South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Hardrocker Flying Club


Earning your wings:
Learning to fly is fun and challenging. One must master control of the aircraft, radio communication, and navigation among other things. Thankfully there are instructors who are very good at teaching student pilots these essential skills.

The first rating that you will start out training for is your private pilot certificate. This allows you to fly a single engine airplane that has a fixed landing gear (does not retract) and whose engine develops less than 200 horsepower.  After receiving your license you are limited to flying in basically good weather conditions so many pilots move on and earn their instrument rating. This rating allows them to fly in poor weather conditions that would ground a non-instrument rated pilot. To your certificate you can also can add ratings such as a complex aircraft and high-performance rating allowing you to fly a retractable gear airplane or an airplane whose engine develops 200 horesepower or more.

How much time will it take you to earn your wings? Most people have accumulated around 60 or 70 hours of flight time before they take their check ride. However only 40 hours of time is needed to be eligible according to the FAA. Outlined below are the private pilot requirements as defined in the Federal Air Regulations (FAR) part  61.109. A person must satisfactorily complete all of the requirements before they can apply for a private pilot certificate. In addition to the items below you must be at least 17 years old and have received some form of ground training.

The FAA does not require any formal classes for ground school but you must possess the needed knowledge. How do you get that knowledge? Many people these days are using a home study course or a ground school through your flight instructor.

To apply for a private pilot certificate you must at a minimum accumulate the following flight experience:

  • Log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes 20 hours of flight training from an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight.
  • Log 3 hours of cross-country flight time with an instructor.
  • Log 3 hours of night flight time with an instructor including a cross-country flight of at least 100 nautical miles (nm) total distance and perform 10 takeoffs and landings to a complete stop.
  • Log 5 hours of solo cross-country flight time including at least one solo cross-country of at least 150 nm total distance with full stop landings at a minimum of 3 points and one segment being at least 50 nm between points.
  • Log 3 hours of flight training in preparation for the check ride.
  • Log 3 hours of instrument training flight time.
  • Log 3 solo takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport with a control tower.
  • Be able to pass a 3rd class medical evaluation.
  • Pass the written test with at least a minimum score of 70%.