Private Pilot Course Syllabus
An Open Letter to Kids (Big and Little) Who Want to FLY!
Pilot Training
Training FAQ's
Private Pilot Course Syllabus
Keep it Simple
Flying, the Meaning of Life and Other Odd Stuff
Pitch or Power? Stick and Rudder!
Oh, no! Another Rant! Slips, Skids and Bananas
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How we're gonna do it!

climb in and let's go!

Congratulations!  You’ve decided to join a small and elite club--PILOTS!  Fewer than one-fifth of 1% of all Americans (less than 600,000 pilots out of more than 300 million Americans--that's one pilot for every 500) can fly--and 90% of all the pilots in the world are Americans! Not because Flying is difficult, but because it requires the Opportunity (not available in most of the world--one of the things that makes America great), Decision and Determination to Do It!  Elite because flying demands a high standard of Proficiency that you can only acquire through Study and Practice.


But don't let that intimidate you!  Flying is actually easier than driving a car--really!--but unlike anything you've ever done before, so it does require some effort.  This Syllabus is intended to guide you along the path to becoming a Pilot, step by step, one bite at a time (like eating that elephant).  Piece of cake!


The Federal Aviation Administration has adopted clear standards of Knowledge, Experience and Proficiency required to obtain your Private Pilot’s Certificate, designed to ensure that you are competent to pilot an aircraft, understand the aerial environment in which you’ll fly and the need for safety in every aspect of flying.  So has Wild Blue Aviation.  That’s why we’ve created this Syllabus.

Organization and References

This Syllabus is intended to be simple and fairly general in nature, except for the Completion Standards, where it is very specific.  When you have completed each Section to the Standard specified, we’ll move ahead to the next section.  There are no “hours” or number of flights specified because everyone learns at a different rate and in different ways.  Go at your own pace.  Don’t try to compare yourself with others because everyone learns different things, differently. 




The Syllabus is designed to integrate Learning to Fly Airplanes (what the FAA calls obtaining Piloting Proficiency), understanding How Airplanes Work and the Environment We Fly In (Aeronautical Knowledge) while acquiring the Aeronautical Experience (flight experience) you need to qualify for your Private Pilot Certificate, in a seamless, FUN process.

Although there are many fine “Learn to Fly” publications and multi-media products available, we’re going to use a few manuals published by the FAA--which are actually the basis for all other Learn to Fly publications and multi-media products.  These include the Airplane Flying Handbook and the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.  We’re also going to use THE classic “How to Fly” book, Stick and Rudder, written by Wolfgang Langewiesche.  First published as a series of magazine articles and then compiled into book form in 1944, it’s been in continuous publication since then, which should tell you something.  Yes, 1944 was a long time ago, but good flying technique really hasn’t changed much since then.

Stick and Rudder is exactly what the title suggests, a treatise on the Art and Science of Flying Airplanes.  You won’t find any references to regulations, weather, charts or anything else, just Stick and Rudder Flying.  The Airplane Flying Handbook is also about stick and rudder flying, particularly what the FAA expects you to learn and their standards of successful performance. 

The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge is about All the Other Things You Need to Know.

In addition, you’ll need to get copies of the Federal Aviation Regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual, Seattle Sectional and  Seattle Terminal Area Charts, a Plotter and Flight Computer.  You may also want to acquire Sportys DVD or Online Private Pilot Ground Study Course (see  The DVD and online courses are very good and lots of people would rather watch a presentation on their computer than read a book.  That's fine.  Either way, get started 'cause life don't wait for nobody! 

These will give you a thorough understanding of How Things Work, How to Do it and What you Need to Know to become a Safe, Proficient Pilot.

These publications have been chosen because they are the best, most economical available.  If you want to use other publications or multi-media products, that’s fine.  Just make sure you cover the same things, in the order presented here.



