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 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.
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.
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 and Moncks Corner offices.
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!
Requirements to get started with 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);
- Non-U.S. citizens will have to register and get approval from the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Alien Student Flight Program (ASFP) prior to commencing any flight training at CRAFT. Please see the TSA FTSP Website or AOPA’s guide for foreign students seeking flight instruction at a U.S. flight school for more information.
Before your first solo:
- 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.
- Obtain a Student Pilot certificate from the FAA. 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 ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO FLY SOLO OR RENT AN AIRCRAFT?
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 $1000 is required. However, in the event of an in-motion incident, our deductible is $2500 of 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.
- For Student Pilots: the appropriate logbook endorsement for solo and/or cross-country flight from their primary CFI.
HOW DO I OBTAIN THE REQUIRED FAA AND TSA DOCUMENTS?
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.
WHAT TYPE OF GEAR DO YOU RECOMMEND?
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.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL COMMUNICATION
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.
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.
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.
HOW OFTEN PER WEEK DO YOU RECOMMEND THAT I COME FOR LESSONS?
HOW DO I CHOOSE AN AIRPLANE?
Read More: How do I choose an airplane?
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
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 $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)
- Fuel Surcharges which varies per aircraft and depending on fuel prices.
- 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 (1.9% fee), cash, checks, and debit/credit cards (2.5% fee). Payment is due when services are rendered. CRAFT does not refund for flight training previously provided.
ARE THERE FINANCING OPTIONS?
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 Private Pilot Certificate?
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 thats 40 hours and for Part 141 thats 35 hours. But to give you a ballpark estimate, Private Pilot will cost anywhere from $10,000 to $16,000 depending on aircraft and how many hours it takes you.
Training and Courses
What are the requirements to get a Private Pilot Certificate?
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.
WHAT IS THE TRAINING FLOW FOR THE PRIVATE PILOT CERTIFICATION AT CRAFT?
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.
WHAT IS THE FAA AIRMAN KNOWLEDGE EXAM?
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.
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.
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.
HOW IS PART 61 DIFFERENT FROM PART 141?
Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you consider the two kinds of FAA training* we offer at CRAFT.
- FAA required proficiency standards are the same for both 61 and 141.
- Under Part 61 training, part-time students tend to take longer and need refresher training due to lack of frequency. In flight training, typically the greater the frequency, the higher the proficiency.
- For students looking to become career pilots, we recommend pursuing Part 141 training on a full-time basis, if your schedule allows.
- Part 141 flight training typically winds up costing less due to the reduced FAA flight hour requirements, increased frequency of classes and retention of skill and knowledge, a decrease of repeated training, and decrease in time to successfully complete the requirements.
- Our Part 141 flight training program is ideally suited for students looking for the most efficient, cost-effective training program. The optimal schedule has you training about 5 days per week.
- Both our Charleston and Summerville locations offer Part 61 and Part 141 flight training.
- The Restricted ATP Certification is for students who attend an approved aeronautical college degree program or for military pilots in pursuit of their Air Transport Pilot Certificate with the goal of becoming a civilian commercial career pilot.
*CRAFT has a Provisional FAA 141 Certificate
*CRAFT offers the Private Pilot, Instrument Rating and Commercial Pilot Courses under 141 (along with Part 61).
See More In Our Article: DEMYSTIFYING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PART 61 & PART 141 SCHOOLS
Financing & Scholarship Options
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!
Still Have Questions? Fill Out the Form Below and a CRAFT Team Member Will Get Back To You.
Monday - Saturday
9am - 5pm