Types of Pilot Licenses Explained (Student, Recreational)
Merriam-Webster defines “Licensed” as a document providing the consent of competent authorities for the use of business, occupation, or activity otherwise illegal. On the other hand, certification means a document that certifies that one met the specific requirements and that one can practice in a particular field. Even the FAA makes them available on the Websites. Still using ‘license’ is extremely popular, for private and higher pilot certifications, but ‘license’ is still very popular. Which one will suit your pilot role best?
Getting Your Pilot’s License for the Fun of it
There are a lot of great motivations for getting your pilot’s license. The field of aviation is full of employment opportunities and if that is where you want to make your career, you can keep adding to your skills and climb the latter to more responsibilities as you learn to fly bigger commercial aircraft, for more money as well. Another motivation that often drives us to want to fly is that it opens up new ways to be of service to others. If you like to work with charitable or church organizations, being able to fly to sites of disaster is an extremely valuable skill to offer.
But one great payoff for the investment of work and money you put into getting your pilot’s license is that you can have a lot of fun when you can take to the skies and do some exploring from that high up. Being able to fly whenever you want to adds a whole new world to your entertainment life and it might become your recreation of choice, at least when you first get your license.
For one thing, being able to get up above your city gives you the ability to explore your town in an entirely new way. You can find your house and get a perspective on the neighborhood that you may have never seen before. You can follow streets along and see little neighborhoods and businesses that you had no idea were there. Take a friend a few maps with you and enjoy gazing down on the city from literally the birds-eye view.
Flying opens up whole new opportunities for your dating life for sure. Taking your best girl up for what is without a doubt the most romantic way to view a sunset is sure to get the romantic juices flowing. And because flying extends your borders to other communities and even to border states, you can dash to a nearby town for an exotic dinner or follow your favorite sports team around much easier than by car.
As soon as you begin using your pilot’s license to explore the world around you, you are going to discover some natural wonders near where you live that you may have never seen before. You may find hills and even mountain ranges that will call you to come and explore from the sky. And as long as your gas supply is good, you can wander those hills with complete freedom knowing you can get back to your landing strip with a new adventure under your belt.
If you spot a stream or river that you had never tracked down before, you will want to get back into the sky as soon as possible to follow the trail of that river to see where it runs. Your imagination will be going wild imaging the lives of those who live along those banks. The great thing about flying is that you don’t have to be held to any highway or road. You can go to the most remote locations and gaze down and even take pictures and know that true thrill of exploring and discovery.
If you are a camera bug, the open skies will give you chances to get photos, unlike anything you ever could capture before. Imagine flying near a soaring eagle and being able to get close-ups of that majestic bird in a natural setting. You have seen pictures like that but to be able to capture it live will be a thrill that will be hard to top. That camera will get a workout with the huge diversity of nature shots or even great pictures of the really majestic architecture of your own city that takes on an entirely different aspect when you photograph it from the sky.
The range of ways you can explore the world and have new adventures flying free would just keep opening up to you. And you could explore them with loved ones, friends, and family and get a lot of wholesome fun because you took the time to get your pilot’s license.
10 things you can do with a private pilot license
As a pilot, you have the freedom to travel wherever you want, whenever you want. That freedom can be a major draw for pilots. But being a pilot isn’t everything. You have to be a good pilot, and that requires training and practice.
So, if you’d like to fly, but you don’t have the time or the money for a training program, what can you do?
Here are some of the things you might be able to do with a private pilot license.
You can fly your friends to dinner.
You can fly your business associates to an important business meeting.
You can fly your family on vacation.
You can fly your spouse to a conference.
You can fly your kids to soccer practice or baseball or dance class.
You can fly yourself.
And, of course, you can fly yourself — and your friends — to dinner.
Going to a restaurant is usually a more expensive meal than cooking it yourself. Taking a friend out for dinner is expensive enough; flying them adds cost. So it’s only natural that people value it more.
Most private pilots spend most of their time flying in a two-seat airplane. A two-seat aircraft can be a lot of fun; it is like driving a car, with none of the annoyances. But it can also be a bit confining.
A different kind of flying is available to you if you have a private pilot license. You can fly single-engine aircraft, which have their own set of challenges, like landing in light or zero visibility. You can fly large aircraft, like bombers or transports, which have more in common with big cars than small airplanes. You can fly helicopters, which get you into the air quickly and precisely. And you can fly seaplanes, which allow you to explore the lake or ocean from the safety of a dock.
Common requirements for most types of pilot licenses
The most common licenses are the private pilot license (PPL), the commercial pilot license (CPL), and the instrument rating (IR).
The private pilot license (PPL) is the most basic license. In order to pass its requirements, you must pass a written knowledge test and a flight test. The tests include questions about aerodynamics (the science of flight), aviation weather, airspace, navigation, and radio procedures.
