Earning Your Wings: Flying Lessons in Las Vegas
Earning Your Wings: Flying Lessons in Las Vegas
North America is facing a shortage of pilots, both for fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The combination of a rapidly aging pool of current pilots and a spike in demand for travel, among other things, puts the aviation industry at risk of a huge supply-demand gap. By some estimates, this gap may persist for the next four years.
Then again, a silver lining may be that an aviation career provides a wealth of opportunities, not just in tourism. Emergency medical services and firefighting need new pilots to shore up their numbers and keep their key functions running. In these lines of work, a capable pilot—whether of a plane or helicopter—can make a difference.
Given this, there’s no better time to learn to fly in Las Vegas or anywhere in the U.S. with a reputable flying school than today. Apart from being a high-paying job, a professional pilot also benefits from the literal bird’s-eye-view of the world below. Here’s all you need to know about becoming one.
Are you eligible?
Like any professional job, flying an aircraft across the USA or internationally isn’t for everyone. Be it airlifting a seriously injured hiker or flying passengers to their destination, a pilot’s line of work always carries lives. For this reason, aspiring individuals should be in peak condition and possess the right credentials.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) summarizes the basic requirements for private pilot certification under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), particularly 14 CFR 61.103. To earn this credential when you live in the USA, the individual must:
- Be at least 17 years old (for gliders or balloons, at least 16)
- Be able to read, write, and understand English (if not, limitations are required)
- Receive an endorsement from the authorized flight instructor
- Score a passing grade on any applicable written exam
- Receive training compatible with a specific type of aircraft
- Possess a student, sport, or recreational pilot certificate
Keep in mind that these requirements are only for pilots in the U.S. using their aircraft for recreation or personal leisure. There are separate stipulations for being certified to fly by instruments (in low visibility conditions), let alone a commercial airliner. Still, a private pilot certificate is a prerequisite to applying for advanced certification.
You also need to be medically cleared by an FAA-certified aviation medical examiner. Again, the requirements vary by certification; for instance, a private pilot certification requires a third-class airman medical certificate.
What to expect during training?
You won’t get behind the controls of a real aircraft on day one. Students spend the first several days in a classroom setting, learning about the aircraft they’ll be flying and the flight basics. It pays to know how planes and helicopters fly.
Once the practical portion of the training program begins, students will try their hand at flying through a cutting-edge Las Vegas flight simulator or a similar machine from flight schools in other locations. This piece of technology isn’t your typical video game; it’s a fully enclosed system that features genuine aircraft controls and a simulated outdoor environment. Simulations also ensure training continues under inclement weather.
Only after accumulating enough hours on the simulator can training aboard a real aircraft begin. But don’t expect to fly a jet-engine plane immediately, as most flight schools operate propeller planes. Think about it: you don’t learn to drive a semi without learning to drive a car first.
Prop planes have major advantages over their jet counterparts, at least as far as flight training is concerned. For starters, while they fly slower, they also give pilots in training more time to react to situations mid-flight. They’re also built to adapt to rookie mistakes, such as hard landings or running out of tarmac to land on.
They also look just as cool when dashing through the air. Check out this video on how one flight school flies their prop planes:
The training typically provides a total of 40 hours of flight time, half of which is done with the instructor as the co-pilot. It also includes flying the plane on your own, but it has safeguards to ensure the plane’s and pilot’s safety, such as whole-plane parachutes.
How much does it cost?
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that flight training is expensive. One estimate sets the lowest bracket at thousands of dollars for a private pilot certificate, depending on the flight school. A huge portion of the cost unsurprisingly goes to instructor’s fees and aircraft maintenance.
Certification in another type of aircraft, like a helicopter, carries its separate costs and training programs. Saving up is an option, though many prefer to apply for private or federal loans. That said, it’s important to tread carefully with this option.
Then again, flight schools across the USA are less expensive than the other option: an aviation degree. This route to becoming a pilot is more suitable for those looking to enter commercial airliners, but it isn’t cost-effective if you’ll only be flying for leisure. On top of that, both options are subject to the same level of FAA oversight.
Whether looking for a lucrative career or enjoying the scenery thousands of feet above, learning to fly can be exhilarating. A hefty investment, sure, but it opens windows of opportunities if you choose to pursue a relevant profession. If you’re up for this, then it’s time to earn your wings.