Our FAQ’s

And Maybe Some That Aren’t So Frequently Asked


We’d be happy to talk to you about the process to get your pilot license. While it is a fun experience, it also involves personal commitment for individual study, practicing maneuvers in the simulator, and perfecting them in the airplane. The cost and time to complete all the required training varies from person to person and depends on many factors, including how often you fly and your preparation outside of the cockpit.

Repetition is the key to learning, but airplanes prove to be an inefficient and expensive classroom. It’s extremely difficult to concentrate on the material being presented to you when in a foreign or intimidating environment. However, in our Redbird Simulators, it’s much easier to learn because you can get the repetitive training you need to master a particular maneuver in a controlled environment.

Consider this:
In our simulator, you can do twenty takeoffs in ten minutes. In an airplane, that will usually take three hours. An article in Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Magazine sums up exactly what we have been telling people for years. CRAFT was the first flight school in the Charleston area to combine the use of a Redbird flight simulator with airplanes in our training.

Getting Started


CRAFT business office hours at Charleston International Airport are Mon-Sat 9AM – 5PM, but our instructors are often here early mornings, late evenings, and on the weekends. Students can work with their instructor to set up training times which balance both the student’s and instructor’s schedule. CRAFT utilizes Flight Circle, an online flight scheduling program, to schedule CRAFT instructors and aircraft, as well as to track your progress in the syllabus. You will get instructions on how to log-in and schedule flights during your initial check-in.

Please note that we provide customer service and administrative support by appointment only at the Summerville and Moncks Corner offices.


It’s easy to get started. Review these FAQs, then call and make an appointment to tour the school and check out our airplanes. If you’re not sure about committing to training yet, we offer Discovery Flights that allow you to try out our Redbird simulator and aircraft before making any commitments. The time spent in the aircraft during the Discovery Flight can be logged toward your goal! If you want to continue to work toward your rating, we’ll continue the process to get you signed up as a student and quickly into our training program!

Requirements to get started with the Private Pilot Certification:

  1. Although there is no minimum age to start flight training, you must be at least 16 years old to solo in an airplane, and 17 years to take the Private Pilot Certificate check ride
  2. Show proof of U.S. citizenship (either an unexpired U.S. passport, or a U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued ID);

Before your first solo:

  1. Obtain at least a Third-class Medical Certificate from a FAA Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Locally, you can obtain an appointment at charlestonflightdoc.com or www.lowcountryflightdoc.com.  You will be required to fill out a detailed medical history on the FAA’s MedXpress website prior to your appointment with the AME;
    • NOTE: If you have chronic medical issues, or are regularly taking prescription medication to deal with ongoing medical issues, we strongly recommend visiting an AME prior to starting any flight training to ensure you are medically qualified to hold a Third-Class Medical certificate.
  2. Obtain a Student Pilot certificate from the FAA. Your Flight Instructor will help you apply for this certificate early in your flight training;
  3. Obtain non-owned aircraft renter’s insurance covering a $5,000 deductible prior to your first solo flight. CRAFT members must maintain coverage to fly solo or as pilot in command in a CRAFT aircraft. We recommend AVEMCO for annual insurance or Starr Gate which offers insurance terms for less than 1 year if you prefer monthly.

To be eligible for your first solo flight or to rent an aircraft, all student and certificated pilots must provide the following documents:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship in the form of a valid, unexpired U.S. Passport, or a birth certificate and government-issued photo I.D. (state driver’s license or ID)  or TSA approval for non-U.S.
  • At least a FAA Third Class Medical Certificate (for certificated pilots, Basic Med is the minimum required medical certificate if they are eligible)
  • FAA Student Pilot Certificate or Pilot Certificate (for certificated pilots)
  • Date of last FAA Flight Review or FAA checkride (for certificated pilots only)
    • Note: IFR-rated pilots must show proof of instrument currency if seeking to fly in Instrument Meteorological Conditions. If out of currency, an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) must be scheduled with a CRAFT CFI-I before they will be allowed to fly a CRAFT plane in IMC.
  • Proof of Renters Insurance with hull coverage of at least $5,000 is required. We recommend AVEMCO for annual insurance or Starr Gate which offers insurance terms for less than 1 year if you prefer monthly.
  •  For Student Pilots: the appropriate logbook endorsement for solo and/or cross-country flight from their primary CFI.

