Best Private Pilot High School Programs

Are you a high school student interested in becoming a pilot?

There are high school programs that can help you pursue your aspirations to be a pilot. Read on and learn how you can earn your pilot license before you graduate from high school.

Why should you learn to fly as a high school student?

An instructor and student pilot perform a turn above the South-Texas shore line.
An instructor and student pilot perform a turn above the South-Texas shore line.

Earning a private pilot certificate is a huge accomplishment. Less than 1% of people in the United States earn the certificate. Even fewer high school age students earn their pilots licenses. This makes doing so a unique achievement that speaks well of an individual’s dedication and responsibility. Listing a pilot’s certificate on a college application or resume is unique and will stand out. If you want to become a military pilot, having a private pilot certificate will help to demonstrate your desire and ability to be successful in a military flight training program.

Aviation curriculums are challenging. The course work includes the application of math, science and weather principles. For those that earn a certificate, it is confidence building and a point of pride.

High school students who complete their private pilot license can build upon their skills. With continued training and certificates they can become high salaried aviation professionals. Potential aviation careers include instructor pilots, military pilots and commercial pilots. Commercial captains can earn between $90, 000 and $150,000+ a year. Learn more about the pilot occupation by visiting the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Private Pilot Certificate Requirements

The glass-cockpit of a Redhawk Cessna 172.
The glass-cockpit of a Redhawk Cessna 172.

You can start pilot training at any age but, before you can fly solo as a student pilot you must meet the following FAA requirements:

  • You must be 16 years old
  • Read, speak and understand English
  • Hold a third-class medical certificate from an FAA medical examiner

To be eligible for a private pilot certificate, a person must:

  • Be at least 17 years of age (to take the private pilot exam)
  • Log a minimum of 40 hours of flight time
  • Log 10 hours solo including 5 hours cross country
  • Pass a 60 question written knowledge test with a 70% or better
  • Pass an oral practical test
  • Pass a practical flight competency test

The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours of logged flight time to be eligible for a pilot’s license. Keep in mind that it is unusual for students to gain the necessary skills in 40 hours. The national average is greater than 80 hours of flight time to achieve the proficiency required to pass the flight test.

Visit the FAA website to learn more details about private pilot requirements.

Typical Program Costs

A student pilot checks his fuel during a pre-flight.
A student pilot checks his fuel during a pre-flight.

Pilot courses are divided into two distinct activities: ground school and actual flying. The flying portion can be further divided into dual-flight where you are flying with an instructor and solo-flight in which you are alone in the aircraft.

The cost of ground school can range from $300 to $500 for 35 hours of class room time. Flight time is considerably more expensive. In most flight schools, students pay fees for the instructor, aircraft and fuel. It is estimated that dual-flight training costs are close to $3.00 a minute while solo time is slightly less expensive at $2.00 a minute. At these cost levels, you can expect to pay $6,600 to complete your required 40 hours of flying. Remember, the average flight time for a student is 80 hours, so you might pay as much as $13,800.

There are some programs, like that offered at the Marine Military Academy, that are “fix fee.” In a fix-fee program, flight-hours are not a cost factor. The number of flight hours are unlimited. A student pays the same amount whether they complete the certificate in 40 or 100 hours.

Simulator Training

MCX full-motion simulator
Internal view of MCX full-motion flight simulator

Simulator training is one way in which expensive flight costs can be reduced. Students can practice basic skills using the simulators and then transition those skills to the actual aircraft. Transition training reduces the number of aircraft flight hours because required skills are developed in the simulator and not in the air.

Another advantage of simulator training is that they allow student pilots to be introduced to issues that would be risky in the air. Hazardous attitudes and conditions can be practiced in the simulator which is a safe alternative to performing these maneuvers in the air.

Time in a simulator can be counted as actual flight time. A student pilot can count a maximum of 2.5 hours of flight time toward a private pilot’s certificate using an FAA approved flight simulator. Fewer hours in the air means lower costs to get your license. Simulator costs at flight schools can run as much as $100/hour which is nearly half the cost of flight time.

Click the following link to learn more about flight simulators.

Advantages of High School Aviation Programs

pre-flight checking an aircraft
Student pilots perform a pre-flight check with their instructor.

