Becoming a pilot


I am interested in becoming a commercial pilot. I was wondering how long it takes to become a certified pilot? I live in the Philadelphia area and was also wondering if there is a good place in my area to start lessons?

Thanks for the help!


How long all depends on you and your situation. There are programs out there that can take you from zero time to Regional Jet type rating within 9 months (if you have the money and can devote full time to training), or you can go as slow as you want. is a good place to search for training facilities in your area.


Sorry to be the party pooper but I would caution this profession especially in this climate. Job security is a huge issue in the airline industry, and the cost to become a commercial pilot is huge. Either way, welcome to flightaware.


The cost is huge if you go to a fancy flight school. Just go to a local FBO and learn to fly, I did all my ratings: Private, Instruemtn, Commercial, CFI CFII, Multi-engine, for around 30K.

Don’t let other people tell you what you should do. If you want to learn to fly and do it for a living…do it, if that is your dream. Jgona is probably 150,000 in debt for flight training and probably making 1st or 2nd year pay some where.


magic1872, I hope you are not just throwing false accusations out with have no merit what so ever. I am NOT a commerical pilot, and not in debt. I am just giving bigdog2084 one side of the story. If he/she wants it, then they I think they should become a pilot, but you really have to want it.


Follow your dreams! There are some professional pilots on this forum who can offer you sound advice.

When I finished college a long time ago there was the same kind of talk about the airline industry. I have friends who pursued flying as a career and they’ve all done well. One was downsized from the USAF in early 90’s and settled for a job with a little known airline at the time and today he’s a captain at Southwest making a lot more than his competitors. Another one is a captain at NetJets, making a nice living with a great schedule while flying the latest, greatest and fastest jets available.

Times change, successful people adapt. This is true in every industry.


Thanks for the information. I just got out of college last year and I was always interested in flying so i am thinking if its possible for me to become a pilot. I should have done this for college but unfortunately i didn’t. :frowning:

thanks for the info! I really appreciate it!


Bigdog, could you be a little more specific about where you live than “the Philly area”?

Reason I ask is because there are a number of good local flight schools in the area. My son (and his wife) got all of their initial instruction here and both wound up as flight instructors there until they left to finish school at UVSC.

Now he’s Capt. in one of these:


How long will depend on how aggressive you want your training to be.

Plenty of flight schools as others above have indicated and you really may want to private message JHEM for advice that will fit your specific case.

For me, I am happy as a pig in mud with my private pilots license.

I was not aggressive in my training so it took one year for my VFR (Visual Flight Rules) license and one more year to get my instrument rating for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). I averaged one lesson per week on my VFR and 1 to 2 a week for my IFR.

Total cost was about 10K for my VFR, about 5K for my instrument. I did the training in my plane which cut down expenses in the IFR part.

I have no desire for the commercial aspect so can’t say how much more time and training will be needed to sit in the front seat of an airliner should you want to go that route…

I will say, if you have the means and you can afford it now, do it, don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today, as tomorrow may never come.



My Private Pilot certificate took me 4 months to get. My Insturment Airplane rating took me 9 months to get but, I started in the winter time and up here in MA you’re not getting into any clouds in the winter so, needless to say I wasn’t really trying all that hard at the start. Commercial Pilot for single engine aircraft I got 3 months after my Instrument. I found the Commercial certificate to be the easiest and most fun out of all of them. 5 Months later I got Commercial Multiengine which was also pretty easy.

Looking back, the Private Pilot certificate was probably the hardest for me. Being a Student Pilot going for a checkride is a very nerve racking experience. You’re not really sure what the examiner is going to ask or expect out of you and that alone is a lot of pressure. I found my Instrument to be pretty damn easy and the Commercial was just plain fun, nothing hard about that.

If I could price it out with approximates;

Private Pilot ASEL: $5,000.00
Instrument Airplane: $4,000.00
Commercial Pilot ASEL: $2,500.00
Commercial Pilot AMEL: $2,500.00

Medical: $90.00
FBO Ground School: $500.00 (private & instrument 250each)
Written Exams: $270.00
Misc Books: $150.00
Pilot Examiner Fees: $1,250.00 (4 checkrides, all passed on the first try)
BOSE headset: $1,049.00 shipped to my door.