Non-U.S. Citizens

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must apply and gain TSA approval prior to the start of any flight training. Please see AOPA’s guide for non-U.S. citizens seeking flight training at U.S.-based schools for additional details. CRAFT cannot sponsor visas.

FAA Medical Certificate

Make an appointment with an FAA Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) to get at least a Third Class Medical Certificate. A list of approved physicians can be found on the FAA’s AME locator website. Then, complete the online medical history form in MedXPress. NOTE: If you have held a valid FAA medical certificate at any time after July 15, 2006, and it has not been revoked, than you may qualify to fly under the FAA’s new BasicMed rule. For details, visit AOPA.org.

Charleston Flight Doc – Col (Ret USAF) Terry Sommese, MD, MPH – https://www.charlestonflightdoc.com/

FAA Student Pilot Certificate

Apply for and obtain a Student Pilot Certificate from the FAA. You can complete the application using the FAA’s online portal (IACRA); then it must be approved and submitted by your instructor. The new, plastic student pilot certificates will be issued by FAA Headquarters and can take up to three weeks to arrive in the mail. Paper certificates issued prior to April 1, 2016 will be valid until they expire.

You must first register for an account on the IACRA website. Click the link in the upper right corner of the IACRA home page. Check the box “Applicant” and when prompted to enter your Airman Certificate Number, leave those fields blank. Under SSN it is strongly suggested that you check the box “Do Not Use.” Once submitted, the application will need to be approved, signed and re-submitted by your instructor in your presence.


At the start of your training, you will need:


  • a kneeboard (available to purchase at CRAFT)
  • small notepad to keep track of flight information
  • radio frequencies, and other pertinent information for your early training flights.


An iPad or similar tablet loaded with either Foreflight or Garmin Pilot will be the most practical tool in your flight bag. These subscription-based applications, commonly referred to as Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs), enable pilots to have digital access to charts, approach plates, flight plan filing, weather, and other aviation references and tools which makes it easier to fly in today’s airspace.  For comparisons between Foreflight and Garmin Pilot, please go here. Foreflight is only available on Apple iOS devices.

For recommendations on which iPads are best for pilots, please see this article.  For flying in the DA20 and DA40, we recommend the newest iPad Mini.


We also recommend is Live ATC, which enables you to listen to Air Traffic Control communication worldwide, and ASA’s FAR/AIM app (only available on Apple iOS devices) which gives you searchable access to the Federal Air Regulations (FAR) and the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM).

Similarly, while the mechanical E6B flight computer is still a very useful tool to conduct pre-flight and in-flight calculations, some electronic E6Bs have been approved by the FAA for use during FAA knowledge exams. These electronic E6Bs, to include ones from Sporty’s and ASA, enable much faster calculation of of fuel burn, airspeeds, and wind corrections over the mechanical E6Bs.  We highly recommend students learn how to properly use either type of E6Bs ahead of any knowledge exam.


Membership is required of all students who are not part of an accelerated program.

CRAFT charges a monthly membership fee of $50 which covers administrative, facility, and other operating costs.  All collected fees are non-refundable; however, if you choose to leave CRAFT, the recurring monthly fee can be cancelled. 

For military members (including Active, Reserve, Guard, retired, or honorably-discharged veterans), law enforcement, and first responders, we offer both reduced membership rates ($40 per month) as well as reduced aircraft rental rates.  Please be prepared to show proof of status (CAC, retired ID, DD-214, police/fire department credentials, or W-2/pay stub) to receive these special rates.

We recommend that you schedule no less than twice a week. The more you train, the more you retain, which helps you move through training faster, which in turn allows you to finish in a shorter time.  While the FAA mandates at least 40 hours minimum of flight time to be eligible for the practical test, the national average is 60-75 hours, with the CRAFT average closer to 50 hours.  We have found that students who accomplish their ratings closer to the 40-hour mark fly at least 2-3 times per week, spend the time to understand and prepare for the objectives of their next lesson, and utilize their time learning in the simulator to lessen the time it takes to learn in the aircraft.  If you can only spend a day a week in the air, it will generally take you longer, but you can mitigate that with proper preparation and review of past lessons.

