Private Pilot Syllabus and Lesson Plans

by Philip Greenspun; updated March 2006

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There are many off-the-shelf syllabi and lesson plans for teaching the Private Pilot Airplane Single-Engine Land rating. This is my personal system, customized due to two factors: (1) I teach from Hanscom Field in Bedford, MA (BED), and (2) my students are relatively older and richer than average. The fact that I know we'll be starting at Hanscom means that there must be more emphasis on radio communications. Hanscom has ground control, a tower, and an FBO that must be called for fuel. Hanscom is one of the busiest airports in the northeast with a constant flow of corporate jets, training piston airplanes, a handful of scheduled air carrier flights, and periodic visits from Air Force fighter jets and cargo planes. Also, because I know where we are going to pick up the plane, I have put specific destination airports into the lesson plans.

The fact that my students are older and wealthier means that being comfortable and having fun is more important than spending the absolute minimum number of hours. It also means that we actually go places in the airplane, e.g., islands, art museums, airplane museums, etc.

Summary of Requirements for a Private Pilot's Certificate

The FAA spells it out in FAR 61.109a: You must obtain at least a Third Class medical before your first solo flight; this involves a brief visit to an FAA certified Aviation Medical Examiner (usually a local physician who is also a pilot and airplane owner). You must take a computer-based knowledge test before taking your checkride with the FAA or its designated examiner.

As a practical matter, younger students who fly 2-3 times per week require close to 60 hours to complete a certificate. Older students or those who stretch out their training can take 80 or more.

Lesson Plans

  1. Ground: Introduction
  2. Dual Flight: Breakfast or Lunch at MidField Cafe in Nashua (KASH)
  3. Dual Flight: Up, Down, Left, and Right; Normal Approach and Landing
  4. Dual Flight: Flying Slow (power off stalls only so as to avoid interference), then some landing practice
  5. Dual Flight: Precision Takeoffs and power-on stalls
  6. Dual Flight: Boston City Tour and landing at Marshfield (3B2)
  7. Ground: Pilotage and VOR
  8. Dual Flight: The Long Runway at Pease (KPSM) (no-flap landings, wake turbulence avoidance, refining the flare, flying 5' above the runway)
  9. Ground: Weather
  10. Dual Flight: VFR advisories, Class Charlie Airspace, and the airplane museum at KBDL, S-turns across a road on the way, turns around a point on the way back
  11. Dual Flight: Block Island (KBID and its perpetual crosswind), short-field landings and takeoffs, work on rejected takeoffs and go-arounds
  12. Dual Flight: Hills and the MassMOCA art museum at North Adams (KAQW), forward slips at airports on the way out, crosswind landings on the way back
  13. Dual Flight: Handling Emergencies over the closed airport at Fort Devens, then power-off landings at Fitchburg
  14. Dual Flight: Soft-field takeoffs and landings plus intro to instrument flying
  15. Dual Flight: to Keene, NH (KEEN), mostly using instruments and with a demonstration ILS approach
  16. Dual Flight: Review for check flight

  17. Pre-Solo Check Flight with a senior instructor

  18. Supervised Solo Flight: Bedford
  19. Solo Flight: Pattern work at Bedford
  20. Solo Flight: Practicing slow flight and ground-reference maneuvers in practice area, then patterns at Bedford
  21. Dual Flight: To Lawrence (KLWM) and back
  22. Solo Flight: To Lawrence and back
  23. Solo Cross Country Flight: To Keene, NH and back
  24. Dual Flight: Night landings at Bedford
  25. Dual Flight: Night flight to Lawrence
  26. Dual Flight: Night cross-country to New Bedford (KEWB)
  27. Solo Cross-Country Flight: To New Bedford and back
  28. Solo Cross Country Flight: 150 n.m. three-leg cross-country. KBED - KPWM - KPSM - KBED (alternative KBED - KBDL - KPVD - KBED)

  29. Pre-Test Check Flight with a senior instructor

  30. Dual Flight: Review for Practical Test (content based on check flight report)
  31. Dual Flight: Review for Practical Test along the way to Provincetown, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and back (every New England pilot needs to be comfortable with the Cape Cod area)
  32. Solo Flight: Review for Practical Test

Other Stuff

If you would like to adapt these plans for your own use, please feel free as long as it is within the terms of my online copyright statement.
Text Copyright 2005-6 Philip Greenspun.