9 steps you need to getting your student pilot license

by | FAQs for Beginners, Step by Step

9 Steps to getting your student pilot licenseAlthough you don’t need a student pilot license to start taking flying lessons, one of the first big milestones in your flight training will be piloting an airplane solo. Here are the 9 steps you need to getting your student pilot license before your first solo.

Your student pilot license consists of your medical certificate and your student pilot certificate. Before April 2016, your first medical certificate was printed on yellow paper and counted as both your medical and student pilot certificate. Since then they have been issued as a separate plastic car, similar to your driver’s license.Unlike the old combined paper certificate, the new student pilot certificate doesn’t expire, although you will need to keep a current medical to fly solo if your old one has expired. Because they don’t expire, student pilot certificates account for the largest portion of pilot certificates according to the latest US Civil Airmen Statistics.

  1. Am I eligible for a student pilot license
  2. How do I apply for a student pilot license?
  3. How do I set up an account in IACRA?
  4. What documents do I need to fly solo?
  5. How do I get a medical certificate?
  6. How long is my student pilot certificate valid?
  7. How long is my medical certificate valid
  8. How to prepare for your first solo flight
  9. Student pilot certificate limitations

Am I eligible for a student pilot license?

To apply for a student pilot certificate you must be at least 16 years old (14 years old if you plan to fly a glider or balloon). You must also be able to read, speak, and understand English. With those requirements met, it’s time to complete your application.

How do I apply for a student pilot license?

There are two ways to apply for your student pilot certificate. First you can complete and print the FAA Form 8710-1 which you will then send to:

  • a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)
  • an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE)
  • an airman certification representative associated with a Part 141 flight school
  • a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI)

They will then review your application and submit to the Airmen Certification Branch of the FAA.Alternatively, you can complete your application online using the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website.After your application has been reviewed by the Airmen Certification Branch, your certificate will be mailed to the address you provided on the application, typically within three weeks, although it will be quicker if you apply online using the IACRA website.

How do I set up an account in IACRA?

To use the FAA’s IACRA website, you’ll need to set up an account using your first name, last name, username and passwords. You’ll also be asked to answer some security questions. Once you’ve created your account and accepted the terms of service, you’ll be directed to a page with your previous or outstanding applications. Since this is your first application, this page should be empty.In the top left corner of the screen, you’ll see a field called User Information. That box contains your FAA Tracking Number or FTN, which should start with an A or C. Make a note of the number (write it down in your logbook or somewhere else easily accessible) since you’ll need it for your written tests and checkrides.

What documents do I need to fly an airplane solo?

In addition to your Student Pilot Certificate, you’ll also need to get a medical certificate. Medical certificates are issued in three classes: first, second, and third. Airline pilots are required to hold a First Class medical while flying an airliner, while pilots working while using a Commercial Pilot certificate are required to hold a Second Class medical. Student pilots are only required to hold a Third Class medical, but if your goal is to fly for the airlines, you should consider applying for a first class medical.

How do I get a medical certificate?

To get your medical certificate you’ll need to complete the following steps:

  1. Complete an FAA Form 8500-8 application online using the FAA’s MedXPress website
  2. Schedule an appointment with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) in your area
  3. Pass a medical examination to the standard of the certificate you are seeking

Once you have completed the physical examination, your medical will be printed and signed by your AME. Fold and cut it along the dotted lines and keep it with your student pilot certificate. Some examiners will print and sign a couple of copies for you in case you lose one. 

How long is my student pilot certificate valid?

The new plastic student pilots no longer expire and are valid as long as you have a current medical certificate to go with it.

How long is the medical certificate valid?

The First Class medical has the most requirements, and lasts for six months before converting to a Second Class. A year from the date of issue, the medical converts to a third class and lasts another year if you are forty or older, or four years if you are under forty.

How to prepare for your first solo flight

Once you have your student pilot license documents, you can begin logging the time and endorsement you need to prepare for your first solo. To begin your flight training, find and interview a flight school near you. Your instructor will teach you how to prepare a plane for flight, maneuver a plane in straight and level flight, climbs and descents, and help you practice takeoffs and landings along with emergency procedures. Once the instructor is comfortable you can control the aircraft safely, you will be signed off for your first solo flight.  

Student pilot certificate limitations

Although your student pilot certificate allows you to fly an airplane by yourself, your flight privileges are still limited. First, as a student pilot you are not allowed to carry any passengers (or fly for hire). In addition, you are limited to certain airports unless you have a written endorsement signed off by your flight instructor. You will also need your solo privileges renewed by your instructor every 90-days. 


Getting your student pilot license is you first step in learning to build experience and confidence at the controls of an airplane. Regardless of whether you plan to fly for the airlines, or simply fly a small plane by yourself to relax, you’ll need to get your student pilot certificate.


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