When it comes to selecting an airplane to fly for your training, there are numerous factors to consider, such as price, avionics, cockpit size, high wing vs. low wing, and yoke vs stick. The good news is the CRAFT aircraft fleet consists of modern Diamond DA40, DA40NG, and DA42 aircraft.

What are the aircraft checkout requirements for certificated pilots?

Certificated pilots will be required to conduct an aircraft checkout with a CRAFT instructor prior to renting an aircraft. The initial checkout will be conducted much like a flight review, with a minimum of one hour of ground instruction and one hour of flight instruction. As such, those requiring FAA Flight Reviews and IPCs may combine these with an aircraft checkout. Please contact us to schedule such a review.

Pilots renting through CRAFT must fly at least every 90 days to maintain rental privileges; after 90 days, renters must schedule a proficiency check with a CRAFT CFI. Please note that individual aircraft owners may have more stringent currency and proficiency requirements for renters. Renters must demonstrate to the check out CFI the level of knowledge and skill appropriate to the level of the FAA Airman Certificate they possess. For instrument-rated pilots flying an IFR-capable aircraft, this also includes demonstration of instrument proficiency.

Fees and Tuition Questions


The Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rate for Private Pilot Certificate training is $55 per hour (for both ground and flight training). The simulator is $70 per hour and the airplanes rent for between $150 to $235 per hour, depending on the type of airplane you wish to fly.  Our aircraft rates include fuel (known as “wet” rates).  Due to increased fuel costs we also have a Fuel Surcharge which varies depending on fuel prices. For more information on our aircraft, please visit our Fleet page.

You pay as you go after each lesson. A cost breakdown for a typical flight lesson will usually include:

  • Aircraft rental cost per hour (based on the aircraft’s Hobbes meter in tenths of an hour, i.e. 1.5 hours)
  • The CFI’s flight time per hour (normally the same as the aircraft Hobbes meter)
  • The CFI’s ground instruction time (typically 0.5 hours)
    • NOTE: Ground instruction time is the time the CFI spends with the student as part of pre-flight and post-flight briefings for each flight. These short briefing sessions (about 15 minutes each) ensure the student is prepared to fly and receives the appropriate feedback on their progress after each flight. The ground instruction may be logged as well to show proof of training received. For more complex ground topics such as cross-country flight planning and calculating aircraft performance data, you can expect to spend around 1 hour with an instructor.

Students may also request and schedule specific ground training from their CFIs or our Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI) as appropriate. A typical request would be to request the AGI to perform a mock oral exam as part of a student’s preparations for the Private Pilot certification practical test (the “check ride”). CRAFT AGI rates are $55 per hour.

We take cash, checks, ACH, Venmo (1.9% fee), and debit/credit cards (2.5% fee). Payment is due when services are rendered. CRAFT does not refund for flight training previously provided.

CRAFT does not offer in-house financing options. However, there are many third-party loans and scholarship opportunities available.  Please see our CRAFT Financing Page for more information on Financing and Scholarships.

We welcome further questions about our training program.  We invite you to schedule a time to visit us so we can show you our planes and simulators, introduce you to our instructors, and answer any questions you might have.


How long it takes and how much it costs is highly dependent on the aircraft chosen, the student, how often they fly, and whether they come prepared, and complete the homework. Consistency and preparedness is the key to being ready for the checkride close to the minimum number of hours the FAA requires. For Part 61 that’s 40 hours. But to give you a ballpark estimate, Private Pilot will cost anywhere from $16,000 to $19,000 depending on the aircraft and how many hours it takes you.

Training and Courses

What are the requirements to get a Private Pilot Certificate?
Obtaining a Private Pilot certificate requires passing both a written knowledge test and a practical exam, also known as the check ride. CRAFT uses the ASA Complete Private Pilot Syllabus and incorporates the Redbird Simulator into our training. The syllabus contains both ground and flight training lessons, and the lessons are taught concurrently. For more information about options for completing the ground school necessary to prepare for the written test, visit our Private Pilot Ground School page.

