The comprehensive list of pilot training resources

The comprehensive list of pilot training resources

February 20, 2019

In our first post of the Learn to Fly series, we discussed the importance of identifying training resources. So, here they are! Get ready to bookmark.

Bottom Line Up Front

There are numerous resources that will get you across the Private Pilot finish line, but the following are our top recommendations:

PHAK and AFH. Start with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) and Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH). Read them. Learn them. Love them. These publications will give you a solid understanding of the most important concepts in flying.

Online Ground School. Watch the free Fly8ma online ground school.

Test Banks. Use online test banks to prepare for the written exam. The Sporty’s and Exams4Pilots test banks are excellent free resources. Fly8ma and MZeroA are great paid resources in case you need to more comprehensively test your knowledge and track your progress.

Gleim. If you need more help, invest in the Gleim Private Pilot textbooks. They are affordable and contain a tone of information, as well as additional test questions.

IFR Prep. Use Sheppard Air when you’re finished with your Private Pilot certification and are ready to take on your Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rating.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into some of the top resources available to pilots today.


    There are four major Private Pilot textbooks, which offer both Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and IFR choices:

    Jeppesen. Do you like to read the encyclopedia? Do you have time on your hands and don't want to miss even the tiniest detail of information? Then these books are for you! The major setback is the cost. They are four times as expensive as the other publications. They are the primary resource of information for flight schools; however, in my opinion, the juice is not worth the squeeze.

    Gleim. If you had to choose to spend money on just one book, I recommend this one. It’s a quality book that contains all the information you need to complete your Private Pilot rating and includes many test questions in printed format. Gleim has an online test bank as well, but don’t waste your time on it.

    Rod Machado. The author is encyclopedic in his knowledge and makes you think and laugh at the same time. However, the book is long, and you better be ready for some extended anecdotal excursions.

    FAA. As some sort of unexpected public service, the FAA puts out its own books and they happen to be some of the best written resources available to pilots. The important thing to note here is that these guys also write the tests. I consider the PHAK and AFH to be mandatory downloads directly from the FAA website for free. In addition, there are two IFR textbooks available when you’re ready to take on your IFR rating.


    YouTube is a tremendous resource. I taught myself to land mostly by repeatedly watching videos of a CFI and his student landing my exact model of airplane with a GoPro aimed straight out over the cowling. Due to this, I can visualize my landings perfectly every time.

    YouTube is also a good resource for supporting your passion of flying. It contains bucket list items, such as flying the Hudson Corridor and the Lancairs in formation. Some of my favorite channels include Aviation101, JustPlaneSilly, and CaptainJoe

    The Air Safety Institute has a great series of videos that, if it were up to me, every student pilot would be forced to watch. The videos cover aircraft incidents and accidents and they truly drive home what not to do.

    Last, but certainly not least, Fly8ma has a free, comprehensive online ground school. IFR training is available as well, although it is not as extensive as the paid version. Did I mention it is free? Paired with the PHAK, online test questions, and some flash cards, you will crush that exam on your first time.

    Online Schools

    There are two schools that offer fantastic value for your money, which is true for private pilot and IFR ratings. Go to Fly8ma and MZeroA for

    • test banks that track your progress,
    • extensive video databases, and
    • community support to answer your concerns. 


    The FAA website is a priceless source of information. The FAA publishes many helpful documents, such as sectional charts, IFR charts and procedures, N-numbers, pilot license information, aviation and safety data, National Airspace statistics, pilot and nonpilot training resources, and regulations. A new private pilot should also sign up for the WINGS program. In short, you will visit this site frequently.


    The name alone is unique and so is their approach to information sharing. This group is an extremely useful resource and, in my opinion, signing up for their emails is mandatory. Several times a week, you will receive emails with links to their extensive database of pilot training articles. In each email, you will also find a helpful quiz and aviation trivia.


    The AOPA is a great source for general aviation news, pilot resources, safety information, fly-in information, and anything else you may want or can think of. In addition, student pilots get a free magazine, so why not join!

    Social Media

    Social media offers a great window into your local pilot community. It is very likely that there is a Facebook group that is lead and dedicated to your local aviators. Don’t feel obligated to post, simply joining will be enough to get priceless information regarding

    • where the best local airports are,
    • which airports have courtesy cars or good food nearby,
    • where to find a CFI,
    • the local crash information, and
    • much, much more.

    Weather Resources

    Most new pilots don't know that in the past, pilots had to get a legal weather brief from Flight Service before every flight. Now, you can self-brief and, eventually, you may even benefit from a paid app, which will translate the reports into plain language for you.

    Today, the two best weather sites are 1800wxbrief and Aviationweather. However, for those of you who like to get your weather brief the old school way, 1-800-WX-BRIEF is still available.

    In addition, pay attention to the Graphical Forecast for Aviation (GFA) Tool, as it contains forecasts of icing , turbulence, cloud tops and bases, IFR conditions, thunderstorms, and more.

    Other Resources

    • Barnstormers, Trade-a-Plane, and Controller are great websites if you’re in the market to sell or purchase an airplane.
    • Fun places to fly contains aviation events, lists of great places to visit, and more!
    • The Killing Zone: How and Why Pilots Die is a survival guide for new pilots, which identifies the pitfalls waiting inside the killing zone.
    • Here's a freebie about those Complete Private Pilot Kits you see on Amazon and elsewhere. Don’t waste your money. Instead, spend it on a headset, flight bag, handheld radio, textbook, or maybe even some flash cards? You don't need an ancient King DVD to learn everything you need to know. As you’ve already seen, there are many free resources available to you.

    If you made it this far, and you appreciate our moderately controversial disputations, then please like and share us on Facebook and consider letting us help you become a better pilot by purchasing one of our products.

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