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Our FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

and maybe some that aren’t so frequently asked

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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 Full-Motion Simulator, 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 full-motion Redbird flight simulator with airplanes in our training.

Getting Started

WHAT HOURS ARE YOU AVAILABLE?

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 office.

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.

WHAT DO YOU REQUIRE FROM ME TO BEGIN TRAINING?

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!

Additional requirements for the Private Pilot Certification:

  • 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

     

  • Show proof of U.S. citizenship (either an unexpired U.S. passport, or a U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued ID);
  • You must obtain at least a Third-class Medical Certificate from a FAA Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) prior to your first solo flight. 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.
  • Obtain a Student Pilot certificate from the FAA prior to your first solo. Your Flight Instructor will help you apply for this certificate early in your flight training;
  • Obtain non-owned aircraft renter’s insurance covering a $1,000 deductible prior to your first solo flight. CRAFT members must maintain coverage to fly solo or as pilot in command in a CRAFT aircraft. However, in the event of an in-motion incident, our deductible is $2500 for Cessnas and $5000 for Diamonds. So we highly recommended carrying $5000 of coverage to avoid paying out of pocket the difference between the deductible and your insurance. We recommend AVEMCO for annual insurance or Starr Gate which offers insurance terms for less than 1 year if you prefer monthly.

 

WHAT IS THE MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM?

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.  If the student/pilot resumes training or wishes to rent an aircraft, the fee will be reinstated. 

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.

As a CRAFT member, you get a one-hour credit for Redbird simulator time per month that you can use towards your training or proficiency – a $70 value!  We also conduct monthly “Chock Talks” which provides members an opportunity to receive free ground training on an aviation topic that they can log as training received from our AGI or CFIs.

HOW OFTEN PER WEEK DO YOU RECOMMEND THAT I COME FOR LESSONS?

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.

HOW DO I CHOOSE AN AIRPLANE?

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, consisting from legacy Cessna 172s to modern Diamond DA20, DA40, and DA42 aircraft, offers our members a wide range of options to fit your budget while providing opportunities to enhance your flight experience with access to modern avionics and airframes.

Read More: How do I choose an airplane?

Fees and Tuition Questions

HOW MUCH DO THE LESSONS COST AND WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED METHOD OF PAYMENT?

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 $230 per hour, depending on the type of airplane you wish to fly.  We also offer block time packages for reduced hourly rates for our aircraft.  Our aircraft rates include fuel (known as “wet” rates).  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 Venmo, cash, checks, and debit/credit cards. Please note that the use of debit and credit cards for payment will be subject to a 2.5% surcharge. Payment will be expected after services have been rendered. CRAFT does not refund for flight training previously provided.

ARE THERE FINANCING OPTIONS?

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.

WHAT IS THE TOTAL COST OF GETTING MY LICENSE?

On average, students will spend around $10-$11,000 to get their Private Pilot certification in our basic Cessna 172. For instruction in our DA20, expect to spend between $11-$13,000 and in the DA40, expect to spend between $13-$14,000.  As previously mentioned, a strong commitment to flying at least two days a week and proper preparation between lessons can help keep costs towards the lower end of the spectrum.

Training and Courses

WHAT OPTIONS DO I HAVE FOR PREPARING FOR THE FAA KNOWLEDGE EXAM (“THE WRITTEN TEST”)?

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. 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. 

WHAT IS THE TRAINING FLOW FOR THE PRIVATE PILOT CERTIFICATION AT CRAFT?

You can expect to follow the CRAFT Private Pilot Certificate Syllabus for your training. 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. 

WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO BECOME A COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT?

Becoming an Airline pilot is an exciting career choice! Now is a great time to begin flight training through CRAFT and start building the experience and hours you need to get to the advanced certificates and ratings.

Pilots who did not get their training from the military or a 4-year school (like Liberty University or Embry-Riddle University) must meet the 1500-hour total flight time requirement to be hired as an airline pilot. The CRAFT Professional Pilot Pipeline looks like this:

READ MORE

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