The FAA requires at least 40 flight hours to be eligible for the checkride, but it is rare that a student pilot will be proficient enough to pass the FAA check ride within that arbitrary time frame. Nationally, most student pilots get their Private certificate anywhere from 60-75 hours! CRAFT pilots can get it done in closer under 50 hours because we integrate the Redbird into our training and because we train to a consistent syllabus. How quickly you complete the training is based on many factors including how often you train and being prepared for lessons and doing your homework.

Learn More About Getting Your Private Pilots License


We use the ASA Complete Private Pilot Syllabus. Your first few lessons will alternate between lessons in the simulator and the airplane with your CFI. After the first few lessons, you will transition to just flight lessons in the airplane, unless you need to practice a maneuver in the sim. The first phase of your training will be to prepare you for your first solo, which will consist of a short flight around one of the airports surrounding Charleston International Airport. At this stage, you will learn how to properly fly in the airport pattern as well as how to handle basic flight maneuvers, to include slow flight and stalls. We recommend that students complete the FAA Airman Knowledge Test by the time they solo.

After you successfully solo, you will then learn the basics of cross-country flight and night flying.  You will be expected to do cross-country flights during day and night, both with and without your instructor. You will also be exposed to basic instrument flying.

Finally, the last stage is preparing for your Private Pilot Certificate check ride with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). You will learn to master all Private Pilot Certificate maneuvers as required by the FAA’s Airman Certification Standards (ACS), to include steep turns and S-turns. Once you have met all of the requirements to your CFI’s satisfaction, they will schedule your check ride with the DPE.

As you get closer to the check ride date, you should spend some time on the ground with your CFI or our AGI to ensure you are properly prepared. Your check ride will consist of a 1-2 hour oral examination followed by a 1-2 hour flight to demonstrate your ability to fly the prescribed maneuvers to ACS standards.


The test consists of 60 multiple choice questions and you will have 2.5 hours to complete the test. You will be required to score 70% to pass the test. Make a reservation online at https://faa.psiexams.com/faa/login for the Private Pilot Airplane test. You will also need to provide your FAA Tracking Number (FTN) to register for a test; your CFI will assist you in getting an FTN through the FAA. The cost of the test is $160. We recommend taking the test as soon as possible after receiving the instructor endorsement. The test is taken via computer at the CATS/PSI testing center located at Trident Technical College (TTC) or at 4600 Goer Drive (near I-26 and Montague Avenue). You must present the endorsement you received from your ground school course and a photo ID to the test administrator on the day of the test. After the test, the testing center will provide you certified test results that you must present to a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) as part of your practical check ride. Expect the DPE to ask you questions based on any incorrect answers from the written test.

We strongly recommend that students complete the FAA exam prior to their first solo (around 20 flight hours) to prevent unnecessary delays in scheduling your practical check ride with the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). While 70% is considered passing, we also strongly recommend students pass the written test with at least 85% score. Lower scores may prompt DPEs to further test a student’s aeronautical knowledge during their practical check ride. If you fail the FAA written test, immediately inform your CFI.


As part of your flight training, you will need to accomplish some type of ground school primarily designed to prep you to pass the FAA aeronautical knowledge examination (the “written” test), which must be done prior to your Private Pilot Certificate check ride. This ground school training is typically done by self-study concurrently with your flight training. 

Sporty’s, Gleim, and King Schools offer online computer-based training courses that can be purchased for anywhere from $175 – $375. If you want a more personalized experience with an experienced instructor, we also offer ground school online via Zoom or in-person with our Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI). In just over 20 hours of training, our instructor teaches all the required aeronautical training and provides practice tests to ensure you pass the FAA knowledge test. The cost for individual training is $500 including books and materials. Bring a friend and save $$$$. At the end of this course you will receive an endorsement that you can take with you to the testing center to take the test.

READ MORE about the Private Pilot Ground School options at CRAFT. 


Financing & Scholarship Options

Worried about how you are going to pay for flight training? Luckily there are several financing and scholarship options. Financing all or some of the training can take the burden off of the student, giving them peace of mind and the motivation they need to complete their training!

Gift Certificates Available

Know someone that has always wanted to fly, but hasn’t been able to get started? Gift certificates are a great way to help friends and family jump start achieving their aviation goals! They can be used for flight training, instruction, simulator time, books and headsets. Contact us above to find out more!

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