Once you get your Private Pilot Certificate, you should celebrate — take your family for a flight over your hometown, brag at work … then, make a five-year plan.
Setting Goals & Staying Sharp
The law requires that private pilots complete a flight review every 24 months, but did you know that many things can substitute for the flight review? These other things can keep flying exciting and will constantly remind you why you started flying in the first place.
Every pilot should set a goal of accomplishment, at least in 5-year increments that will keep you excited, active, and safe.
Plan A: Stay up to date with current events (if you’re reading iPilot you’re already on the right track) and get involved in your state’s safety program. Next time, instead of getting a regular flight review, earn your wings with a Pilot Proficiency Certificate. These certificates are earned with participation in your area’s pilot proficiency program.
Requirements: Attend a safety seminar and fly three hours with a flight instructor. Note: Some states put on large programs called ‘Wings Weekends’ where pilots can qualify in one day.
Reward: After completion, the pilot gets an actual set of wings, a break on insurance, and a flight review good for another 24 months all in one.
Plan B: Add on a rating. Any checkride renews a flight review for another 24 months. I know, you are saying, ‘but I just had a checkride and now you want me to take another?’ That’s right, in the next two to five years you should commit yourself to get at least one rating. That rating could be an instrument rating in an airplane, but it could also be a multiengine airplane, sailplane, rotorcraft, hot air balloon, or seaplane rating. Be creative and satisfy your heart.
Requirements: Expense is most often cited as an excuse, but if you have the desire to learn, the only expense you’ll suffer is trading some personal flying time for time with an instructor — and the benefits of a new rating. (See below.)
Reward: I finally broke down and got my seaplane rating within the past two years and it was the best flying decision that I made in the past ten. It reminded my how special flying really is, and why we go to all the trouble to do it. As a bonus, I can tell you almost everything about the wind just by looking at a pond.
Plan C: Upgrade your certificate. In the next two to five years you should commit yourself to moving up from private to commercial pilot. Even if you never intend to fly commercially, you will be a better pilot by learning advanced systems and practicing precision maneuvers. Once you are a commercial pilot, a flight instructor certificate requires no additional total flight time. Again, you may not want to be a full time instructor — but flight clubs, civil air patrol units, and youth groups are always looking for a part-time instructor. Even the Airline Transport Pilot certificate is not that far-fetched. The FAA relaxed some of the requirements to get an ATP. You no longer have to wait until accumulating 1500 hours to take the knowledge test and you can take the ATP flight in your familiar single-engine airplane if you want to. When you reach 1500 hours, make your next flight review an ATP.
Requirements: Again, just the desire to learn and the ability to trade some personal flying time for time with an instructor.
Reward: Pilots who stay active and gain additional ratings and certificates have far few accidents than those who remain career private pilots.
No matter which plan interests you most, the important thing is that you make one. Keep flying exciting, challenging, and fun. Do not let your hard-earned skills and knowledge erode. Make a five-year plan and get started.