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What Is a Discovery Flight at a Flight School?

A discovery flight is an introductory flight in a private plane. The purpose is to give you the experience of what it is like to be a pilot in a private airplane.  It is not required prior to starting to take formal flying lessons but many people want to get the experience and a discovery flight is the logical first step to testing that idea. You will have hands-on-controls – you will get to participate.

If you like, some flight schools can also allow a passenger in the back seat to fly along and also see what the whole thing is about.  Often, a parent may want to do their own real-time research while bringing a high school or college student to the flight school for a discovery flight.  Sorry: NO PETS.

Related: How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot?

Casual First Exposure

Your pilot will be friendly and relaxed.  You will have a chance to ask questions and get a short primer on flying prior to getting in the airplane.  Your instructor will ask you some questions to get a better idea about your level of interest in becoming a pilot.  It is a “quasi-lesson” with some learning but the main reason is to relax and get the feel of flying.  Do some sight-seeing, get the feel of motion in a small plane.  It is far different from a large passenger plane.  Private planes are much lighter so you can feel the air more and feel some bumps from updrafts or crosswinds.

If you need pilot training in Arizona, Leopard Aviation offers various paths to help you get started. Take a look and learn what it takes to obtain your certificates, ratings, and pilot license.

How Long Will It Take?

During a typical discovery flight, you’ll get a briefing for about 15-20 minutes, fly for 30-60 minutes or an hour, and to chat with the instructor-pilot if you have any questions or if you decide to go to the next step and begin taking lessons. Allow about 2 hours from arrival to departure.

How Much Will It Cost?

The typical first discovery flight will cost between $199 and $299.  In some cases, the flight school may apply this to your first true lesson if you sign up that day.

Related: Choosing a Flight School: Costs and What to Look for

What Do I Bring With Me?

The flight school will give you everything you need.  But, don’t wear sandals or flip-flops.  They may be uncomfortable on the plane and could even be unsafe when pushing floor pedals.

What Will It Involve – What Will I Learn?

close-up of an idle N882LA aircraft

There will be the safety walkaround to inspect the airplane. This is when you and your instructor walk around every inch of the aircraft, inspecting it, checking tires, inspecting the prop, and checking the oil and fuel level. After this walkthrough, you’ll climb into the aircraft and begin the preflight checklist.

The preflight checklist is a list of items to think about and make sure all the dials, controls are ready for departure. It isn’t like starting a car, buckling the seatbelt, turning the key, placing it in drive and off you go. There are specific things you must check before takeoff, such as the amount of fuel you have, oil, batteries, and seat positions.

The instructor will make all the radio calls to the tower – asking for permission to taxi, then to take off.  The instructor will taxi the plane and do the takeoff.

At some point in the flight, you will likely be allowed to fly the aircraft on your own, with the flight instructor coaching you. After takeoff and when the instructor has maneuvered to a safe altitude, he or she will demonstrate how to do basic turns, climbs, and descents, and will let you control the aircraft. Depending on your confidence, you might even be able to perform a private pilot maneuver or two.  It’s all dependent on your level of comfort, and the instructor will ask you before giving you control of the airplane.  Some people just want to fly and not participate. 

How Will It All End?

There will be an opportunity to look around and see the earth from a bird’s eye perspective.  The instructor will then bring you back to the airport and do the landing and taxi back to the hangar or parking ramp spot.

How Long Would It Take To Get My Private Pilot License?

You can learn at your own pace at some schools.  Others require a certain pace and certain number of lessons per week.  A medium pace would be 2-3 lessons per week – each lesson taking about 2 hours.  It can be done even if you work full time.  At an average pace of 2-3 lessons per week, you can get your PPL (Private Pilot License) in about 3 months.  You could do it during summer break from school if you started right away in late May.

Once you’ve passed the final “check ride” for your license, the license never expires.  If you don’t fly for an extended period, you may need to return for a short flight with an instructor before you can fly alone again.  But, your license never goes away – for life.

Related: Commercial Pilot License (CPL) Requirements

How Much Would It Cost?

You can earn your private pilot license for a total cost of between $12,000 and $17,000.  It depends on how much effort you put into self-study and focus.  This cost incudes plane rental time, instructor costs, and fuel.  You may wish to also buy your own books and headset but many flight schools have those that you can borrow.  Books and a great headset can cost from $300 to $1200.

What Do People Say After Their First Discovery?

Certified Flight Instructor ready for a Discovery Flight

That question is easy:  they typically ask: “When can I do THAT again?”
Explore what it’s like to be a pilot with Leopard Aviation’s Discovery Flight program. Our certified flight instructors will guide you toward turning your dreams into a reality.

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