Frequently Asked Questions

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Not really, but it does take persistence.  Most pilots enjoy the challenge because you don't just become a pilot, you become an amateur meteorologist, aerodynamicist, mechanic and lawyer.  The airplane is a machine just like a car or boat.  You have to learn how to handle it correctly but anyone can learn.  Even those with disabilities.

Aviation medicals are issued by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).  You can find the nearest medical examiner through search the FAA database here: AME Locator.  There are three types of medicals: Classes I, II and III.  Student and Private pilots only need a Class III medical and student pilots much also request a student pilot certificate when scheduling the exam.

Most people have no problem passing the medical exam if their vision is correctable to 40/40.  Color-blindness may impose some flying restrictions but there are varying degrees and tests that can be conducted resulting in no restrictions at all.  The most common disqualifying conditions are those that may cause incapacitation such as diabetes and heart conditions.  But even those conditions that can be controlled under medical supervision may still b acceptable for an FAA medical.

We always recommend that you get your medical early in the training process so that if something does come up delaying the medical, you have time to resolve the issue before needing it to solo.

Preparation!  The contents of each lesson are itemized in the training syllabus so you know exactly what to expect every flight.  If you study the material in advance then the instructor can focus on answering your questions, not covering things you could have read on your own.

We have a wide variety of instructing experience ranging from supervising collegiate programs to teaching at small uncontrolled airports to training airline pilots.  This variety gives us valuable experience in virtually all flying conditions that we use to impart good flying habits and decision-making skills.  Check out our instructor bios for more detailed information on each instructor's background.

It really depends on your ultimate goals.  Our primary training aircraft are new Cessna 162s which are only manufactured with glass cockpits.  If the aircraft were made with round dials the training wouldn't be any better or worse because the Private Pilot training focuses fundamental flying skills, not avionics.  However, the glass cockpit also affords additional safety features such as terrain awareness, traffic collision avoidance and satellite weather.

Our Instrument Rating course is designed to obtain proficiency in both round dial and glass cockpits.  General aviation and commercial aircraft will have round dials for some time but most new aircraft are being made with glass cockpits.  We feel it is important for instrument pilots to be proficient in both whether they are renting or starting a career.

The training time really depends on individual motivation and frequency of lessons.  Our Private Pilot curriculum consists of about 30 lessons so if you take one lesson a week it would take over half a year to complete training.  If you take three lessons a week it can be completed in just a few months.  The most efficient training schedule would be to take a lesson every other day.  This allows enough time between lessons to review and adequately prepare for the next lesson.  However, few people have the time and resources to commit to this schedule.  If you can only train once a week or once a month, the overall course will take more time and money but we tailor the training to each individual's needs.

Every certificate or rating requires that the student complete three areas of competency, under the review of a person designated by the FAA to conduct the tests.  Near the end of your flight training you will need to pass a written (knowledge) test.  This is taken on a computer with multiple-choice questions and must be passed with a score of 70% or higher.  When your training is complete your flight instructor will endorse you for the oral and practical exams.  The FAA designated examiner will ask you questions to determine if you understand the knowledge to the level required for the exam.  In the practical exam you will demonstrate you can safely operate the airplane in accordance with set standards.  The oral and practical typically happen on the same day as a single appointment.  If you are adequately prepared the exams should not be a stressful event.

Investing in a supplemental aircraft insurance policy is likely one of the smartest decisions you'll make in your flight training journey. At Rainier Flight Service, we require that all our students, and renter's purchase an aircraft renter's insurance policy.  No one wants to get involved in an accident, but we are operating in a training environment and incidents do happen from time to time.  Having a supplemental policy in place will provide you with the peace of mind needed to focus on your training.  Cost-effective renter policies are available through a variety of sources.   At our school, we require supplemental insurance coverage of at least $20,000.  If you have any questions, our Staff will provide you detailed information to help determine what level of insurance best meets your needs.

Our primary goal is to make you a safe, proficient pilot.  Part of that is learning to fly in the weather and develop the judgment to know your personal limitations.  Experience comes from flying in the wind and rain under the careful guidance of an instructor.  Of course there will be those days when it is simply unsafe but we try to continue moving forward by substituting with another lesson in the simulator or catching up on questions from ground school studying.

There is no better place in the country for instrument training!  Puget Sound is a perfect place for getting a lot of actual IMC experience as the freezing levels are generally above the minimum vectoring altitudes throughout the area.

Most people do not like being evaluated so it is natural to stress about the checkride.  In reality, the checkride is just a formality.  When your instructor endorses you that person is saying you have received all training required for the course and as a professional, they attest you can safely act as PIC.  However, instructors do not have the authority to issue certificates so an independent examiner verifies the instructor's assessment.  You will not do anything on the checkride you haven't done many times before!

To prepare for the checkride there are a few simple things you can do to build confidence:

  1. Take a mock checkride.  Have another instructor conduct a practice checkride to vet weak areas.  Brush up on those items before the real deal.  Two instructors saying you are ready should help you feel more comfortable.
  2. Over-prepare.  Don't just study and prepare to the minimum requirements.  Try to gain deeper understanding of knowledge areas and build skill to tighter tolerances than the checkride requires.
  3. Remember - the examiner wants you to pass.  It's no fun failing an applicant.  As far as the examiner is concerned you have passed the checkride from the beginning of the exam until you give them a reason to fail you.  If you make a mistake, acknowledge the error and ask to repeat the task.  This demonstrates good judgment and the examiner has some latitude.  Multiple errors show you may need some more practice but never give up!  The checkride is not over until the airplane is secured.
  4. Follow instructions.  Ensure you have all of the planning completed per the examiner's instructions, documentation is in order including endorsements and application, examiner fee, etc.  Use the Practical Test Checklist in the ACS/PTS to make sure everything is completed the day prior.  Then get a good night's sleep!