Is Ground School Required for Pilots?

By Pilot Institute
Posted on September 3, 2019 - 5 minute read

Pilot training has come a long way since the early days of aviation. Today, you have access to simulators, videos, and learning resources that were unavailable a few decades ago.

Is ground school required, though? Couldn’t you just study at home and pass the aeronautical knowledge exams on your own?

Worthy questions, indeed.

You need to undergo both ground and flight training to become a pilot, there are no two ways about it.

The flight part is a simple process. You hop on an airplane with an instructor, watch how he or she flies it, and practice until you can do the same.

But what about ground instruction?

You may think that you must attend classes to understand aviation theory, but it’s not the only way to get your ground schooling.

What is Ground School?

Ground training is the instruction a pilot receives through the following sources:

  • Approved ground course
  • Authorized instructor
  • Home-study course

Ground school refers to a structured course with lesson plans, classroom lectures, and tests to demonstrate comprehension.

So, what’s ground school for?

In flight school, you acquire the skills to pilot an aircraft, which include learning how to perform flight maneuvers, procedures, and communications.

A qualified flight instructor will brief you on the content of a flight lesson, demonstrate the tasks you need to learn, and critique your performance so you can improve. Ultimately, your flight training should prepare you to pass the practical test for the issuance of a pilot license.

Similarly, ground school prepares you with sufficient aeronautical knowledge to operate an aircraft safely. Secondly, ground training is crucial to passing the knowledge test, which is a requirement to obtain most pilot licenses.

While in ground school, you learn about aerodynamics, meteorology, and navigation among many other aviation-related topics.

But it’s not just aviation theory.

Ground school also includes operational knowledge, such as aircraft characteristics, inflight procedures, and radio communications.

Is Ground School Required?

You surely need ground training to become a pilot, which requires little elaboration. What warrants an explanation, though, is whether ground school is required to fly airplanes.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gives flight schools the option of operating under one of two sections, or parts, of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

Pilot school may operate under Part 61 or Part 141 with each having its own ground and flight training requirements.

Part 141 schools require an FAA-approved ground course. Therefore, it requires a ground school.

On the other hand, Part 61 schools have no ground course requirements. Instead, you receive ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course. So, ground school isn’t required if you’re training under Part 61.

In either scenario, you must meet the minimum aeronautical knowledge requirements of your desired pilot license.

It’s worth noting that you don’t need a pilot certificate or ground training to start taking flight lessons. You’re required to have both before flying solo, though.

How Long is Ground School?

Although Part 61 pilot schools require no formal ground school, Part 141 schools must provide ground courses with minimum hours of aeronautical knowledge training.

The FAA mandates those minimum hours, which vary depending on your desired pilot license as in the table below:

Pilot license or Rating Minimum hours of ground training
Recreational Pilot 20
Private Pilot 35, 15 (glider), 10 (balloon)
Instrument Rating 30 (initial), 20 (additional)
Commercial Pilot 65 (airship) 35 (airplane), 30 (rotorcraft), 20 (glider and balloon)
Airline Transport Pilot 40

Bear in mind the hours listed are the bare minimums, most pilot schools require quite a few more hours for the completion of ground school. Moreover, quite a few pilot schools started offering online ground courses as an alternative to conventional ground school.

Some schools even offer accelerated pilot training programs, which reduce the duration of ground training to a few days at times.

Whichever the case may be, ground school almost always follows a predetermined schedule.

Graduating from ground school takes a handful of days to several months, depending on the type of ground school, the pilot license sought, and your progress.

How to Make the Best out of Ground School?

You need to take ground training seriously. Don’t be tempted to underestimate aviation theory, thinking you’ll learn it as you fly. You’ll barely have time to practice flight maneuvers in a cockpit.

Acquiring aeronautical knowledge allows you to prepare for the knowledge test, which you need to pass so you can obtain a pilot certificate.

It’s not the main reason why you receive ground instruction, though.

Aviation training of both flight and ground crews aims primarily at achieving safe operations. Knowledge is power, and your aviation knowledge gives you the capacity to make the right decisions at critical moments in flight.

A number of flight schools and training providers offer online ground school, such as the virtual ground training offers to private pilots.

The online course makes for an affordable ground instruction option while providing quality training videos, detailed explanations, and practice questions.

You can complete your ground school virtually only in Part 61 schools, though.

But you can definitely benefit from the wealth of knowledge in an online course no matter where you train to become a pilot.


Be it ground school, lessons from an instructor, or a home-study course, ground training constitutes an integral part of your pilot training.

Pilots learn how to handle an aircraft, but they also need to have solid aviation knowledge. For example, it’s vital to understand how the weather affects aircraft performance.

Your choice of pilot school determines whether ground school is required, and it’s a matter of preference. Studying in a classroom with fellow student pilots might appeal to you, but others prefer learning at their own pace.

Your availability plays a key role in your choice of pilot school, attending a formal ground school requires committing to a schedule. You might not have the time to do so if you got a hectic job or a busy life.

Consider the ground training options and choose what best fit your schedule, needs, and goals.

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