For the uninitiated, what it takes to become a private helicopter or airplane pilot can seem like the secrets tucked away in a black box. And this can make the process feel more daunting than it is.
Pureflight has high-flying intentions of demystifying and simplifying your path to pilothood. That’s why we know you’ll find this primer to private pilot license requirements incredibly helpful. It’s geared to those just embarking upon their pursuit of a private pilot certificate — but is also a great touchstone for anyone in the midst of getting their pilot license.
What’s a Private Pilot License & How to Get Your PPL
A private pilot’s license (PPL), also referred to as a private pilot certificate, is an official permit to operate an aircraft. Depending upon your PPL, you’ll be qualified to fly a variety of airplanes or helicopters.
Private Pilot License Requirements
Private pilot’s licenses are issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It regulates and provides guidelines for PPL requirements and training program curricula.
Basic requirements for private pilot license include:
- Being 17+ years old
- Being able to read, write, and understand English
- Getting a valid third-class medical certificate
- Holding a student, sport, or recreational pilot’s license
- Receiving adequate endorsements from an authorized instructor
- Passing the required written and practical exams for aeronautical knowledge and flight skill
In addition, if you’re going for a pilot’s certificate to fly a plane or helicopter, you’ll need at least:
- 20 hours of instructor-accompanied flight training and experience
- 10 hours of solo flying experience
- 10 additional hours of flight time
What Can You Do With a Private Pilot Certificate?
What you’re allowed to do will vary on the nature and amount of training you have — which are the basis of your flight certifications and endorsements. Different locations (both within the US and abroad) may have different requirements and permissions for those with a private pilot license.
What Type of Aircraft Can You Fly?
Once you’ve got your PPL, you can pilot any aircraft for which you’re rated to operate. This means that you can fly whatever class and category of airplane or helicopter for which you’ve successfully completed training.
Most people learn to fly on smaller aircraft — like a two-seater plane — so that may be your jumping off point as a newly certified pilot. But, theoretically, you could get the necessary ratings to fly a variety of types and sizes of aircraft.
Can You Fly with Passengers?
You can take family, friends, colleagues, and others out on flights with you as a private pilot’s license holder. As long as you don’t charge a fee for the ride — you are free to bring passengers along. (While you can’t take compensation as the pilot, you can, however, split flight expenses with your guests.)
Where & When Can You Fly?
With a basic private pilot’s license, you’re allowed to fly under visual conditions. Flying on instruments requires additional training and certification.)
You’ll receive three hours of after-dark flight lessons during your PPL program. So, as a private pilot, you’re cleared for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) day and night flying.
There are some limitations as to where you can fly with a PPL. However, as you accrue flight hours, your horizons will expand. As a freshly-minted private pilot, you’ll likely be able to fly:
- Any country in the world. You just need to meet the requirements and follow the protocols of that jurisdiction.
- Any airspace you have clearance for. Some airspaces — like near governmental buildings or downtown skyline zones — are restricted.
- To/from many airports. As long as your rating level permits it, you should be able to take off from or land at tons of airfields.
- At any altitude. You can fly at any altitude except Class A airspace. If you have the additional instrument rating, you can fly in Class A airspace (18,000-60,000 feet above sea level) with proper clearance.
- Any distance from your take-off point. Prior to getting your PPL, without a cross-country endorsement, you’ll probably have to stay within a 50-mile radius of where you departed from.
Because you have to file a flight plan in advance of your trip, you’ll know where you can and can’t go before your wheels leave the tarmac.
Can You Have a Career with a Private Pilot License?
Because you can’t seek compensation as a passenger-toting pilot, your career options with a private pilot’s license are few. The FAA has a handful of exceptions, roles in which you can leverage your PPL to earn a living, though. These include:
- Aircraft salesperson
- Glider tower
- Ground instructor
You can also work as a volunteer. In this capacity, it may be possible to do firefighting, search and rescue, animal transport, environmental surveying projects, medical flights, aviation outreach and education, and more. Charitable organizations and the Civil Air Patrol are great places to find unpaid piloting work.
Most people get their private pilot certificate to fly for fun or as a stepping stone to a more advanced commercial pilot’s license.
How to Get Your Private Pilot’s License? With Pureflight, of Course!
Are you ready to take to the skies? Now that you are well versed in the requirements for a private pilot license, you know the way forward.
Let us help you reach those soaring new heights you dream of. As one of the world’s premier flight schools, Pureflight has the training programs you need to excel as a helicopter or plane pilot. You’ll love our comprehensive curricula, skilled and experienced instructors, state-of-the-art aircraft and facilities, and more.