Here's some FREE help for the FAA's written exam: iThis is a link to Gold Seal Ground School, a FREE online ground school.  Going through these FREE practice exams will not only help you understand the material better, it will make it much easier to score well on the exam, too.

Here's a link to a web site that has FREE Aircraft Owner's Manuals/Pilot's Operating Handbooks/Flight Manuals:

But wait!  There's More!  The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Foundation has lots of free interactive online training courses on a variety of flying subjects.  You will NEVER stop learning to fly! Just click here:

Let’s get started!

SECTION ONE:  the Basics

What Makes the Airplane Fly and How You Control It


We’ll explore the Airplane Controls and How they make things Work.  We’ll also find out what it is about the Shape and Construction of airplanes that makes them fly.


Understanding how the Airplane Works and Gaining Basic Flight Control Proficiency

What you’ll learn:

1.      Lift:  How the Wing Works

2.      Pitch:  How the Elevator changes the pitch Attitude and Angle of Attack

3.      Roll:  How the Ailerons roll the airplane to change the Direction of Lift

4.      Yaw:  How the Rudder keeps the Tail Behind the Nose (or not)

5.      Thrust:  How the Engine makes the airplane Go

6.      Drag:  How the Wing and Flaps Generate Lift and Drag

7.      Using Pitch, Roll, Thrust and Drag

8.      All about Tail Wheel vs. Nose Wheel Airplanes


Then we’ll

1.      Fly Straight and Level

2.      Turn Left and Right

3.      Climb and Descend

4.      Go Fast and Slow

5.      Make Climbing and Descending Turns at different airspeeds


That just about ALL you can do with an airplane (short of aerobatics)!

Ground Study References:

Stick and Rudder

Part I, Wings; Part II, Some Air Sense; Part III, The Controls; and Part IV, The Basic Maneuvers

Airplane Flying Handbook

Chapter 1, Introduction to Flight Training; Chapter 2, Ground Operations; Chapter 3, Basic Flight Maneuvers; Chapter 13, Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

Chapter 1, Aircraft Structure; Chapter 2, Principles of Flight; Chapter 3, Aerodynamics of Flight; Chapter 4, Flight Controls; Chapter 5, Aircraft Systems; Chapter 6, Flight Instruments and Chapter 9, Aircraft Performance


This is the Heart of Learning How the Airplane Works and How to Fly!    Master this Section and you can almost Fly an Airplane!

Completion Standards:

1.                  maintain a heading within twenty degrees

2.                  hold an altitude within 100 feet

3.                  turn to a heading within twenty degrees

4.                  make 720 degree turns while holding altitude within 200 feet

5.                  hold an airspeed within 10 knots (or mph) while climbing

6.                  hold an airspeed within 10 knots (or mph) while descending

7.                  Pass a Quiz on All These Things with a Score of 80% or Better

SECTION TWO:  Slow Flight, Stalls, Ground Reference Maneuvers, Landings, Takeoffs and Gaining Proficiency


Now that you know What Makes the Airplane Fly and How You Control It, we’ll concentrate on More Maneuvers and Making the Airplane Go Where and How You Want It to Go


Gaining greater Proficiency during All Maneuvers, Understanding, Recognizing and Recovering from Stalls; Your First Solo Flight

What you’ll learn:


1.                  Stalls:  Recognizing Stalls and How to Recover from Stalls

2.                  Flight by Reference to Instruments

3.                  Turns Around a Point

4.                  Rectangular Patterns

5.                  “S” Turns Across a Road

6.                  “Eights” Along and Across a Road

7.                  Traffic Patterns

8.                  Landing Approaches

9.                Using the Flaps

10.             Slips

11.              The “Round-Out” and “Flare” for Landing

12.              Landing Touchdown, Rollout and Go-Arounds

13.              Spins

Ground StudyReferences:

Stick and Rudder

Part V, Getting Down, Part VI, Dangers of the Air and Part VII, Some More Air Sense