A commercial pilot license (CPL) is required by almost all airlines and almost all businesses that fly for pleasure. In order to pass its requirements, you must pass a written knowledge test, a flight test, and a flight-in-command (FI) test. The tests include questions about aerodynamics, aviation weather, weather, and traffic en route, navigation, communications, and flight planning.
An instrument rating (IR) is required to fly in conditions where visual contact between the pilot and terrain or other aircraft is not possible. An IR requires additional flight training.
Most states require all pilots to pass the same Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) written exam, called the Airman Certification Standards Knowledge Test (ACSKT). The test covers topics such as aerodynamics, aviation weather, navigation, and aviation regulations.
Some states require all pilots to pass the FAA written exam, plus an oral test. The oral test is the same as the ACSKT but includes questions aimed at testing the pilot’s knowledge of the practical matters of flying and of dealing with other pilots and air traffic control.
Before 1991, you could apply for a commercial license without taking a medical exam. But now, in most states, you must.
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP)
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that all pilots who fly for hire or compensation hold an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP). Pilots who hold this certificate are qualified to fly both large jet aircraft and smaller propeller aircraft. Pilots with a Commercial Pilot Certificate (CPL) or Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) may fly any aircraft with an appropriate level of pilot certification. Pilots with a Commercial Pilot Certificate (CPL) or Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) may fly any aircraft with an appropriate level of pilot certification. Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) holders may also fly as pilot in command (PIC) of an unpressurized single- or multi-engine aircraft. Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) holders may also fly as pilot in command (PIC) of an unpressurized single- or multi-engine aircraft.
For most people, flying a plane is an enjoyable experience. Airplanes are comfortable, and flying itself can be relaxing. But there are some people who would rather be on the ground. Pilots (or, as we call them, “air travelers”) are a special kind of unhappy.
Airline pilots go through training and exams for several years before they can get a license. They deal with routine bureaucracy, delays, and cancellations, and deal with the stress of seeing passengers in distress. They spend most of their time waiting for their turn to fly. Pilots also make decisions about which passengers should be seated next to each other, which passengers should be seated in the emergency exit row, and which passengers should be seated in the exit row at all. Pilots have to keep passengers happy, and they usually have little time for passengers.
What is a private pilot license?
A private pilot license lets an individual pilot an airplane for compensation. Pilots can earn money by flying other people to places, or they can fly their own passengers to places.
In the United States, anyone can apply for a private pilot license. (A commercial pilot license is a separate license, and you must have a private pilot license before you can apply for one.)
It is not easy to get a private pilot license. You first have to pass a written exam. Then you have to take a hands-on flight test. You can take this flight test with a certified flight instructor.
To get a private pilot license, you must pass both parts of the flight test at the same time. You first fly the plane under instructor supervision, and then you fly the plane solo. If you don’t pass both parts, you can retake them as many times as you need.
To fly under instructor supervision, you have to show that you know how to fly the plane and that you know how to handle emergencies.
To fly the plane on your own, you have to show that you can fly the plane safely. You are still subject to the same rules and restrictions as an instructor, and you still have to be able to handle emergencies.
A private pilot license lets you fly your own airplane for hire. It also lets you fly other people’s airplanes for hire.
A commercial pilot license lets you do all of those things, but also lets you do some of those things for hire on your own. A commercial pilot license allows a private pilot license holder to carry more passengers, to fly at night and in bad weather, and to fly on routes that do not fit under a private pilot license.
Recreational Pilot Certificate
The recreational pilot certificate is the first step toward getting your pilot’s license. While you can’t fly an airplane with it, it gives you a taste of what flying an airplane is like and puts you one step closer to achieving your ultimate goal.
The recreational pilot certificate is available to anyone age 16 or older with a valid driver’s license. The requirements vary depending on the aircraft you want to fly, but most require a 20-hour flight review, 10 hours of flight time in airplanes under 20,500 pounds, and 5 hours of flight instruction.
There are additional requirements, such as medical examinations and ground instruction, depending on the aircraft you want to fly.
After you pass your flight review, you’ll be able to fly up to 3 hours at a time in airplanes under 20,500 pounds. With your recreational pilot certificate, you can apply for a private pilot certificate, which will allow for flight with maximum passenger limits, night flying, and flights over 40 miles.
Recreational Pilot Certificate Requirements:
3 hours of flight instruction
10 hours of flight time in airplanes under 20,500 pounds
20 hours of the flight review
20 hours of flight experience in airplanes under 20,500 pounds
20 hours of flight experience in airplanes with retractable landing gear
5 hours of the flight review
20 hours of flight experience in airplanes with retractable landing gear
20 hours in airplanes with retractable landing gear
20 hours of the flight review
1 hour of in-flight evaluation of flight proficiency
5 hours of ground instruction
1 hour of in-flight evaluation of flight proficiency
A friend of mine asked me the other day whether my pilot’s license was useful to him. He had just taken his introductory flying lesson. He was getting frustrated, because:
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