Certificates, Privileges, and Limitations
April 28, 2012
This is a brief summary,
or over-view, of this subject. It is meant to be an introduction only. For full
details you should consult the Federal Aviation Regulations, Part 61. If you
have questions, please feel to contact me:
NOTE: The pronoun "he" is used in this web site in the generic sense, meaning
all people. It is in no way an inference that pilots should all be men. My
primary instructor was a very competent woman, Ruth Tolley Gwinn. Later, in
preparation for my instrument rating, commercial license, and instructor's
certificate, I received many hours of instruction from Merry Casto. Since then,
I have taught many teenage girls, ladies of all ages - even at least one
Whoever you are, welcome to the air.
A young person, under US law, may begin taking flight trainings at any age,
but must be at least 16 years old to qualify for a Student Pilot
Certificate. He must have the student certificate, issued in
conjunction with his third class medical certificate, to fly solo in a powered
aircraft. Solo means to fly alone, as the only occupant of the aircraft. A
student pilot cannot act as "pilot in command" of an aircraft carrying any
passenger. The purpose of this certificate is to receive training, and allow
solo experience, in preparation for a higher class license.
The Recreational Pilot Certificate was established in the
1989 to allow a less expensive, and "easier to obtain" basic pilot license for
those who want to fly for recreation only. It allows the pilot to fly, day time
only, in aircraft having up to four seats, but only one passenger may be carried
at a time. The holder of such a license must stay within 50 nautical miles of
his home airport, unless he has had additional training in cross-country
navigation. He may not fly at night, or without visual reference to the ground,
and may not fly in furtherance of a business.
As of the end of 2010, an FAA web site
revealed that there were currently about 212 Recreational Pilots in the United
States. This number has declined from about 316 ten years earlier, but the number
of Sport Pilots has risen continuously since it went into effect in 2004.
Obviously, many are opting for the Sport Pilot certificate in spite a
few regulatory changes to make the Recreational License more attractive. For
some it will meet your needs, so give it consideration. Some have used it as a
stepping stone toward the Private Pilot's license.
and others have made another proposal to the FAA to
allow pilots exercising only Recreational Pilot privileges to fly without
a medical certificate in many cases - similar to the requirements for the Sport
Pilot. (see below) This would make good sense considering that very few aircraft
accidents are ever caused by medical incapacitation, and many doctors claim such
things simply can not be predicted in advance. The FAA spends a tremendous amount
of money processing hundreds of thousands of medical certificates, although it
is questionable whether or not it is doing any good.
The proposal would also require
pilots operating under this provision to complete certain course online -
focusing on accident prevention, rather than medical certification. You might
say - focusing on the problem which does exist, rather than a miniscule one that
may not exist.
The causes of
most accidents are pretty well documented, and it would seem more sensible to
concentrate our efforts (and tax dollars) on safety related risk management, and
proper attitudes towards safety. As of April 28, 2012, we don't know what the FAA
response to this will be.
Sport Pilot Certificate allows pilots to fly 2-seat aircraft weighing up
to 1320 pounds, maximum cruise speed of 120 knots, and some other basic
limitations. In some cases a medical certificate in not required. Many people
who already had a higher class of license may continue flying aircraft in this
category, using only their driver's license as medical certification. Other new
pilots may not need any medical certificate except a valid driver's license.
These new regulations went into effect September 1, 2004.
Click Here for more information
Sport Pilot Aircraft and Pilot Certificates.
Here is a LINK to an interesting and interactive chart
comparing the requirements, privileges, and limitations of the Private Pilot,
Recreational, and Sport Pilot certificates.
Private Pilot license allows one to fly unlimited distances, day or
night, fly airplanes with any number of seats (usually this will be 2, 4, or 6),
and carry any number of passengers. The aircraft can be flown in furtherance of
a business - just so it is not a flying business. An Instrument Rating
can be added to allow flights in restricted visibilities such as clouds, smog,
haze, and heavy precipitation.
For decades, the Private Pilot Certificate has been the "standard" pilot's
license. Most trainees continue to go for this option. See: Private Pilot
A Commercial Pilot Certificate requires more training, but
allows one to fly for hire - for pay. Contrary to popular belief, among
non-aviators, this does not qualify you to fly all kinds of jets, nor hold every
kind of flying job! It could be considered as a very necessary step in that
In the United States all pilots are encouraged to get additional training,
and obtain instrument proficiency, and/or a commercial pilot's license. The
additional training and experience will help you become a better, safer, and
more versatile pilot.
Persons wishing to fly large aircraft for hire, such as airliners or
passenger jets, must have at least 1500 hours of flying time, and obtain an
Airline Transport Pilot certificate.
To fly jet
aircraft, or any aircraft weighing over 12,500 pounds, a pilot must also have a
Type Rating for that make and model of aircraft.
Since this Web site caters to many in the "new to aviation" category, we will
focus our attention, at this time, on the Requirements to obtain
a Private Pilot Certificate.