The course of instruction a student pilot follows depends on the type of certificate sought. It should include the ground and flight training necessary to acquire the knowledge and skills required to safely and efficiently function as a certificated pilot in the selected category and class of aircraft. The specific knowledge and skill areas for each category and class of aircraft are outlined in 14 CFR part 61. Eligibility, aeronautical knowledge, proficiency, and aeronautical requirements can be found in 14 CFR part 61.

  • Recreational Pilot, see subpart D
  • Private Pilot, see subpart E
  • Sport Pilot, see subpart J
The knowledge-based portion of training is obtained through FAA handbooks such as this one, textbooks, and other sources of training and testing materials which are available in print form from the Superintendent of Documents, GPO, and online at the Regulatory Support Division: about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/afs/afs600.
The CFI may also use commercial publications as a source of study materials, especially for aircraft categories where government materials are limited. A student pilot should follow the flight instructor’s advice on what and when to study. Planning a definite study program and following it as closely as possible will help in scoring well on the knowledge test. Haphazard or disorganized study habits usually result in an unsatisfactory score.

In addition to learning aeronautical knowledge, such as the principles of flight, a student pilot is also required to gain skill in flight maneuvers. The selected category and class of aircraft determines the type of flight skills and number of flight hours to be obtained. There are four steps involved in learning a flight maneuver:
  • The CFI introduces and demonstrates flight maneuver to the student.
  • The CFI talks the student pilot through the maneuver.
  • The student pilot practices the maneuver under CFI supervision.
  • The CFI authorizes the student pilot to practice the maneuver solo.
Once the student pilot has shown proficiency in the required knowledge areas, flight maneuvers, and accrued the required amount of flight hours, the CFI endorses the student pilot logbook, which allows the student pilot to take the written and practical tests for pilot certification.