Airplane Flying Handbook

Chapter 4, Slow Flight, Stalls and Spins; Chapter 5, Takeoff and Departure Climbs; Chapter 6, Ground Reference Maneuvers; Chapter 7, Airport Traffic Patterns and Chapter 8, Approaches and Landings

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

Chapter 7, Flight Manuals and Other Documents; Chapter 8, Weight and Balance; Chapter 9, Aircraft Performance; Chapter 12, Airport Operations; Chapter 15, Aeromedical Factors

Completion Standards:

1.                  Hold Airspeed with 5 knots (or mph) during all maneuvers

2.         Maintain an Altitude within 100 feet during all “Level” maneuvers

3.         Prompt Recognition and Recovery from Imminent Stalls

4.         Prompt Recognition and Recovery from Full Stalls

5.         Recognize and Compensate for Wind Drift

6.         Control the Glide Path on Final Approach to Land on the Desired Spot

7.         Control Airspeed on Final Approach to within 5 knots (or mph)

8.         Make Smooth Roundouts to the Landing Flare

9.         Make smooth, controlled Go-arounds

10.              Pass a Quiz on All These Things with a Score of 80% or Better

11.              First Solo


Congratulations!!!  You’ve Soloed!


You’ve done what could only be dreamed of until 1903!  Well Done!


SECTION THREE:  Cross-Country Flying

Now you Know How to Fly—Let’s Go Somewhere!


Learn to Navigate the National Airspace System

What you’ll learn:

1.                  The National Airspace System

2.                  Charts and Chart Reading

3.                  What’s in The Aeronautical Information Manual

4.                  Weather Theory, Reports and Forecasts

5.                  Weather Briefings

6.                  Cross-Country Flight Planning

7.                  Navigation by Pilotage, Dead Reckoning and Using Electronic Navigation Aids

8.                  Emergencies

9.                  Aeronautical Decision Making

10.              Night Flying

Ground Study References:

Airplane Flying Handbook

Chapter 10, Night Operations; Chapter 16, Emergency Procedures

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

Chapter 10, Weather Theory; Chapter 11, Weather Reports, Forecasts and Charts; Chapter 13, Airspace; Chapter 14, Navigation; Chapter 16, Aeronautical Decision Making

Completion Standards:

1.                  Be Able to Obtain a Weather Briefing, read and evaluate weather data

2.                  Plan and Complete a Short Dual Cross-Country flight using Pilotage, Dead Reckoning and Electronic Navigation Aids

3.                  Pass a Quiz on All These Things with a Score of 80% or Better

4.                  Plan and Complete a Longer Dual Cross-Country flight using Pilotage, Dead Reckoning and Electronic Navigation Aids

5.                  Use Aeronautical Decision Making Procedures to Decide when it is Appropriate to Stay Home or Divert to an Alternate Destination

6.                  Pass the FAA Private Pilot Written Examination

7.                  Plan and Complete a Short Solo Cross-Country flight using Pilotage, Dead Reckoning and Electronic Navigation Aids

8.                  Plan and Complete a Long Solo Cross-Country flight using Pilotage, Dead Reckoning and Electronic Navigation Aids

9.                  Demonstrate Aircraft Control at Night

10.              Plan and Complete a Night Dual Cross-Country flight using Pilotage, Dead Reckoning and Electronic Navigation Aids


SECTION FOUR:  Preparing for the checkride--

Sharpen Up


Polishing Your Performance to meet Practical Test Standards Requirements

What you’ll learn:

1.                  What the PTS requires

2.                  How to Take a Check Ride

Ground Study References:

Review all texts; Practical Test Standards

Completion Standards:

1.     Perform all maneuvers to PTS standards

2.     Pass Your Private Pilot Check Ride


Congratulations!!!  You’re a Pilot!


Wasn't that easy?!

Company LogoWild Blue Aviation
Hangar 28
18228 59th Dr. NE, Arlington, WA, 98223 USA
Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO)
mail to:  1521 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201-2057, USA
phone 425-876-0865