Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I get started?

No matter where you are in the training process, start with an Introductory Flight. Whether you are starting your training from scratch or looking to pick up where you left off, an introductory flight lesson gives you the opportunity to sit down with an instructor and discuss training options as well as the chance to fly!

What should I bring to my intro flight?

  • An unexpired passport or original birth certificate
  • A current government-issued ID

Which airplane is best for flight training?

This question usually boils down to high wing vs. low wing. We like to joke that the differences are just like Chevy’s and Fords: everyone has an opinion, but it doesn’t really matter. For various reasons, some people are more comfortable with the look of low wings or the visibility in high wing airplanes, but they are more similar than they seem. Our fleet of Cessna and Pipers are safe, well-maintained and fun to fly. If you’re not sure which airplane you’d like to fly book a short flight in each one to see which you like more!!

I’m very young. Can I still learn to fly?

You are never too young or too old to start flying! Introductory flights are available (and make an unforgettable gift!) for any young person that is serious about learning and expanding their horizons. You must be 16 years old to solo (fly alone), 17 years old to earn your private pilot’s license. We have had many students fly solo for the first time on their 16th birthday and successfully pass their checkride the minute they turn 17! Some of our pilots are able to fly an airplane before they are even licensed to drive a car and you can imagine how impressive that is for a student’s resume.

I’m worried I might be too old. Is there an upper age limit?

Absolutely not! Many pilots earn their license in retirement and go on to earn their instrument rating or buy an airplane. Some even become flight instructors or volunteer in the EAA Young Eagles program. Older students often have the sound judgment and life experiences that younger students might not.

What is the Student Pilot Certificate?

A student pilot certificate is kind of like a driver’s permit. This certificate, along with an endorsement in your logbook from your flight instructor, allows you to fly the airplane solo. Anyone wishing to earn their Private Pilot’s license must obtain a Student Pilot Certificate in order to accrue the 10 hours of solo flight time needed to be eligible for the Private Pilot Check ride.

Is it true that I need a medical certificate from a doctor?

Yes. Before you are able to fly an aircraft solo you will need a medical certificate issued by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and a Student Pilot Certificate. We are happy to provide a current list of local AME’s and your flight instructor will walk you through the process of obtaining both certificates needed. It is important get these items early on in your training to avoid any delays that might occur during the application process.

What does the doctor check for?

The medical process is mostly a self-reported medical history. Most of that information is obtained from the application you’ll submit. The exam itself is typically an eyesight test (don’t worry, glasses and contacts are OK!), a drug screening, a reflexes test, a check of your ears, nose and mouth and a brief review of your medical history.

What are the medical requirements for pilots?

Great question! In order to act as Pilot in Command (PIC) a pilot must have a medical certificate. There are 3 categories of medical certificates: 1st class, 2nd class and 3rd class. A private pilot only needs to have a third class medical, which is the least restrictive. To act as a commercial pilot, a pilot must have a 2nd class. The 1st class medical is reserved for professional airline, charter and corporate pilots. However, if you are interested in a career in aviation, there is nothing to lose by applying directly for a 1st class medical certificate.

How do I get a medical certificate?

Getting a medical certificate is fairly easy: Go to, create an account and apply for a medical certificate. If you are a prospective student pilot, make sure you also check the box for student pilot certificate. Once you’ve submitted your application, the hard work is usually done! Then, pick an examiner and call them to set up an appointment. You’ll be emailed a confirmation code by the FAA which your medical examiner will use to relate you to your application. After a brief test, you’ll usually walk away with a medical certificate that same day!

The Training Process

Can I learn to fly in the winter?

Absolutely! We can even fly in rain, as long as the clouds are not too low. When weather does get bad, we usually catch up on ground study preparing for the written and oral exams. All of our flight instructors are instrument rated and able to operate in the clouds, but it’s rarely conducive to good learning at the Private Pilot level.

Is flying safe?

Flying an airplane is as safe as the pilot flying it. Mach 5 Aviation has a record of, and a dedication to, producing safe, skilled, confident, and competent pilots. Safety is our #1 priority and influences the way we teach students, plan flights, fly, and maintain our airplanes.

What is “chair flying”?

Chair-flying is the process of rehearsing flows, checklists and flight procedures in front of a cockpit replica. We recommend students print out a photo of their trainer’s cockpit and make a poster of it to put on their wall. Study it every chance you get. You will be amazed how much time and money is saved by simply knowing your procedures, instruments, and cockpit layout before starting the engine! Visit our image gallery on the fleet page to find a photo of your airplane’s cockpit or ask one of our team members to provide the image.

How long does it take to get a pilot’s license?

It all depends on how often you fly! For students flying regularly, they usually earn their license in 4-12 months, depending on their time commitment. We fly year-round, seven days a week.

Is there a syllabus?

Yes. At Mach 5 we use a highly structured, FAA approved syllabus (offering both Part 61 or Part 141 training programs) and progress is supervised and supported at every stage by one of our Chief Pilots to ensure the highest quality training standards you will find anywhere. 

How frequently should I schedule lessons?

Three flights per week is ideal, but we realize that this isn’t possible for everyone. To maximize information retention between flights, we recommend spending several hours between lessons with ‘chair-flying’ and ground study.

Training Costs

What does it cost to get a Private Pilot’s License?

Typical costs are between $9,000 and $14,000, but total costs are variable depending on your skill, frequency of training, airplane selection and how much time you spend studying at home on your own. The better prepared you are when you arrive for your lesson, the more you can save. 

How can I save time and money in training?

There are lots of free resources online or available to purchase that will guide you through the ‘Ground,’ or classroom portion of your training. Give us a call, any one of our flight instructors would be happy to explain your options and help you find the path that works best for you. But, as it is with learning anything new, doing your homework and being prepared is very important.

Do you offer financing options?

We partner with Pilot Finance to provide financing towards Private and Instrument training. Learn more here:

Life After Training

How far can I fly a small airplane?

This is a question we get a lot! Most of our training airplanes can fly the distance from Auburn to Southern California without stopping for fuel. This is a much better option, in our opinion, than driving to a major airport, checking a bag, going through security, and then getting on your way. Equally exciting is a small airplanes’ ability to get you past traffic: San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Yosemite, Monterrey, Half Moon Bay or Mendocino, for example, are popular destinations. In a car, it can be hours and you can expect traffic, but in an airplane, it is roughly an hour or two each way through some of the most scenic airspace in the west, including flying over gorgeous scenery all along your adventure!

Can I rent an airplane without an instructor once I am licensed?

Yes! Most of our former students rent planes to go fly for fun and often advance quickly to larger faster aircraft in our fleet. Get your rating. Jump in the cockpit. Go fly. And enjoy every minute of your adventure.

What if I want to buy an airplane of my own someday?

If you decide at some point that aircraft ownership is for you, please schedule a time to meet with a member of our leadership team. We have decades of experience buying, selling, and maintaining private aircraft and can help guide you to a successful purchasing experience. Buying your first airplane is a great investment and gives you the freedom to fly whenever and wherever you wish!