How difficult is Aviation?


I was just wondering how difficult aviation is in general. I’m not really naturally smart, I just have a really hard work ethic. Btw I have a 3.6 G.P.A. in High School. I’m descent in math (get B’s) and really good in science. I was wondering how challenging flying is in general. How hard is ground school? How hard are the concepts of flying to master? Could an aviation degree be compared to an engineering degree in difficulty?

Please help.

I didn’t find the right solution from the Internet.


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Health issues set aside (say you pass your medical), the theory parts are no comparison to an engineering degree. You can earn a PPL in 3 months or less working at it full time everyday and when you reach 17 year old I think, amd some pass the test at 65 too. It can take 6 years of full time studying to earn master degree or equivalent. A written exam is mostly memorizing things, math questions are a little bit of trigonometry and basic multiplications/divisions, rather trivial. With some minor refresher I could pass any written I took so far but forget about me resolving even 1% of the problems I learnt to solve when I was in school in my 20s, lost way too many neurons since then…

If I can do it, you can!

Like most things in life, if you’re really interested it doesn’t seem difficult really. And flying modern general aviation airplanes such as the Cirrus is easier than ever before thanks to technology.

You do ask to compare an engineering degree with an aviation degree, and I’ll say that with an engineering degree you can go on to do anything, including flying. Probably not so much with an aviation degree.

I’ll also say that learning to fly is easy enough that you can be a bad pilot. The training “system” is, let’s say, variable. Beyond ground school and basic airplane flying it takes a lot of honest self awareness to be a good pilot.

On a scale of 1 (easy) to 10 (hard), I give aviation a 6, and not so much because its hard, but, rather, because there’s just a lot of it: Weather, aerodynamics, regulations, communicatons, charts, navigation, emergencies, accident review…all require study and effort, but, I dont find the principles themselves all that difficult!

If you are speaking of the actual act of flying, i.e. stick and rudder skills – I consider riding a bicycle a 6 and flying a plane at maybe a 7… There are only really about 4 places in a flight that piloting skills are crucial:

  1. t.o. has to be down the center line, requiring coordination with rudder and cross wind competence; a close cousin is go arounds, which continue to be a problem for some pilots;

  2. the base to final turn has to be sans wing loading and must be coordinated;

  3. landing is easy, only requiring good cross wind ability, once speed control, direction and flare are learned…otherwise I consider it much like learning to ride a bike – once you got it, given reasonable recurrent training, you keep it.

  4. hand flying by instruments, maybe an 8…its easy once you learn and develop confidence, only achieved by doing – but, the possibility of disorientation and vertigo, which I am conscious of while hand flying in imc, is real, making this skill an 8 on our difficulty scale, but, a 5 if Ive been doing it lately – this is definitely one area that requires continued proficiency checks.

  5. transition from imc to landing is a 6, but, for some reason, possibly because of complacency after having fulfilled the hard part, a fair number of pilots lose it here. As long as we stay in the game till clear of the active, its a 6…

So, at this point, a casual reader may ask, then whats the big deal? Why do so many pilots die?

Quite simply…poor JUDGEMENT. And place this one at a solid 9.5! Why is it so difficult to acquire good judgement? Because its not found exclusively in a book – Good judgement is largely the product of dna, good role models and bad experiences…and those can be hard lessons learned…My personal strategy?

Learn from the mistakes of others – The Nall Report, published annually by the AOPA based on NTSB accident reports for the most recent period covered – usually a couple of years behind (which is of little consquence since the narrative doesnt change much from one year to the next). Attitude is everything – follow the rules; dont try to impress; realize it can happen to you (or any of us); dont give up nor surrender control; and flying can be as fun as it is rewarding!

I believe if we avoid what I ve termed the 7 deadly sins of GA, we mitigate the vast majority of risk, thereby achieving – good judgement!

I can speak with authority here, as I am no engineer at all.

An “aviation degree” is not a specific thing. But aeronautical engineering, the closest pairing, is easier than electrical engineering.

Engineering is a hard major, requires about 60 hours of work in the college week. Most college kids don’t want to work that hard, or find he math too challenging. You won’t, because you are the kind of kid who is asking this question at this point in you’re life, a time in life when I (a very serious person) had no thoughts for anything except Mary Ann Liberatore, a few beers, and playing shortstop.

That kind of thinking ahead is a good predictor

You can get quite a few types of aviation degrees. Some of the subsets, at Auburn University, near me, are almost like business degrees- airport management, etc. Their pilots and graduates, are excellent. Embry Riddle in FL, has a great reputation as an aviation college.

Here I thought the business of aviation was something like this:

Create a huge pile of cash money, douse it with 100LL (avgas), and light it up.

There is an old joke that if a stockbroker knew in 1903 what would happen to everybody’s money in aviation over the next 100 years… he’d have shot Orville down.

Engineering is a great major, and the engineers among us make the best pilots, I’d say- something good about that stepwise analytical approach.

Though lots of good pilots come to it with no more background than a love of the romance of flight, their discipline a more studied variety, not so natural- like me.

Learning to fly? Oh, it’s a great adventure, learn physics, weather, aerodynamics, mechanics, navigation and maps. I LOVE maps! Then there’s the view out the window- nothing beats it.

Steady application and you’ll get that done, enjoy most of it, with that huge excitement of learning something new.

Flying? Learn it pretty young, it’ll be reflexive. It’s easy, until something breaks.

It’s a lucky thing to be your age, with your head up, paying attention.

Good luck!

I think the answer is that if you have a good attitude to learning, are able to follow rules, have a slightly above average intelligence, have some disposable income and lots of extra time you should be able to do this. Remember too, that if you are young and you take all the money you are going to spend on aviation and instead put it into a stock market index fund, you could buy an awesome beach house when you retire.

