textbook with highlighterby Kate Bernard
last updated: 12/30/14

Ground training or “ground school” teaches the knowledge required to be a pilot. It prepares you to pass your pre-solo test, FAA knowledge test, and the oral portion of your flight test. Ground training gives you the fundamental information you need to plan and execute safe flights.

FAA regulations require flight students to receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course.

Regulations list the topics that must be covered, including but not limited to aerodynamics, aircraft systems, weather, aeromedical factors, FAA regulations and publications, aeronautical decision-making, and aircraft performance.

Unless a student is training under part 141 regulations (at a large flight school or university, for example), the FAA does not specify minimum ground training times.

Required ground training subjects for each pilot certificate are listed in part 61 of the FAA regulations:

  • Sport Pilot: 61.309
  • Recreational Pilot: 61.97
  • Private Pilot: 61.105

Ground training may be accomplished one-on-one with an instructor, in a classroom, through a home study course, or a combination of the above.

people having a discussionOne-On-One Ground Instruction

One-on-one ground instruction is custom-tailored to you and your learning style. You proceed at your own pace, on your own schedule. Typical lessons last between one and three hours.

You meet with your instructor someplace conducive to learning, like an office or cubicle at the flight school. The fewer distractions, the better. But it’s not unheard of to meet at a coffee shop!

In one-on-one ground lessons, you won’t need to compete with other students for your instructor’s attention. This means you have more control over how much time you spend on each topic. You have more freedom to ask questions, including “off-topic” questions that relate to other lessons.

The flexibility of one-on-one ground instruction can lead to disorganized training if you’re not careful to follow a syllabus. A good syllabus will tell you what to study, keep lessons organized with clear objectives, and help you track your progress.

Normally, one-on-one ground instruction is the most expensive option because you pay an hourly rate for your instructor. However, it may be the best value because you receive efficient and customized training.

teacher in a classroomClassroom-Format Ground Instruction

In a formal ground school class, an instructor teaches a group of students all at once, through regularly scheduled classroom sessions. Ground school classes can be found at flight schools and colleges.

Classroom-format ground instruction is normally less expensive than one-on-one instruction because multiple students share the expense of the instructor and facility.

Students in ground school classes benefit from interacting with other members of the group. A classroom offers opportunities that aren’t available in one-on-one training, such as group/partner projects, group discussions, and even team games. Many students enjoy the social aspect of learning alongside others interested in aviation.

Disadvantages of classroom-format ground instruction include a lack of flexibility and limited personal attention from the instructor. Students might not be able to attend all classes. Due to limited time and a rigid schedule, an instructor might not be able to answer off-topic questions or spend extra time on a subject.

A ground school class is a great option for people who benefit from structure and learn well through traditional classroom lectures. Regularly scheduled classes “force” you to study, helping you resist the temptation to put off ground training.

man using laptop computerHome-Study Ground Courses

Home-study courses teach ground school subjects through various media such as books, video, audio, and software applications. They are offered through companies such as Jeppesen, Gleim, Sporty’s, and King Schools.

Self-paced home-study courses can be incredibly convenient. You can learn about aircraft performance while wearing your pajamas or study airspace on your iPad while riding the bus.

Advances in technology mean home-study courses are more interactive than they used to be. You can still sit back in your recliner and watch a video — but that DVD now includes quiz questions that you answer with your remote. Instead of looking at a picture of a magneto in a book, now you can find a 3D picture of one on your computer and turn it around with your mouse.

Many home-study courses now include a means for your instructor to check your progress. Whatever course you use, you’ll normally still need some form of ground instruction from your instructor, even if it’s just answering a few questions to make sure you understand the material. The degree to which your instructor needs to supplement your training depends on the depth of the home-study course you choose.

Home-study courses are excellent for independent learners, especially those who need to fit ground training into a busy schedule. Home-study courses also supplement one-on-one and classroom-format training.


Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What are the Entry-Level Pilot Certificates?
  2. What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Pilot Certificate?
  3. What are the Medical Certification Requirements for Pilots?
  4. What is Ground Training Like?
  5. What is Flight Training Like?
  6. What Tests are Required to Become a Pilot?
  7. How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?
  8. How Can I Find a Flight School or Flight Instructor?
  9. How Does a Pilot Stay Current and Proficient?
  10. What Additional Certificates and Ratings Can a Pilot Earn?
  11. How Do I Sign Up for an Introductory Flight Lesson?