Pilot Certificates – What You Need to Know
By Brandon Martini
Have you ever watched a plane soaring through the sky and wondered what it takes to pilot such a powerful machine?The answer to that question is that it depends. There are multiple levels of pilot certificates, depending on the type of plane you fly, the number of hours you have logged, and if you intend to fly for a career or sport. Even some potential career opportunities at each upper level of certification comes with extensive training. Let’s dive into each certificate’s privileges and limitations – even some potential career opportunities available at each level! FAA calls it a pilot certificate and pilot license interchangeably.
Understanding Different Types of Pilot Certificates
Flying is a passion for many, and turning that love into a career or hobby begins with getting the right pilot license. Each type of FAA issued pilot licenses, also known as certificates, has its own privileges, limitations, and requirements.
In order to solo during your student pilot certificate phase, you must be properly endorsed, you must be at least 16-years-old (or 14 if operating gliders or balloons), and you must be able to write and speak in the English language sufficiently enough to communicate with Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel effectively.Flying without an instructor present is prohibited unless you’ve done the above prerequisites and you have also passed their aviation medical exam administered by an FAA-approved Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) first. This ensures they meet certain health standards necessary for safe flight operation.
Delving into the Private and Commercial Pilot Certificates
The PPL and CPL are two essential licenses in the aviation industry, both of which serve distinct purposes for a pilot’s career. Both serve unique roles in a pilot’s career path.
Private Pilot Certificate (PPL)
If earning money from flying appeals to you, then getting a Commercial Pilot Certificate (CPL) should be on your radar. Unlike with PPL holders who just fly for fun or personal reasons, commercial pilots often find themselves working in entry-level aviation jobs after obtaining their certificates. CPL allows you to earn from flying. However, the requirements are stricter here. Prospective commercial pilots must complete more extensive training programs which include ground school as well as requirements stated in the commercial pilot certification standards Airman Certification Standards (ACS). Passing exams, meeting minimum flight qualification hours, and being medically fit are among the hurdles. But they’re just stepping stones in your journey towards soaring through the skies.
Flight Instructor Certificates and Their Importance
A key step in the journey of advancing your career as a pilot is getting your flight instructor certificate. This isn’t just another box to tick; it’s an opportunity to refine your skills, gain invaluable experience, and help shape future pilots. Although a flight instructor certificate is not required to get a job, it is the most common way to get your Airline Transport Pilot certificate (ATP) requirements.
The Process of Becoming a Certified Flight Instructor
The Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate
Fulfilling Requirements: A Journey Not for The Faint of Heart
To qualify for an ATP certificate issued by FAA, pilots must meet some demanding criteria: You should have logged minimum hours flying time amounting to 1500 hours if you’re over 23 years old. That’s like watching ‘Top Gun’ around 1000 times back-to-back without breaks. Think you can handle it? If you can, then you’re on the right track! If you’re 21-23, you need either 750 hours in the military or 1250 hours with an aviation degree. This is called a restricted ATP and there are stringent requirements on how to obtain it. You also need to pass written and oral exams to prove that your knowledge of air navigation, meteorology (because inclement weather is more than just a slight inconvenience at 35,000 feet), FAA regulations, and other related topics is up-to-par. But it doesn’t stop there. Pilots will also need to pass a first-class medical exam given by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), although a first-class medical exam is only required if you would like to exercise the privileges of an ATP certificate for a Part 121 air carrier.
What is the best pilot certificate to get?
● The “best” pilot certificate depends on your goals. If you aim for a career in aviation, pursue a Multi-Engine Airline Transport Certificate.
How many certifications/ratings are there for pilots?
● Pilots can earn four main certificates: Private, Instrument, Commercial, and Airline Transport Pilot Certificates.
What is the hardest certificate to get as a pilot?
● The Airline Transport Pilot Certificate often poses the most challenges due to its high flight hour requirements and stringent exams.
Overall, understanding different types of pilot certifications helps chart your course in aviation. With each certificate comes new skills, responsibilities and thrilling experiences! Keep aiming higher!