Only a handful of high schools in the United States offer pilot certificate programs. These programs typically offer elective-credit toward graduation. A number of public high schools have curriculums that focus on aircraft maintenance with elective course work geared toward the written portion of the private pilot test. There are several public magnet schools such as the SAMS Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico that have full-fledge pilot training programs. Other schools have adopted ground school training as part of their STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives. Unfortunately, public school programs are limited to those students who reside within that school district.

If your local high school does not offer ground school then a private boarding school might be a great alternative. There are a number of boarding schools that offer full-fledged pilot certificate programs. These schools often have dedicated flight instructors, aircraft and are located near an airfield. Programs costs are not included in the school’s tuition, but are an extra student paid expense. A benefit of a boarding school flight program is that they are often designed around a student’s schedule. This allows a student the opportunity to complete the necessary classroom and flight hours as part of the normal school day.

Boarding School Flight Training Programs

Below is a list of boarding school’s with flight training programs. These are some of the best private pilot high school programs in the U.S.:

Name: Marine Military Academy
Type: Military Boarding School, Marine Corps JROTC
Location: Harlingen, Texas
Program Details:
The program flies from the adjacent Valley International Airport. The airport sports an FAA control tower and three paved runways. The longest runway is 8,301 feet. Students fly a Redbird’s Redhawk Cessna 172 with a modern avionics package (glass cockpit). The program includes an FAA certified full-motion Redbird FMX flight simulator.  Students who earn their private pilots license can then work on their instrument rating. The school campus is on the site of a World War II Army Air Corps training facility. The flying weather is good year round. Boasting on average 220 sunny-days a year.

Here is a video that discusses the benefits of the Redhawk training aircraft:

Take a flight in a Redhawk Cessna 172 from Valley International Airport in Harlingen to South Padre Island:


Name: Florida Air Academy
Type: Military Boarding School, Air Force JROTC
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Program Details:
Flight instructors are from Florida Institute of Technology. They fly from the Melbourne International Airport with three runways the longest of which is 6,000 feet. There are 30 single and twin engine aircraft available for training; including Piper Warriors, Arrow and the multi-engine Seminole.


Name: Randolph-Macon Academy
Type: Military Boarding School, Air Force JROTC
Location: Front Royal, Virginia
Program Details:
This program uses the Jeppesen-Sanderson private pilot training materials. They have PC based flight simulators and own two Cessna 172SPs. They fly from the Front Royal/Warren Country Airport which has a 3007 ft single-runway.


Name: Admiral Farragut Academy
Type: Military Boarding School, Naval JROTC
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Program Details:
The program includes two FAA certified flight simulators. Two Cessna 172 are used for flight training. They fly from the Albert Whitted Regional Airport which has two runways the longest of which is 3, 677 ft.


Name: Missouri Military Academy
Type: Military Boarding School, Army JROTC
Location: Mexico, Missouri
Program Details:
The program contracts with a local flying school (Stuart Flying of Mexico, Mo) and uses a Piper Warrior as a training aircraft. They fly from the Mexico Memorial Airport which has two runways the longest of which is 5,501 ft.

Notable Public School Flight Training Programs

Here is a list of public high schools that offer flight training options:

SAMS Academy (Southwest Aeronautics, Mathematics and Science Academy) is a magnet charter school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The School leases a Cessna 172 and a Diamond DA40 from Bode Aviation located at Double Eagle II Airport. The program includes two Redbird MCX full-motion simulators.

Davis Aerospace Technical High School at Golightly. This is a Detroit, Michigan public school. The school’s primary focus is aviation maintenance but it does have a pilot’s certificate program. They have two flight simulators and four Cessna aircraft.

Rancho High School in Las Vegas, Nevada offers a ground school course.

The following public schools focus mainly on aircraft maintenance but do offer access to ground school course work.

Aviation High School in New York City, New York offers a ground school course.

Nenana City Public School located in Nenana, Alaska

Scholarship Flight Training in Sandpoint, Idaho

Oakland Aviation High School in Oakland, California

The Marine Military Academy pilot training program features the Redhawk Cessna 172 and  FMX & TD2 flight simulators.  To learn more about our high school pilot training program  visit the Flight Training page of our website.

Marine Military Academy is a Private All Boys High School located in South-Texas.