About the Private Pilot Certificate
The private pilot certificate is traditionally the most popular entry-level pilot certificate. It offers a great deal of freedom and privileges. As a private pilot, you can fly any aircraft as long as you have the appropriate training and ratings. You can fly almost anywhere, day or night. You can fly in good weather under visual flight rules (VFR), and later, if you earn an instrument rating, you can also fly in clouds and low visibility under instrument flight rules (IFR).
You can expand your basic private pilot privileges through additional training. To be pilot-in-command (PIC) of a high performance, complex, or tailwheel airplane, you’ll need training and a one-time logbook endorsement. If you’d like to fly a different category and class of aircraft altogether, such as a helicopter, powered parachute, or multiengine airplane, additional training and testing can give you those privileges. Many private pilots choose to add an instrument rating to increase their skills and add to the utility of small airplane travel.
The main limitation of a private pilot certificate is the prohibition of commercial flying activity. As a private pilot, you may fly for business purposes such as traveling to a meeting, but you may not be compensated in any way for services as a pilot. You are not allowed to carry passengers or cargo for hire. You can, however, share the cost of a flight with passengers as long as you pay at least your equal share of the expenses. You can operate charity flights that raise money for a cause, subject to certain restrictions.
Private Pilot Ground Training
You may accomplish the ground training requirements for the private pilot certificate through one-on-one ground instruction, a home study course, a ground school class, or a combination of the above.
We periodically offer classroom-format ground school courses.
You are not required to complete ground school prior to starting flight training. You can work on ground training and flight training concurrently.
Private Pilot Flight Training
Private pilot training is typically divided into three stages: pre-solo, cross-country, and test preparation.
In the pre-solo stage, you’ll learn the basic hands-on skills of flying the airplane. When you’re ready, you’ll take your first solo flight.
In the cross-country stage, you’ll venture further from your home airport and learn navigation skills. You’ll also experience night flying and flying solely by reference to instruments.
In the test preparation stage, you’ll review, practice, and fine-tune your skills to prepare to pass the FAA private pilot practical test, often called “the checkride.”
Throughout training, you will receive ground instruction on various topics ranging from aerodynamics to regulations to weather. You’ll be tested on these topics in a multiple-choice 60-question test called the Private Pilot Knowledge Test. You’ll also be tested on your knowledge during the oral portion of the practical test (checkride).
Private pilot training requirements are outlined in Part 61 of the FAA regulations.
Private pilots and student pilots seeking a private certificate need at least a third-class FAA medical certificate. A medical certificate is not required to begin training, but it is required for solo flight. We recommend that new students seek a medical certificate early in training. Those students seeking aviation careers may wish to apply for a second- or first-class FAA medical certificate.
Student Pilot Certificate
Unless you have already earned one of the other entry-level pilot certificates (sport or recreational), you’ll need a student pilot certificate in order to fly solo during your private pilot training. Student pilots may fly solo at age 16 and older. A government-issued photo I.D. must be carried along with the student pilot certificate. If a student doesn’t have a driver’s license, a state-issued I.D. card may be used. The student pilot certificate is normally issued by an FAA aeromedical examiner (AME) at the same time as the FAA medical certificate, but may be issued by itself as well.
Eligibility for the Private Pilot Certificate:
To be eligible for a private pilot certificate in an airplane, you must:
- Be at least 17 years old by the time of the practical test (checkride)
- Possess a U.S. student pilot certificate, sport pilot certificate, or recreational pilot certificate
- Possess at least a third-class medical certificate
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. If you are unable to meet one of these requirements due to medical reasons, the FAA may issue a private pilot certificate with limitations that are necessary for safe operation
- Complete ground training or a home study course covering the required aeronautical knowledge areas
- Pass the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test
- Complete flight training and meet the aeronautical experience requirements
- Pass the Private Pilot Practical Test (checkride)
Required Knowledge for the Private Pilot Certificate:
You must receive training (ground school) or complete a home-study course on the following required knowledge subjects:
- Applicable Federal Aviation Regulations that relate to private pilot privileges, limitations, and flight operations
- Accident reporting requirements of the National Transportation Safety Board
- Use of the Aeronautical Information Manual and FAA advisory circulars
- Use of aeronautical charts for VFR navigation using pilotage, dead reckoning, and navigation systems
- Radio communication procedures
- Recognition of critical weather situations from the ground and in flight, windshear avoidance, and the procurement and use of aeronautical weather reports and forecasts
- Safe and efficient operation of aircraft, including collision avoidance, and recognition and avoidance of wake turbulence
- Effects of density altitude on takeoff and climb performance
- Weight and balance computations
- Principles of aerodynamics, powerplants, and aircraft systems
- Stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin recovery techniques
- Aeronautical decision making and judgment
- Preflight action that includes-
- How to obtain information on runway lengths at airports of intended use, data on takeoff and landing distances, weather reports and forecasts, and fuel requirements
- How to plan for alternatives if the planned flight cannot be completed or delays are encountered
Required Flight Proficiency for the Private Pilot Certificate:
You must receive and log ground and flight training on the following areas of operation:
- Preflight procedures
- Airport and seaplane base operations
- Takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds
- Performance maneuvers
- Ground reference maneuvers
- Slow flight and stalls
- Basic instrument maneuvers
- Emergency operations
- Night operations
- Postflight procedures
Required Flight Experience for the Private Pilot Certificate (Part 61):
You must log a minimum of 40 total hours of flight time. The time is divided between flying with an instructor (“dual”) and flying alone (“solo”) as follows:
- Minimum 20 hours of flight training including at least:
- 3 hours of cross-country flight training
- 3 hours of night flight training including:
- One night cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance
- 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop at night (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport
- 3 hours of instrument training (control and maneuvering solely by reference to instruments) including:
- Straight and level flight
- Constant airspeed climbs and descents
- Turns to a heading
- Recovery from unusual flight attitudes
- Radio communications
- The use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services
- 3 hours of flight training in preparation for the practical test (checkride), performed within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test
- Minimum 10 hours of solo flight time including at least:
- 5 hours solo cross-country time
- One solo cross-country flight of at least 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment with more than 50-nauticals straight-line distance between takeoff and landing locations
- 3 takeoffs and 3 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower
- The remaining 10 hours may be dual or solo.
The minimum training times in the regulations are just that – minimums – and a more realistic average time to complete a private pilot certificate is anywhere from 55 to 85 flight hours. Completion time varies based on how often you train, how quickly you learn, how well you study at home, etc. We recommend you schedule at least one session per week, with two or three being more ideal for making steady progress and completing the program in fewer hours.
There is no deadline to complete a private pilot certificate. It can be earned in less than a month or over a span of many years. Typically, students take three months to a year to earn a private pilot certificate.
Overall Cost of Private Pilot Training
Each customer is unique, so overall cost of earning a private pilot certificate will vary. Training cost is directly tied to completion time because instruction and aircraft rental are billed by the hour.We do not offer fixed-price “guaranteed” training programs.
Including flight training, ground training, aircraft rental, books, supplies, and tests, and based on realistic completion times rather than FAA minimums, you should plan to spend $8,000 to $12,000 to become a private pilot, and may spend more or less. Financing is available to qualified customers through companies offering aviation loans.
How to Get Started in Private Pilot Flight Training
You can start learning to fly with us as soon as it’s convenient for you. Please contact us if you’d like to make an appointment to meet an instructor and take a tour.
We can help you obtain training materials, set up a schedule, and make an appointment for your medical exam.
Getting started is easy – all you have to do is give us a call.