Steps to take in high school to become a commercial pilot?

I am a freshman in high school hoping to pursue a career in flight, Are there any certain classes and steps I can take to start when i’m out of high school? I am planning to go to either a flight school like Purdue or the Air Force Academy.

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Hi @baileygrafmiller, welcome to the IFC! I hope your time with us is enjoyable for you.
As for your question, there are lots of things you can do! I’m in a similar boat, and have been looking into this a lot lately. I am fortunate enough to have a high school program that goes in-hand with IB, which is an NJROTC Aviation program, which offers some minor industry certifications (I think you get your unmanned aircraft license, as well as ground certifications???). For you, I don’t know where you attend, so I don’t know if there is something you can do now.
I’d probably say that while you’re in high school, try and take higher classes, and try and study in areas that you need to major in to become a pilot (it’s stuff like mathematics, physics, and aeronautics) for when you are in college. Beyond that, if you can manage to land a scholarship at a college, that leaves a lot more financial freedom for you to work with (I think that where I live, the total cost of getting all the necessary licenses and certifications is around $150K).

I’m sure that you’ve probably heard at least some of this stuff before, but it’s most of what I can think of off the top of my head. If I can think of something else, I’ll be sure to mention it here. Hope this helps you in your endeavors!

Waxy

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There are! And you don’t have to wait to be out of high school.

The biggest single thing you can do is get exposure to airplanes that are flying and the pilots that are flying them.

Some ways you can do this:

  • Is there a local glider club near you? If you can join as a junior member, you can (legally) solo as early as 14. These hours are ridiculously cheap and will give you a wild headstart in future flight training.
  • If not, join some aviation-related group (EAA, a local flying club, etc.) and go to meetings.
  • Take a discovery flight in a powered plane! If you’re able, get your PPL.
  • Get a job at a local airport, ideally at an FBO but there are other jobs too (the closer to planes and pilots the better).

Why is that exposure important? You want to be around pilots and people doing aviation who can answer your questions and offer guidance. It’ll help you know what to look for choosing programs, what pitfalls to avoid, and you’ll start building a network of people you know and who know you. In a few years they’ll be valuable resources when you’re looking for a job with your new commercial certificate :)

Also — start looking now at what Purdue, the USAFA, anyone else you’re looking at wants for requirements. Start thinking about how you can meet those requirements!

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See if there is a shadow day for a commercial pilot and try that. If you go to college be careful which one you choose. See if they offer a restricted atp for an hours reduction. If you go to the usaf be aware that there is service commitment in exchange for the education.

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There has already been some great advice posted on this topic, and I would second the recommendations above. Most definitely take a discovery flight!

One thing i might mention though, Part 141 training (through Purdue, UND, ATP, etc…) will end up costing a lot more than Part 61 training. If you want a go at your own pace type of deal, id recommend Part 61 over 141.

While it is awesome to get a degree, you really want to consider which route is best for you. If you want to get your flight hours/ratings paid for, id recommend going to college for something else, and then join the military as an officer/get into aviation…

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EAA has a program where pilots voluntarily take kids up in the air and some will let you fly and teach you a lot, I don’t know if that program is all over the place, but I’m in the KC metro and there is some all around here spreading into Kansas, I highly recommend

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Also, if you want to start training asap id recommend you to start studying the ground knowledge. Here is a link to all of the FAA Handbooks for free! (assuming US)

You’ll want

-FAR AIM (Federal Aviation Regulations, Aeronautical Information Manual)
-Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
-Airplane Flying Handbook

If you choose, you could also purchase the Sporty’s Private Pilot Ground Class to prepare for your written as well.

Edit: Additional thing to note, FAA written exams are only good for 24 calendar months. So if you take your written tomorrow, you would have until March 31 2026 to take your Private Checkride or else you would have to redo the written portion.

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This is unrelated to the topic but is it ok to pursue another career in life and take aviation as a hobby? I’ve seen many people fly GA aircraft but many of them are retired commercial pilots. I was planning on aviation as my career but due to me not having a strong side in Maths and Physics I’m trying to adjust to other things. Also I have a broad horizon and I am keen in many things outside of aviation. I still have loads of time to think what I want to do as a job

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Is this even a question? (i know it is, and its a good question, but im making a point) Heck yeah its okay to have aviation as a hobby!

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Yes, if you like business try maybe an aviation management career. Like engineering try it.

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They said they werent strong in Math/Physics, engineering sounds like the opposite XD.

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Thanks. It’s given me hope not to forget about aviation. I was just wondering because it’s known to be expensive and depending on what I do as a job I might not be able to fund it. I’ll obviously try and work very hard to it looks so relaxing. I would love to fly my parents cos they know how much I love planes

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I really wish I could give if an inside look at what my relatives do for work in the aviation field but there are some aspects that are illegal/classified to show.

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Interested in medicine or surgery. It’s a family trait many of my relatives and my grandparents were doctors

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Also, im not the strongest in Math or Physics either. I still got a 3.9 GPA in my Pro Pilot Bachelor’s degree, and am a Commercial Pilot.

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How about a flight surgeon?

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I’ve got a nut allergy tho so military is out of the question. It’s not life threatening it’s just nausea and vomiting and stomach cramps but no anaphylactic shock so it should be ok for military?

NASA has an equivalent and so do private companies such as boring and spacex.

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Medical School + Aviation as a hobby… Hope you have money, cause you’re gonna need it lol

Might be worth focusing on one at a time. Once your a Surgeon or whatever in the medical field, you’ll have plenty.

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My plan is medical school and once or if I become qualified then I’ll work and work other jobs as well then once I get money ( if I do ) then maybe aviation as a hobby. Just don’t get married I guess 🤣. There are loads of jobs you can do in your free time which are quite lucrative

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