Grand Total: $17,309.00

This took me about a year and a half.


i took a leave of absence from work, and went to flight safety in vero beach. started with zero time jan. 2001 , got my commercial, instrument, and multi engine all in about 9 months, total cost was around 40,000


I sent a PM to bigdog, and here are th contents, personal items removed. Screw you nay sayers:


I am a professional pilot in the Philly area, I currently fly corporate jets out of KPNE, at *****. I started my flying career at age 15, I washed airplanes and did a multitude of tasks at ******* to earn my private pilots license, instrument license, commercial license, multi engine license, and Airline Transport Pilot Rating at *******. The owner of the school is a *********** 757/767 captain based at ******. I have the utmost of respect for the professional approach taken by the instructors at ******* from Day 1. If you are looking for a career in aviation, regardless of what some guys say, now is the time. Lots of people have lost their heart in aviation which is why there will be room for more people that have the “gumption” to stick it out to do what they love.

I am a lucky individual who at close to 30 years old have never considered myself to have a “job.” I have always loved what I do, and taken pride in the little things that may or may not make someones flying career a reality. I have been involved in the operation at ******* for almost 50% of my life, and have never looked back.

I would encourage you to check out other schools in the area, and I would ask you to please call me to get my view of what flying really is to those who truly have a passion for it, such as I.

My name is Mike, and my phone number is ***. My email address is ***.

Congratulations in advance on selecting what is truly a fulfilling career choice which, even in the bad times is a heck of a lot better than working a 9-5 job that you regret going to every day.



Geez Mike, way to over react!

One person (jgona) can possibly be said to have posted a negative reply, and he was only attempting to give his honest opinion.

Nice PM to bigdog otherwise.


Overreaction or underreaction,

Go to any other aviation forum and you’ll see (APC, etc.) nothing but people trying to talk young people out of this profession. I’m sorry, but i am sick of it. You’ve either got a bunch of old codgers who didn’t get what they want, or a bunch wannabes that have never done it giving career advice.

Is it going to be hard… YES, is it going to be demanding… YES is it going to be competitive … YES is it the last job in the world where you are truly your own boss… YES!!!

Face the facts, no matter where the economy or commodities go, pilots in the long term are going to be in demand. I hate when I see short sighted people talk a guy like this out of an awesome job! It is an absolute disservice to the community as a whole. American pilots are the best in the world, let’s keep it that way by having lot’s of them. One job that can’t be outsourced. It’s the only profession that other countries are outsourcing to us.


Hey Folks,

Bottom line I believe is that if you have a dream or that “itch” you gotta follow it.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what other people say, its what you want to do with your life thats important.

My opinion is that your choice of going for ATPL, etc is a great one. No job has 100% security so that is not an arguement for not going for it.

I am currently an ex-pat working in Germany and boy let me tell you they are looking something fierce for good pilots here.

BTW one of my CFIs at a Glider club I use to fly at was a 747 Captain, he taught me alot about flying safely and was not the stereo type airline jock that some people believe all airline pilots are (I cant at least confirm this anyway).

Lastly It will be hard and demanding but if you want it, really want it you will get it.

I will be in North Jersey around Last week in Sept timeframe. If you want to chat let me know.



one more thing go over to AOPA we have the mentor program and you can hook up with people in the area that are registered mentors.

Thats and also look at the Air Safety Foundation Free Online courses.

FAA Online also has some interesting Online courses that can give you alot of info.

If you are working on your PPL Checkride may I suggest King Schools DVD set or better yet a part 91 school in your area (also on AOPA).

For what its worth I got my Sport Pilot License last year and wished I did what you are thinking about. I am 37 now.

Go do it. And for heavens sake send me a picture of your first solo and then Checkride.



Life is too short not to persue what you love…choosing a career just for money is like chasing the wind, you’ll never be satisfied. If you enjoy flying, do it and the money aspect will take care of itself.

For becoming a pilot commercially the part 141 schools are probably the best bet if you want an accelerated program. Many of them will aid in transitioning you to an airline job. Although, I have no complaints about part 61, as that’s where I’ve learned.


I am sorry to everyone out here who took my reply as negative. As I said earlier, this job is something you really need to want. Lots of pilots in the industry are angry at management for cut pay and eliminated pensions. Not knowing whether you will have a job the next day is another thing aganist it. But, if you want to be a pilot, “follow your dreams” as someone else said. If you really want it, you wont be upset by decreased benefits, and will enjoy your profession.

Best of luck to you bigdog!