Here are the very basic requirements. Keep in mind that this is a rough overview with much of the detail omitted:
- If you are a US Citizen you must show a valid passport or other acceptable documentation as required by TSA
- If you are a foreign national, you must receive permission to train by making application through the TSA’s Alien Flight Student Program
- You must be at least 17 years old and have a good command of the English language; reading, writing and speaking. You can solo at 16, but you can’t take the practical test until you are 17.
- You must be able to pass a basic medical exam given by an Aviation Medical Examiner.
- You must pass the FAA’s written knowledge test which requires appropriate ground instruction and home study. These are given at testing centers and consist of 60 multiple choice questions. A passing grade is 70%.
- You will need at least 40 hours of total flight time. Of those 40 hours:
- At least 20 must be with a flight instructor
- At least 10 must be solo flight
- You must have a series of logbook endorsements given by your instructor which indicate that you are proficient in various areas of your flight training.
- You must pass a practical test (often called a checkride), given by an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), which will last several hours, and consists of an oral exam and a flight test. The parameters and guidelines for these exams are provided in the Airman’s Certification Standards (ACS), which can be downloaded here.
Keep in mind that these are the minimum requirements and most people require significantly more flight time to become proficient.