Personality, not smarts, is truly the major part of failure as a pilot. Assess yourself honestly before you do this. If you are rebellious, macho, impulsive, fatalistic or feel like nothing bad could ever happen to you, run away from aviation. Don’t look back. It’s not for you. These people die and take their passengers with them. No shit.

Becoming a good pilot takes years and years, but you can be very, very safe from the start if you respect the dangers, follow the rules, ask lots of dumb questions and try to use caution at all times. If you join COPA and read a lot of the posts inside the member part of the site, you will get a sense of how pilots think. It only costs the equivalent of 20 minutes of flying, so join.

We are really good with newbies, but you’ll need a little bit of thick skin for those times when someone points out that you used an aviation term to describe your math skills…[;)]

I agree with everything you said above, except: Aeronautical Engineering in not easier than Electrical Engineering. I am an EE by training, and have a good understanding of what constitutes AE degree programs. In fact, you can look up the course catalog at a university of your choice. AE degree overlaps with Mechanical Engineering by about 70 per cent. The rest is specific to aircraft design, propulsion, aerodynamics etc. Fun stuff.

Aeronautical Engineering programs should not be confused with the so-called aviation management programs, which focus on airport and airline operations.


The aviation world is full of jokes about the intelligence of pilots. You do not have to be super smart to be a pilot. There is not much math involved in flying and there is nothing close to have having an engineering degree that is required. Many airlines want to hire pilots these days with “aviation degrees” but have one of them doe not teach you how to fly.

If you have the desire, the ability to exercise good judgement and decision making, and an aptitude to learn; you can be a pilot. Ground school is easier than most high school or college course because you are learning something that applies to the practical aspect of flying a plane. Some of the questions are theoretical in nature but most require simply the knowledge needed to take an average flight. Sure you might get the esoteric questions wrong on the test but you can still pass otherwise.

The challenge of flying is having the right attitude, discipline and commitment to complete the process. A high IQ is not required!

There are plenty of brilliant idiots as well.

Great responses. I might add: passion. Most in aviation that I come across, myself included–and my dad & grandfather–have a passion for it. We love planes. Plane museums. Plane movies. Planes on YouTube. Seeing the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds… etc.

Aviation is a life long pursuit in many ways but if you genuinely love it, you will always have the energy for another book, another flash card, another touch-and-go, another endorsement…

you made it this far. Have you done a demo flight yet?

ps It may be a chicken or egg type thing, but in my case I started flying lessons in high school and it made me a better student. Made me smarter too. My grades sucked and I didn’t really care nor in fact did I ever really "learn how to learn. Flying changed that. A few years later I was a pilot AND Latin honors from UCLA. Like marrying a good woman, aviation has the power to change all for the better.

pps. Only an idiot thinks they are smart. The smartest people i know recognize their limits and see their own strengths/weaknesses. I bet you are plenty smart, and humble–two great elements in flying.

I think the way to look at aviation is that it is a lifestyle. Getting the ratings/certificates are only the beginning, they take time but are not too hard. They teach you the basics needed for a career of learning, but none of them are sufficient to operate in the full envelope of what one will find in the real world. So that lifestyle which starts slow and advances incrementally is an amazing adventure.

However, don’t for one instance think that at 500 hours with a shiny new Commercial certificate and an instrument rating that you are ready for all that mother nature can throw at you. Sure is fun to advance and to learn though. I think of it similar to medicine. A new Doc right after completing his or her 14 years of College, Medical school, residency and fellowship has just about the right amount of tools to really start learning. [;)]

My son is a major airline captain and came up the college aviation route. He knew from very early on he wanted to be a professional aviator and never wavered from his goal. Lifelong love of aviation is a common trait I seem to find in pilots and that is critical as this isn’t always the easiest career path one could take. Academically I don’t think you would find the intellectual / learning elements overwhelming and I do think less demanding than engineering / science tracks. I think if I asked my son what he would do differently, it would be to incorporate a dual major and some broadening on the academic side.

Aviation is one of the more fickle career paths you could choose, both from a medical certification basis (there are many career ending diagnoses you could receive as a commercial pilot or controller over the course of your life that would have zero impact on other career paths) and economics (flight training on top of academics will add substantially to your educational costs; plus while aviation careers are pretty good right now there have been lots of cyclical events that have really challenged many). So I would advise you to assess how much you really ‘love’ flying, talk first hand to as many people in the field as you can before you go down this path … if its in your soul to do this, prepare yourself intelligently for what its going to take to get there and mean to your life.

Best wishes in your journey!

Can you ride a bike? If so, you should have no trouble mastering aviation. As to the bookwork, I see no misspellings in your question which puts you way ahead of the many thousand members here at COPA.

You’ll do fine if you focus and don’t quit.

You’re in high school with a 15 year old daughter?

Didn’t you also come on here asking about COPA airlines?

Something seems a bit off…

I’m betting it’s his child using his account … read the bio afterwards and did not compute for me either.

I got my PPL in 2.5 months in the Bay Area (pretty busy airspace) with just flying 3 times a week and I am definitely not the smart of the bunch. But, it took me 6 years to get my Computer Sc. undergrad and Masters degree. So, I would think, aviation is easier than engineering degree. But, this is based on 1 data point and hence statistically cannot be extrapolated with confidence.

It also struck me as very strange that most of the recent Guest Forum posts end with some Internet References that did not seem to answer the question???

You can get into aviation with the money of an engineer.

You won’t get into engineering easily if you are in aviation.

Go engineering, learn to fly for a passion as able.

Very suspicious indeed.

I think this Jensen character is actually a bot that just copies and pastes old posts from other websites on here and links to them.