  Many schools will offer a free or reduced price first flight.  Take advantage of this and try several instructors and schools till you find the one you feel most comfortable with.  There are also many freelance instructors out there.

You'll want to pick up some books to study and help you get past the written exam.  One of the most popular is Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook: The Ultimate Private Pilot Book. His book has a light style with interjected humor to help make what can be rather dry reading fun. For those who prefer straight ahead facts in a well oganized book - William Kershner's Student Pilot's Flight Manual is an excellent choice.  You'll also want to get a test prep book.  The FAA has published all the possible test questions, but the test prep books add value by adding discussion and learning methods and techniques, as well as provide the graphics necessary to answer the questions that need them.

As noted above, the FAA's website is an excellent resource for information.  Most of their regulations and pamphlets are accessible online.  Some resources you'll want to check out for the exam are the FAA Practical Test Standards, Test Questions, Airmen Knowledge Test Guides, and other information here.  The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and other aviation manuals are accessible here.

If you'd rather have these articles in book form, you can also order them from here and other locations.