I’ll start by addressing the younger crowd. Get this, to begin flight training, there is no minimum age! To solo a single engine aircraft requires one to be 16 years old minimum.Then, at 17, one becomes an adult in the FAA’s eyes and is able to take a checkride and receive a pilot license. When we think of the younger generation, we tend to generalize this group to be fit and healthy. If this holds true, it will be no problem getting a third class medical certificate from an FAA registered doctor. It’s even said that those who are young learn faster and gain fluent muscle memory with a shorter amount of practice. If you can’t wait until you’re 16 to mark your first pilot in command solo flight, you can solo a glider at just 14! Doing anything alone at these young ages is a feat that deserves recognition, especially something many are so passionate about like flying an aircraft. If you’re old enough to comprehend this, you’re ready to learn how to land a plane. But, if one or ones parents disagree, home flight simulation on a computer is a lot of fun and believe it or not, it aids in learning the physics of flight.
Many think they have missed the opportunity and are now too old to begin the lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. Again, the FAA has no restriction on age for private pilots. The problem many face is gaining a third class medical certificate. If one above the age of 40 receives this medical certificate, it only expires every second year. Most people are able to meet the requirements to get this medical and are able to go out and fly solo once endorsed. Fortunately, those who are not fit for a medical still have options! A valid driver’s license is all a student needs in order obtain a sport pilot license. A sport class license grants pilots access to the variety of Light Sport Aircraft, or LSA’s. This type of flying is just as enjoyable and allows pilots to take up one passenger.
Surprisingly, my story, which may sound unique among the public, is not particularly unexpected among the pilot community. My parents nor extended family never shared the passion for aviation that I do. I always loved looking out the window on commercial airliners and I have been flying RC planes since my seventh birthday. As I grew older I began to flight simulate at home on my computer with a joystick. When I turned 15, I researched on my own via the internet and found two flight schools at an airport 7 miles from my home. With my parents, I took tours of both flight schools and did discovery flights. My first lesson was scheduled just a few days after my 16th birthday, as a present from my parents. Four months later I went on my first solo flight while still at age 16. I hadn’t even driven a car for the first time yet I was at the controls of a flight worthy machine alone. And now, at age 17, I am making final arrangements to take my check ride. I have learned valuable lessons through flight training, of which leadership and commitment are most prominent.
Although I am one of the youngest to be walking on the ramp at any airport, the aviation community is not built upon age. I recently flew with a friend of mine who owns a small single engine plane and has a private and instrument pilot license, and he just celebrated his 80th birthday. We have a huge generation gap between us, but the love of aviation has brought us together as friends. And if one is truly too young or too old to fly, a dual flight with a certified instructor allows anyone to get in the left seat and view the world from the highest perspective. As you can see, age is not a factor many general aviation pilots face, but since we all get older each day; now is the right time to seize the opportunity and go flying!