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photo of a pilot dreaming

A Quick Guide on the Types of Pilot Certifications in the US

So you want to become a pilot? Congratulations! The world of aviation is an exciting and fulfilling one. But before you can take to the skies, there are a few things you need to do.


Pilots are often overwhelmed by all the different types of pilot certificates and ratings out there, but luckily this is an area where you can get help from professionals.


The knowledge can be daunting for new pilots as they try to figure it all out on their own- especially with so many requirements before being able to fly in each category! Luckily though we have experts who will walk them through every step necessary towards earning a rating or gaining approval points needed toward obtaining one (or both).  Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced aviator, we’ve got you covered.


A certificate is NOT THE SAME as a rating


It’s important to know the difference between a certificate and a rating. A pilot certificate, often referred to as a “pilot license” is different from its counterpart: ratings can be issued by any agency that regulates aircraft operating requirements such as the FAA for example. However, there are several types of these documents in existence including those which determine how much time you need before flying solo or having an instrument rating on top of your existing medical fitness standard set out by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).


Types of Pilot Certificates in the US


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has different rules for getting a pilot’s license depending on the type of aircraft you want to fly. You can choose between airplanes, gyroplanes, and helicopters but if your interest lies more in flying ultralight vehicles then it might not be necessary to get this certificate as well. There are several different types of pilot’s licenses, from student pilot all the way up to airline transport pilot.




The private pilot certificate is the most common type of license for pilots. It requires more intensive training than recreational or sports flyers but allows you to do everything from flying at night and controlled airports.


Private pilots are often able to fly any aircraft they wish, as long as it is within their certification. For instance, private pilot’s licenses allow you the privilege of operating single-engine land airplanes and most people who hold these qualifications also need endorsements for high performance or complex planes depending on what type best suits them.


Private pilots have a lot in common with recreational and sports flyers. They are not allowed to fly for commercial purposes, but they can still get compensated if their flights lead them into business meetings or other events that pay on-site.


Private pilot training is an intensive process that requires more than 40 hours of flight time and 20 with an instructor.




The commercial pilot certificate is the best way to get paid for your flying services. Not only does it allow you restricted freedoms in an airplane, but there are additional federal aviation regulations that come with operating as a scheduled airline flight attendant or even just doing tricks around town at air shows.


The path to becoming a commercial pilot is not an easy one. To become a commercial pilot, one must first learn how to fly complex aircraft with retractable landing gears and flaps. In addition, they need accurate precision in performing professional flight operations for this type of duty – not only does it take skill but an understanding of what is required from each individual part during takeoff etc. – which makes training more challenging than other jobs that don’t require as much manual dexterity or knowledge when taking off/landing such things like cargo handling ramps on ships at sea.




The sport pilot certificate is a great way to get started with aviation. It’s the easiest and least restrictive license for pilots who want only light aircraft, at low altitudes in their local area! For this reason, it’s popular among new flyers because you can earn your wings without having any previous experience or coursework required before taking flight training classes.


With a sport pilot license, pilots are limited to just one passenger and cannot go above 10,000 feet or during nighttime. They also cannot enter Class B, C & D airspace which covers most of the US mainland.




So you want to fly heavier aircraft than the typical sport pilots? Then, the recreational pilot certificate is just for you.


The recreational pilot certificate is a great way to get started with flying, but there are some limitations. You must have at least 30 hours of logged flight time including 15 hours of dual instruction, can’t fly more than 50 nautical miles from your departure airport, and must stay out of controlled airspace (class B, C, and D). The best times for beginners will be early morning or late evening when it’s less crowded.




The airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate is the most advanced and necessary for those who want to fly commercial airliners. All major airlines now require a pilots applicant have this qualification, which can only be obtained after logging at least 1,500 hours of flying experience under calm conditions with an appropriate license level achieved in order coursework completed by 23 years old or older depending on restrictions applied against it when applying.




To become a pilot, you have to pass an exam and get certified. However, there is also another way for those who want more hours in their flying belt or just need the flexibility of working on different types of aircraft: instructing!


The flight instructor certificate is a necessary step in becoming an airline pilot. This requires learning about instructional design, theory and commercial topics much more deeply than the average person knows already – but it also allows you to share your knowledge with others while gaining that experience needed for qualification.


Ready to take the next step?

Becoming a pilot is an expensive endeavour. However, the benefits of becoming a pilot are vast and can be life-changing. If you’re passionate about flying and have the drive to become a pilot, we want to help make your dreams come true. Contact us today to learn more about our financing options for aspiring pilots. We look forward to helping you achieve your aviation goals!

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