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Cadet Flight Training

Although it is not the main mission for CAP to teach cadets to fly, cadets can obtain their private pilot's license through CAP instruction.

Before pursuing your private pilot's license

Is aviation the career path you want?  Training for and working in a career in aviation can be a lot of work but very rewarding.  Do you have the dedication and work ethic to get you through all that needs to be done?  CAP pilots dedicate hours of their volunteer time to make a private pilot's license a possibility for cadets.  You can demonstrate your dedication to this career and your ability to handle the hard work through many preparatory steps:

  1. Advance through the CAP ranks - show you can handle hard work and are motivated by promoting as soon as possible.  Seek out leadership roles and duty positions like being AE cadet.  

  2. Attend as many AE nights and activities as you can.  Attend aviation related activities outside of CAP: go to airshows and air museums.  Listen to air traffic control on  You can even watch airplanes arriving and departing live on Flight Radar 24 while listening to the LiveATC (note that Flight Radar 24 is up to the second while LiveATC has about a 10 second delay).  On the Flight Radar 24 website, click on Settings.  At the bottom of the Settings window that pops up, toggle Aircraft Labels ON.

  3. Take advantage of the five free Powered Orientation Flights and five free Glider Orientation Flights through CAP.  Be proactive and ask your squadron senior members how to make this happen.  

  4. Get a flight simulator like X-Plane or Microsoft Flight Simulator and fly it for hours.  The more practice you have before getting in the plane will allow you to make better use of your time in the plane, allowing you to master skills in fewer hours and so save plane rental / fuel money.

  5. Start Ground School at home now - even if you are just 12 or 13, it's never too early to start learning the concepts.  Ground school comes in many forms, some of which you can get for free.  One introductory class is through Embry-Riddle.  A more in-depth one is through Sporty's.  You can get a Free Sporty's Ground School Course (a $250 value) in one of two ways: fly on a free EAA Young Eagles flight - search for a chapter near you (also, find out more general information about EAA's Young Eagles here) or fly on a CAP Orientation Flight.  It is more seamless to get your Sporty's course after an EAA flight, but you can also enter it manually after a CAP Orientation Flight by going to the EAA website and clicking on JOIN NOW.  Then click Sign Up.  Fill in the necessary information.  When you get to the Student Activation Code, click “I do not have my activation code.”  Enter the date, airport, and pilot name for your CAP orientation flight.  Be sure to click the box for the free Learn to Fly course.  You even get free admission to science & technology museums all over the world and membership in the Association of Model Aeronautics!  

  6. Start studying for your Private Pilot's Written Exam once you are 15 years old.  You will discuss with your instructor when the best time to take the written exam is since it expires after 24 months.  If you were to take the exam exactly at age 15, it would likely expire before you do your check ride (which can't happen until you are 17) unless you had perfect timing.  When you do end up taking your Private Pilot written exam, it will cost you around $160.  You can submit a request to the EAA for reimbursement and the program will then send you a check to reimburse that cost to you along with a certificate to take another introductory flight at a nearby airport!  Isn't it crazy that you accessed the Sporty's Ground School Course for free through the EAA and then get reimbursed you for your written exam?!?  For the FAA written exam, tests are administered by PSI; check for the nearest testing center to you.

  7. Once around age 15 1/2 and once you have done all of the above, start looking for a flight instructor through CAP.  An instructor wants a student who says they have done all of the above, not a student that says they will do all the above.  To find an instructor, ask one of the pilots in your squadron to make introductions.  Remember to always carbon copy another senior or parent in your emails for cadet protection when emailing a CAP seniors member.  You may wish to talk to your squadron staff for guidance before pursuing instructors.  Remember, asking instructors to voluntarily donate a significant amount of time from their busy lives to train you is a big ask.  Making yourself as attractive a potential student as possible will help them agree to fly with you.  Be persistent and courteous.  Using basic common courtesy bodes well (like being polite and always responding to emails promptly even if the instructor says they can't take you on as a student at that time).  If the cadet requests instruction again at a later date from that instructor, he or she will remember the cadet as a courteous, prompt and responsible cadet.  Persistence is important.  Try numerous instructors and check back again periodically.  This shows that you are serious about your desire to fly.  Don’t just give up, but be courteous and not overly persistent in your inquiries.  Also remember that you are always representing yourself and CAP wherever you are.  Instructors might ask around to other cadets and seniors as to a cadet's attitude and performance prior to accepting the cadet as a student.  Try to be as available as you possibly can.  If you have two jobs, are in school, are in CAP, and in three school clubs, you may limit the opportunities an instructor has to provide you instruction.  When you prioritize your flight training, it shows the instructor that you are serious about earning your pilot license.   Consider asking the instructor for a SOLO instructorship.  It is a huge commitment for an instructor to take on a student for a full Private Pilot course.  You may have better luck getting an instructor sooner by asking for a commitment to train only to SOLO.  Although continuity with the same instructor is good, CAP flight academies train to solo every year and it works out fine for the student when they continue training elsewhere.  Also, soloing is a requirement for the Cadet Wings Scholarship program so getting soloed earlier might work very well to your advantage.  Ask your unit commander to approve / endorse your getting flight instruction through CAP.  Once you have done that and found an instructor, fill out the CAPF 60-86 form.

