10 steps to getting your Canadian pilot license

Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet tactical fighter aircraft displaying flight agility at the Wing Over Lethbridge Airshow
Photo by GTS Productions/Shutterstock

Getting your private pilot license can let you reach new heights—literally—but it’s an investment of time, money and effort.

“Six months is fairly quick,” says Adam Lloyd, who handles flight operations and dispatch for Brampton Flight Centre, which trains fledgling pilots so they can earn their aeroplane licenses. “The fastest anyone [meets licensing requirements] is two months, and that’s full time. That’s being here pretty much five or six days of the week and doing nothing from eight in the morning until 5 p.m. but study and fly,” Lloyd tells Roam New Roads.

Some 2,660 private pilot aeroplane licenses, which allow you to fly single-engine aircraft with up to three passengers anywhere in the country, were issued from September 2015 to September 2016, according to Transport Canada, the government department that issues them. To join those ranks, here are 10 steps to complete.

Book an introductory flight with an instructor

“The way to start is to book an introductory flight. That’s the best way to go because then you can actually go up and do your first lesson, meet your instructor, and you can really tell if it’s right for you,” says Lloyd.

Enroll in a ground school

You’ll need to go back to school to get your private pilot’s license in Canada. There are ground schools—as they’re called—like those offered at Ontario’s Brampton Flight Centre, which charges around $400 before tax, from coast to coast.

Purchase aviation books

Of course, it wouldn’t be school without books, right? From the Ground Up and Transport Canada’s Flight Training Manual are essential reading. The former serves as a textbook and the latter “guides you through what you’ll be doing in the air,” says Lloyd. Before the first day of class, get your hands on these titles.

Put in your classroom hours

Once enrolled in ground school, students need to complete a minimum of 40 hours of class time with an instructor who holds a Flight Instructor Rating – Aeroplane certification, according to Transport Canada.

Log in-flight hours

License applicants will get practical experience as well. While pilots don’t have to keep flying to maintain their licenses anymore, those in training are expected to take to the heavens. “They must also complete a minimum of 45 hours private pilot flight training in aeroplanes under the direction and supervision of the holder of a Flight Instructor Rating,” explains a Transport Canada spokesperson via email. Logging these hours can cost close to $9,000.

Undergo a medical examination

Getting a private pilot’s license isn’t only a matter of knowledge or ability. “There’s a medical test,” says Lloyd. “It’s just to make sure that there’s no outstanding, urgent issues that could cause distress for a pilot in the air,” he explains, noting conditions such as diabetes could ground aerial aspirations. Only certified civil aviation medical examiners can conduct the exam, with the cost varying from doctor to doctor but averaging around $100-150, Lloyd figures. Use Transport Canada’s database to find a civil aviation medical examiner in your region.

Take the written exam

Put all of those hours of study and practice to use to pass the Transport Canada Written Examination – Private Pilot License – Aeroplane (PPAER). The exam covers subjects including aviation law, navigation, weather, and more.

Complete a flight test

Students also have to put their new skills to the test during an in-flight exam. “It’s usually under two hours,” says Lloyd. “It’s just a review of everything that they’ve learned.”

Pass a language assessment

To make sure potential pilots will be able to communicate with those on the ground, there is an Oral English Proficiency Exam. The verbal evaluation spans six categories: pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and interactions, according to the Brampton Flight Centre.

Receive your license

After successfully completing all of these steps, you’ll earn your Canadian private pilot’s license. All that’s left to do is check the mail.

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