A Private Pilot License is the most common certificate held by pilots. The FAA does provide for two lesser certifications (Recreational Pilot and Sport Pilot), however most people quickly realize that those certifications carry significant restrictions on allowable aircraft, night flight and distance that you may fly from your home airport, making a Private Pilot License the most flexible choice.
As a Private Pilot, you may:
- Operate an aircraft at night (subject to currency requirements)
- Fly in all eligible airspace under visual flight rules (VFR). Instrument rating required for instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions
- Under certain conditions, participate in charity flights, angel flight, Civil Air Patrol, etc.
In order to obtain a Private Pilot License, you will need:
- A Third Class medical certificate
- To be able to read, write and speak English
- To be at least 17 years old
- At least 40 hours of logged pilot time, including 20 hours with an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight
- 5 hours of solo cross country flying, including 1 solo cross country flight of at least 150 nautical miles (NM), 3 landings at different airports, and one leg greater than 50 NM
- 3 solo takeoff/landings at a tower controlled airport
- 3 hours of night flying, including 1 cross country flight of over 100 NM, and 10 takeoff/landings to a full stop
- 3 hours of instrument training
- 3 hours of cross country training
- 3 hours of instruction with an authorized instructor in the previous 2 months
- to pass the aeronautical written knowledge test
- to pass an oral examination and check ride
Congratulations – you have earned your Private Pilot License, and have become proficient at flying VFR. The next logical step in your pilot training is an Instrument rating. Not only does being instrument-rated refine your flying skills far beyond those of a regular VFR pilot and add important new abilities, it also is an incredibly useful addition to your flying privileges. Whether it is the typical Bay Area morning marine layer over the field or clouds on your flight path to your destination, an Instrument Rating will allow you to be on your way instead of sitting on the ground. From a safety perspective, an Instrument Rating is an invaluable asset: IFR does not mean bad-weather flying, it means safe flying.
With an Instrument Rating, you are able to:
- Fly in instrument meteorological conditions
- Fly in airspace greater than 18,000' above sea level (MSL) also called Class A airspace
- Operate under SVFR at night.
In order to obtain an Instrument Rating, you will need:
- To hold at least a Private Pilot License
- 50 Hours of logged Pilot in Command cross country
- At least one cross country flight performed under IFR of at least 250 NM, incorporating 3 kinds of instrument approaches
- 40 hours of instrument time - 10 hours may be simulated
- 15 hours of instruction from a Certified Flight Instructor - Instrument (CFII) - 3 hours must have been in the prior 2 months in an appropriate airplane
- Successful completion of a written knowledge test
- Successful completion of an oral examination and checkride
A Commercial Pilot Certificate is a significant step towards becoming a professional pilot. This license type allows you to operate as a paid pilot. It builds on the skills learned as a private pilot, but with tighter restriction on the class of Medical Certificate you must hold (second class required), and the pilot must be able to demonstrate superior airmanship with a series of performance maneuvers held to a higher standard than previous certificates. There are separate single and multiple engine commercial ratings, and pilots will be required to obtain a type rating for different larger aircraft. This does not enable you to act as a pilot in a scheduled passenger airline – for that, you will need an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.
A commercial pilot may act as pilot of an aircraft and be paid for the work.
To obtain a Commercial Pilot License, you will need:
- A Second Class Medical Certificate
- At least a Private Pilot Certificate
A full list of commercial pilot aeronautical experience requirements can be found in FAR 61.129 – the main requirements are:
- At least 250 hours of logged pilot time, including, 100 hours of pilot in command time, of which 50 hours must be cross country
- 20 hours of training that includes:
- 10 hours of instrument training
- 10 hours of training in a complex aircraft
- One 2-hour cross country daytime flight (distance > 100 NM)
- One 2-hour cross country nighttime flight (distance > 100 NM)
- 3 hours of single aircraft instruction time by an authorized instructor in the preceding 2 months
- 10 hours of solo or PIC flight time, that includes:
- One cross country flight of not less than 300 NM, minimum 3 landings, one leg must be over 250 NM
- 5 hours of night VFR flying with 10 takeoff/landings at a tower controlled airport
- If a commercial multi-engine rating is sought, many of the above requirements will have minimum multi-engine times
- To pass the aeronautical written knowledge test
- To pass an oral examination and checkride, which includes advanced performance maneuvers and higher test standards than a Private Pilot Certificate.