Private Pilot

Requirements for Obtaining Your Private Pilot Certificate

  1. You must be at least 17 years of age when you finish your training and take your FAA practical (flight) test.
  2. You must be able to read, speak, write, and converse fluently in English.
  3. You must obtain a student pilot certificate (see the sample below) and at least a third-class FAA medical certificate.
    1. You must be at least 16 years of age to receive a student pilot certificate.
    2. You must undergo a routine medical examination that may only be administered by a FAA-designated doctor, which are called aviation medical examiners (AMEs).
      1. A third-class medical certificate is valid for 3 years if the date of the examination was before your 40th birthday, or 2 years if the date of the examination was on or after your 40th birthday. The medical certificate expires on the last day of the month issued (when another medical examination is required).
    3. Your certificated flight instructor (CFI) (find a CFI in your area) or fixed base operator (FBO) will be able to recommend an AME.
      1. An FBO is an airport business that gives flight lessons, sells aviation fuel, repairs airplanes, etc.
    4. Even if you have a physical handicap, medical certificates can be issued in many cases. Operating limitations may be imposed depending upon the nature of the disability.
  4. You must pass the private pilot knowledge test with a score of 70% or better. All FAA tests are administered at FAA-designated computer testing centers (AvTest, CATS, or LaserGrade).
    1. The private pilot knowledge test consists of 60 multiple-choice questions selected from the 738 airplane-related questions in the FAA's test bank. The questions test the following topics:
    1. Airplanes and Aerodynamics
    2. Airplane Instruments, Engines, and Systems
    3. Airports, Air Traffic Control, and Airspace
    4. Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs)
    5. Airplane Performance and Weight and Balance
    6. Aeromedical Factors
    1. Aviation Weather
    2. Aviation Weather Services
    3. Navigation: Charts, Publications, and Flight Computers
    4. Navigation Systems
    5. Cross-Country Flight Planning
    1. The FAA pilot knowledge test is a learning opportunity. Rather than memorizing the answers to 738 questions, studying a book or software assures you of a high passing score on the test and the acquisition of useful knowledge to make you a better, safer pilot.
  5. You must undertake flight training.  Many of the lessons will require more than one flight to make you comfortable and proficient. The lessons/topics are shown below.

    Lesson Topic   Lesson Topic
      Stage One   Stage Two
    1 Introduction to Flight 13 Second Solo
    2 Four Fundamentals of Flight 14 Short-Field and Soft-Field Takeoffs and Landings
    3 Basic Instrument Maneuvers  
    4 Slow Flight and Stalls 15 Solo Maneuvers Review
    5 Emergency Operations 16 Navigation Systems
    6 Steep Turns and Ground Reference Maneuvers 17 Dual Cross-Country
    7 Review 18 Night Flight -- Local
    8 Go-Around and Forward Slip to a Landing 19 Night Cross-Country
    9 Presolo Review 20 Solo Cross-Country
    10 Presolo Review 20A Solo Cross-Country (Part 61)
    11 First Solo 20B Solo Cross-Country (Part 61)
    12 Stage One Check 21 Maneuvers Review
        22 Solo Practice
        23 Maneuvers Review
        24 Solo Practice
        25 Stage Two Check

    1. Under Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), you must receive a total of 40 hr. of flight time, including a minimum of
      1. 20 hr. of flight training from a certificated flight instructor, including at least
        1. 3 hr. of cross-country, i.e., to other airports
        2. 3 hr. at night, including
          1. One night cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles (NM) total distance
          2. 10 night takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop at an airport
        3. 3 hr. of maneuvering an airplane solely by reference to instruments
        4. 3 hr. in airplanes in preparation for the private pilot practical test within 60 days prior to that test
      2. 10 hr. of solo flight time in an airplane, including at least
        1. 5 hr. of solo cross-country time
        2. One solo cross-country flight of at least 150 NM total distance, with full-stop landings at a minimum of three points and with one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 50 NM between the takeoff and landing locations
        3. Three solo takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport with an operating control tower
  6. As an alternative to Part 61 training, you may enroll in an FAA-certificated pilot school that has an approved private pilot certification course (airplane).
    1. These schools are known as Part 141 schools because they are authorized by Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.
      1. All other regulations concerning certification of pilots are found in Part 61.
    2. The Part 141 course must consist of at least 35 hr. of ground training and 35 hr. of flight training.
      1. The syllabus used by a Part 141 school must be approved by the FAA.
    3. If you are only interested in obtaining a private pilot certificate, there is little difference, except that a Part 61 course has more flexibility to adjust to your individual needs.
  7. You must successfully complete a practical (flight) test, which will be given as a final exam by an FAA-designated pilot examiner. 
    1. FAA-designated pilot examiners are proficient, experienced flight instructors/pilots who are authorized by the FAA to conduct practical tests. They charge a fee.
    2. The FAA has issued private pilot practical test standards (PTS). Each of the 50 tasks/maneuvers is required to be covered/tested on each practical test.

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Updated :   03/02/2012