Frequently Asked Questions

Your Guide to Flight Training

What's the difference between a private pilot, commercial pilot and airline pilot?

A private pilot certificate allows you to operate an aircraft for pleasure or personal business purposes, carry an unlimited number of passengers, and fly below 18,000 feet to virtually anywhere in the U.S. However, you can’t be paid for your services. The FAA requires a minimum of 35 hours to become a private pilot. This is also a required first step to becoming a commercial pilot.

If you want to be paid to fly then you are required to hold a commercial pilot license. Possible career paths include aerial photography, air tours, crop dusting, banner flying, etc. You need at least 250 hours of flight time to become a commercial pilot.

An airline pilot is what you are most familiar with. Airline pilots are required to have 1500 hours of flight time and an air transport certificate. The number of required flight hours can be reduced through certain programs. Airline pilots transport people or cargo on a scheduled route and can expect to make six figures a year.

What are the minimum requirements to become a pilot?

1. Be at least 17 years of age (16 to get a student pilot certificate and begin training)
2. Be able to read, write, and converse fluently in English
3. Obtain at least a third-class FAA medical certificate
4. Receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course
5. Pass a knowledge test with a score of 70% or better.
6. Accumulate appropriate flight experience
7. Successfully complete a practical (flight) test given as a final exam by an FAA inspector or
designated pilot examiner in program area

Do pilots make good money?

While pilot salaries are not the same across the board, industry reports predict a shortage of pilots and a rise in demand for skilled employees. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average salary for a commercial pilot is $118,000. Salaries overall can range from $42,000 to $270,000 in the U.S. Job responsibilities, status, experience and employer will influence these numbers.

Do I need a college degree to become a pilot?

The short answer is no. However, holding an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree can reduce the number of required flight hours to become an airline pilot from 1500, to 1250 or 1000 respectively. Additionally, pilots with former military flight experience can reduce their hours down to as low as 750 hours.

What is a Discovery Flight?

A Discovery Flight is a 30-minute introductory flight over Jacksonville, alongside one of our instructors. This is a great opportunity to experience being a pilot for the first time and take control of the aircraft to see if this career path is right for you.

What is the difference between a part 141 and a part 61 training school?

Sterling Flight Training is authorized to train students under Part 61 or Part 141. Both sets of regulations define minimum requirements for pilot training and certification.

Part 141 regulations are related to the structure and of the training and may only be offered by FAA-approved schools. In order to become approved, a flight school must meet certain requirements and submit each curriculum it wishes to have approved to the FAA for review. Part 141 approved schools are subject to regular surveillance audits by the FAA and must meet minimum pass rates on the practical exams.

Any certified flight instructor may teach students under Part 61 and is not regulated by the FAA.

International students are required to train under Part 141 at Sterling Flight Training.

When can I start?

Our career pilot program starts the first of each month and our individual courses offer rolling enrollment. Our flight training programs are completely flexible to meet your needs. Students complete online courses and work individually with an instructor to meet ground school and flight requirements.

Most full time students train in two hour flight blocks with one hour of ground school four to five days per week. At the very least, we encourage students to fly at least two days per week in approximately two hour blocks so information is not lost between lessons.

How much time will training take?

Training time tables vary from program to program and are dependent upon the student’s schedule and proficiency. A dedicated student can earn their private pilot license in as little as two months and go from zero experience to commercial pilot in as little as twelve months.

Is financing available?

Yes. While Sterling does not provide in-house financing, we partner with several organizations to provide financing options including an option for up to 100% financed professional pilot training.

Students may also pay as they go for flight lessons, but must maintain a positive balance in their account.

Can I use my military benefits?

Yes. We are approved through the Florida Veteran Affairs office to accept VA benefits. However, you can not use these benefits toward your private pilot license. If you are training directly with Sterling then you will pay training costs out of pocket and be reimbursed by the VA.

If you are a Liberty University or Purdue Global University student, then you can use your VA and GI Bill® benefits toward tuition and training expenses. Again, these benefits will not cover the cost of your private pilot certificate. Liberty University also participates in the Yellow Ribbon program which can result in up to 100% of your training costs being covered.

Is housing available?

Yes. Furnished, shared accommodations are available for $250/week including utilities, and are less than 2 miles from campus. A $300 refundable damage deposit will be due when you check-in on your program class date.

How much does each lesson cost?

Lessons are typically scheduled for a 2-hour block of time. Each lesson could include some ground instruction, aircraft time or any combination of the two. The exact cost of each lesson will be determined by the length of lesson and type of instruction received.


Students paying out of pocket are likely to pay as you go. Depending on the time length of the lesson for the day (aircraft and instructor time) is what you will be charged until your next lesson. You can also have the option to create a prepay account with the school to set money aside for your training.

Ready to Soar?

Ready to be a Professional Pilot? Want to experience our Redbird FMX Simulator, or join our ranks via your university’s aviation program? Let’s get you in the air.

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