Aircraft Licenses


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The U. S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has carefully developed a series of pilot training programs to help ensure the safety of our airways. Prospective pilots must also meet general licensing qualifications before they can start flying. The most common licenses sought by pilots are referenced below, along with their most basic requirements.

Licensing Requirements for All Pilots

To become licensed to fly, you must generally be at least 16 years old, in good health and fluent in English since it’s the main language used by air traffic controllers all around the world. What constitutes “good health” frequently depends on the specific type of pilot license you are seeking. 

Types of Pilot Licenses and Their Qualifications

People fly for many different types of reasons. Some simply fly for fun, while seek to fly passengers or cargo for profit. Still others want to be among the first to build and fly ultralight aircraft. Here are the names of the most commonly sought after flying certificates (licenses), along with pertinent reference resources for further information:

  • Student License - Many interested in flying start out by applying for this type of license (or certificate). Before the student can take wing on their own toward the end of their training, they must have a flight instructor present whenever they fly. Subpart C of CFR Title 14, Part 61 addresses the main requirements for student pilots.
  • Private Pilot License - When you are awarded a private pilot license, you have the right to transport passengers and handle a limited amount of business in your plane. Subpart E of CFR Title 14, Part 61 sets forth the requirements for students seeking this type of certificate. (Note: Both ground school and flight training can easily cost you between $3,000 and $4,000 -- sometimes higher).
  • Sport plane license - this may be your goal if you don’t want to move into the highest levels of flying certification early on. You can check with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) about becoming trained for this type of aircraft license.
  • Commercial Pilot License - Those who obtain a commercial pilot’s license can conduct such business operations as flying passengers or cargo for profit. Subpart F of CFR Title 14, Part 61, sets forth the requirements for those interested in securing a commercial pilot’s license.
  • Recreational Pilot’s License - limits its holder to only: flying a rather narrow range of aircraft models; carrying a limited number of passengers each flight; flying limited distances and landing in only specific types of airports (among other restrictions). Subpart D of CFR Title 14, Part 61 sets forth the training required for those applying for a recreational pilot’s license.
  • Airline transport pilot - is allowed to fly as a “captain” while handling certain transport duties. Subpart G of CFR Title 14, Part 61 sets forth the special requirements that applicants seeking an airline transport pilot license must meet.

Getting Legal Help

Since pursuing a pilot’s license isn’t always as simple as it sounds, you may want to consult with an attorney to obtain further guidance. Also, if you have been convicted of any recent DUI offenses, an aviation lawyer can explain your rights and what types of restrictions may be placed on you.

It can also be helpful to obtain an attorney’s interpretation of specific Federal Aviation Administration statutes when you’re concerned about how they’re affecting your personal business, pilot or aircraft status.

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