  8. Make sure your aircraft ground handling course is current (within the last 2 years) in eServices through the AXIS testing portal.  



FAA - Federal Aviation Administration - all flight rules and requirements come from them
FARs - Federal Aviation Regulations - this is where FAA tell us all the rules/requirements
Part 61 - Section of FARs for pilot requirements (non-flight schools so CAP is under this)
Part 141 - Section of FARs for pilot requirements for approved flight schools


Requirements​: ​

  1. Age 15 - earliest you can take the FAA written exam - Tests are administered by PSI; check for the nearest testing center to you.  Some instructors won't start lessons until you have completed the written exam.  Other instructors are okay with you taking your written after you start lessons.  One thing is for sure: if you approach an instructor to start lessons and you tell them you've already passed your written exam, they will be very pleased!

  2. Age​ 15 1⁄2 - good time to start lessons (non-FAA rule but allows for timing of solo flight when 16)

  3. To solo, a student must be 16 years old (an FAA rule)

  4. For Private Pilot Certificate, must be 17 years old (an FAA rule)


Medical Certificate:

Each pilot must have an FAA Physical (Suggest 1st Class Medical since this is what you need for Airline Transport Pilot; it is the most restrictive so if you get this, you can fly anything) to solo and beyond.
Only Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) can give an FAA physical exam

A well known Aviation Medical Examiners in the Laconia area is: Dr. Alan Mekler.

To Search for other Aviation Medical Examiners use the following FAA website:

If you click on the second link for Aviation Medical Examiner, and select Designee Type AME, you can search for FAA licensed flight physicians.  Searching by zip code doesn't seem to work, but when putting in United States and New Hampshire, it will pull all of them up for NH.  You can then search by city.  

On the link above, you also need to fill out the MedXPress account before going in for your physical.  The doctor can then pull up your information in the office.  The information you enter in MedXPress is valid for 60 days.  

Just an FYI that regular insurance doesn't cover a flight physical, so you need to pay for it out of pocket.

The three classes of medical certificates are :
Class 3 medical certificates are for private pilot duties only
Class 2 medical certificates are for commercial, non-airline duties as well as private pilot duties
Class 1 medical certificates are required for pilots of scheduled airlines.

Again, it is recommended to aim for a Class 1 medical certificate so that you are unrestricted in your flying possibilities.  


Behavior Expectations​

CAP Pilots want you to be successful in your flight training. They expect you to contact your instructor to schedule airplane time and lessons. This is normally done via text. Per CAP cadet protection policy, copy parents or another CAP senior member on texts/emails. CAP Pilots want you to make good choices in your high school career as well.  CAP Pilots are in close contact with parents if they have or believe there might be any issues. Pilots have a three strike rule. If a cadet no shows or is late to a lesson or abuses the pilot's volunteer status 3 times, they will be asked to continue flight lessons elsewhere.  CAP Pilots know that most cadets are respectful of others and this hasn’t been a problem in the past. Let’s keep it that way!



Cadets can wear Air Force style flight suit or ABU/BDUs. Both may be worn with black shoes/black tennis shoes. The AF Flight suit should be worn with black or tan t-shirt underneath. Remember to always have your ​CAP ID​ with you when flying CAP aircraft.



The Air Force subsidizes Cadet flight training.  As of August 2023, the Cessna 172s used for most flight training cost the Cadet $115.90 per flight hour. This cost varies slightly as fuel and maintenance costs change.  Taking flight training at an FBO is over double the cost of doing this with a CAP plane and instructor.  

