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Types of Pilot Certificates

Types of Pilot CertificatesThere are two primary certificates, commonly called licenses, that you can earn in order to enjoy the privileges, challenges, and beauty of flying. They are the recreational pilot certificate and the private pilot certificate. To be eligible to receive either certificate in a single-engine airplane, there are a few minimum requirements.

You must:

  • Be 16 years old to solo.
  • Be 17 years old to receive your pilot certificate.
  • Read, speak, and understand English.
  • Hold at least a third-class medical certificate.

The recreational certificate is a good choice if you fly in rural areas and don’t foresee traveling large distances by airplane. If you plan an aviation career or want to fly long distances for business or pleasure, the private pilot certificate is the better choice. You can start with a recreational certificate and later receive the additional training for a private certificate.

The Recreational Pilot Certificate

The recreational pilot certificate requires fewer training hours than the private certificate and can be earned in as few as 30 hours as compared to the 40 hours needed for the private. The reasoning behind this is that as a recreational pilot you receive fewer hours of cross-country navigation flight training because you must remain within 50 nautical miles of your home base. You also won’t have to learn to fly in airspace requiring communications with air traffic control. And night operations and flight by reference to instruments, which are part of the private pilot training, are eliminated from the recreational pilot’s curriculum.

Because of the reduced flight training requirements, recreational certificate holders are subject to certain limitations and restrictions. As a recreational pilot, you can carry only one passenger in single-engine aircraft of 180 horsepower or less with up to four seats. That means you’ll just be taking one friend or family member at a time when you go for a joy ride. It won’t be a problem finding aircraft that meet the aircraft type requirements. Most general aviation aircraft that are inexpensive to rent or purchase fall into the above-mentioned categories.

As a recreational pilot, your flying must be during daylight hours in good weather. These weather conditions are defined under the FAA’s visual flight rules (VFR). Is there anyone who doesn’t like blue sky and sun? You can fly no higher than 10,000 feet above sea level unless you happen to be flying over terrain, such as a mountain, that is higher than 10,000 feet. In that case, you can go over the 10,000-foot limit as long as you stay within 2,000 feet of the ground. Speaking from experience, when you go up really, really high, you can’t see much of interest anyway; flying at high altitude doesn’t fit with the point of recreational flying.

One limitation that may be a problem for some is that, without additional flight training and an endorsement (written authorization) from an instructor, a recreational pilot is restricted to flights within 50 nautical miles from the departure airport. In addition, you cannot fly in airspace that requires radio communication with air traffic control. Again, this limitation can be withdrawn if you get additional training and endorsements in your logbook from your flight instructor.

The Private Pilot Certificate

A private pilot certificate is like a driver’s license. It allows you to fly anywhere in the United States and even outside the United States when you comply with regulations of the foreign country where the aircraft is operated. You can carry any number of passengers, and you can share certain operating expenses with your passengers. There are fewer limitations for a private pilot then there are for a recreational pilot. Although, there are currency and medical requirements to make sure you stay proficient and healthy, only a few other factors affect when and where you can fly. Once you earn your license, you are free to wander around in the skies below 18,000 feet above sea level to your heart’s content. You might take the family on a trip to see relatives in a distant state or use an airplane to shorten the time it takes to make business trips to another city.

One restriction to a private pilot’s freedom of flight comes from Mother Nature — the weather. There are certain weather conditions you can fly in and other’s you can’t, at least without additional training. As a private pilot without an instrument rating, FAA regulations allow you to fly only in weather classified under visual flight rules (VFR). You can, of course, overcome this limitation by earning an instrument rating for flying under instrument flight rules (IFR). Simply put, if it’s raining outside and you can’t see the neighbor’s house through the fog, you shouldn’t be wandering around in the sky unless you’ve been trained in the fine art of flight in instrument meteorological conditions. The instrument rating is something you can add later. Aviation Services has an information package on obtaining an instrument rating. Call 800/USA-AOPA for this free informative package.

With a private pilot license, you can fly at night as long as you have received the required night training. Training for night flying is almost always included as part of a private pilot training curriculum. Without a doubt, a crystal-clear, moonlit night is one of the most spectacular and beautiful times to fly.

Pilot Certificate Comparison

Pilot Certificate Limitations
Of the more than 600,000 pilots in the United States today, more than 247,000 hold private pilot certificates. The vast majority fly because of the fun, challenges, and opportunities that aviation offers.

If you are interested in an exciting career as a pilot, contact Aviator College and begin your flight training today.

Distributed by Viestly

Categories: Uncategorized
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