For some teens, life takes off with a pilot’s license

By Mara Froemling

McClatchy Newspapers

Being able to fly away at the drop of a hat probably belongs in the realm of fantasy for most teens. But for those with a private pilot’s license, the experience is available all the time.

Obtaining a pilot’s license is not easy but certainly possible. The minimum age to obtain a private pilot’s license is 17.

Danner Pruhs, 16, is a junior at South High School in Anchorage, Alaska, and a student of Take Flight Alaska, a flying school near Merrill Field in Anchorage. She is planning to take the test to become a private pilot as soon as she turns 17.


"You start out doing introductory flights with an instructor," Danner said. "Then you start flying more independently and using the radios more, with the instructor helping less and less. Then, gradually, you work up to doing everything yourself."

Danner said she thinks 17 is a good age to be able to get the license because even though it may seem young at first, "there are so many requirements, commitments and things you have to do, that by the time you complete them all you’re ready and mature enough for it."

The requirements to graduate from Take Flight Alaska’s private pilot course involve a minimum of 20 hours of flying with an instructor, and 15 hours of the student flying solo. Also required is 35 hours of ground instruction and 10.5 hours of pre/post-flight briefing.

Even with all that practice and training, new pilots might feel nervous about their first few times in the air, much like how new drivers might feel when learning to drive.

For Danner, however, flying is already becoming second nature.

"Both of my parents have their licenses so I’ve always been around planes. It’s common to be nervous the first time, but you just have to be safe about it," she said. "There’s a lot of safety precautions involved; it’s not as scary as people might think."

After the training is completed, it is time for the final test.

"It’s called a check ride. It’s like what they do for driving a car," Danner said. "You have to pass a written part and then a flying part testing your skills — like for driving a car except way more intense since you have to do emergency stuff too, like stalls and engine failure."


Where does she plan to fly when she gets her license? Mostly, she said, to her family’s cabin.

Mara Froemling is a junior at South High School.

Wanna fly?

The requirements for being issued a private pilot’s license are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. To get a private pilot’s license, you must

  • be at least 17 years old.
  • have a current FAA third-class medical certificate.
  • log at least 40 hours of flight.
  • have at least 20 hours of flight with an instructor.
  • have at least 10 hours of solo flight.
  • pass the FAA private pilot airmen knowledge written test.
  • pass an FAA private pilot flight exam.


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