Total for Private Pilot Certificate with CAP (see hours below) - Approximately $8500

60 Flight Hours - $6954
50+ ground hours - FREE - our instructors are volunteers, so no charge
FAA Medical - Varies by doctor ~$165
Written Test - $160 (if you complete Sporty’s online course, you get a voucher to get $160 reimbursed (as described above))
Checkride - Varies by examiner - $700-800
Books/Supplies - Varies $100 or can get most online

The average cost of flight lessons at the Fixed Base Operator is around $17,500 so this is a huge savings doing lessons through CAP!

Aircraft flight hours are billed monthly by the Wing Operations Officer and are payable to the wing by check.


Ground School

  • Sporty’s online class ($250, but get this for free as described above)

  • Instruction with your CAP instructor.  


Required books / supplies

Most flight training manuals are available in paper book form and also free in digital form. Most students get both, but entirely up to you.

1. Jeppssen Private Pilot Textbook - suggest paper/book - get on Amazon ~$30-60

2. FAA Flight Training Handbook - suggest getting paper book  ~$22 (You will use this throughout all flight training if you go further)

3. FAA Airplane Flying Handbook - suggest getting paper book ~$25 (You will use this throughout all flight training if you go further)

4. Cessna 172 Pilot Operating Handbook (suggest digital as airplane could change model number)

5. Logbook - ~$10-18

6. Flight bag - some buy at Sporty’s online store, some use backpacks, etc

7. Headset - suggest just using CAP headsets (free and in airplane) until beginning college and/or continuing flight training

8. Airman Certification Standards (ACS) for Private Pilot - ~$12.95

9. Plotter/Sectional/E6B or CR3 - for cross country flying, not needed initially 

10. 2023 FAR/AIM - suggest paper ~$19.95 (we all buy new one each year)



CAP Cadet Wings​ program/scholarship for active CAP cadets.  CAPP 60-43 has valuable information about the program and is a must read. Check out more information about CadetInvest on CAP National website. 

Important details:

  1. The application window for this scholarship is October 1st to December 31st.
  2. Apply through the CadetInvest website.
  3. Cadets need to have completed private written exam and solo to demonstrate their dedication to follow through in order to be considered for this scholarship
  4. Read CAPP 60-43 
  5. Talk more with your instructor about the scholarship.


Next Steps

Review the list of things to do at the beginning of this article.  

Get your FAA Medical Exam completed around age 15 (if there is something that will prevent you from getting medical clearance, better to know now before doing a lot of work towards your flying career).  

Start saving up your money.  

Purchase or download the necessary books.  

Contact a CAP instructor.  


Private Pilot Certificate Requirements

What does it take to become a private pilot?
It takes time, money and commitment.
An absence of any of the above will prevent you from reaching your goal. Less of one can be made up for by extra of another but you will need at least some of each. The FAA Part 61 requires the following for an Airplane Single Engine Rating:
Total Time: 40 hours minimum which consists of at least:

Dual: 20 hours minimum of flight training with an instructor on the Private Pilot areas of operation including:

  1. 3 hours of cross country flight training in a single engine airplane;

  2. 3 hours of night flight training in a single engine airplane, that includes at least:

    a) 1 cross country flight of over 100 nm total distance; and

    b) 10 take offs and 10 landings to a full stop with each involving a flight in the traffic pattern at an airport.

  3. 3 hours of flight training by reference to instruments in a single engine airplane; and

  4. 3 hours of flight training in a single engine airplane within the 60 days prior to the

    practical test.

Solo: 10 hours minimum of solo flying in a single engine airplane on the Private Pilot areas

of operation including:

  1. 5 hours of solo cross country flying;

  2. 1 solo cross country flight of at least 150nm total distance with full stop landings at 3

    points and one segment of at least 50nm between T/O and landings; and

  3. 3 Take offs and landings to a full stop at an airport with an operating control tower.


This is where you can save money by practicing on a simulator, watching many videos and reviewing information thoroughly before being in the plane.  
CAP High School Students average 60 hours to obtain Private Pilot Certificate (due to busy high school schedules).  Plan for an additional 50+ ground hours with flight instructors


National Flight Academies 

Other aviation related activities in CAP come through NCSAs (National Cadet Special Activities).  There are flight academies that take students through ground school to solo.  Check out more information here.  



The content of this page is based on a similar page by the Fort Snelling Cadet Squadron compiled by Minnesota CAP Pilots Maj Cathy Plasschaert, Maj Jim Zurales and other CAP materials.  It is used here with their permission.

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