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Types of Pilot Certificates and Rating's:

More advanced Licenses and ratings

Congratulations! You’ve finally gotten that Private Pilot License! So, now what? The next step is usually pursuing your Instrument Rating, a Commercial Pilot License, a Multi-engine rating or your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII), Multi-engine Instructor (MEI), or even an Air Transport Pilot (ATP).

  • Instrument Rating allows pilots to fly by reference to instruments rather than by visual reference to the ground. This comes in handy when you are flying in low visibility or the ceilings are below VFR minimums.

  • A Commercial Pilot License allows pilots to be paid to fly. As a Commercial Pilot, you can fly for Skydiving, small cargo airlines, corporate jets and work to become a Flight Instructor.


Private Pilot License

The Private Pilot license, also referred to as Private Pilot Certificate is the most popular pilot license to get. It marks a path for career-minded pilots to continue with advanced training to gain other certification in aviation and eventually be paid to fly.

  • Pilot must carry a minimum of an FAA third class medical certificate.

  • Pilots are not as restricted, and are allowed to fly in certain conditions.

  • Allowed to fly not more than six people unpaid.

  • The aircraft is limited to no more than 12,500 pounds.

  • Total training flight hours

    • Minimum 40 flight hours


Recreational Pilot Certificate

This license is not as restricted as the Sport pilot license, but is still more limited than the Private Pilot license.  It is considered the license just below the private pilot license.  It may be used as a stepping-stone to earn the Private Pilot License.

Typically Recreational pilots fly out of their home airport during daylight hours.

  • Pilot is required to carry an FAA third class medical.

  • The aircraft is limited to an 180hp (horsepower) engine.

  • The pilot is limited to an altitude of 10,000 feet MSL or 2,000 feet AGL and below.

  • Total training flight hours

    • Minimum 30 flight hours


Sport Pilot Certificate

The Sport pilot license is the most limited and restricted license compared to the Recreational license and Private Pilot license.  This license allows a pilot to fly only Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).

The pilot can take advanced training and earn a third class medical, and eventually work to earn a Recreational or Private Pilot License 

  • No FAA medical is required, but the pilot must have a valid driver’s license.

  • The aircraft is limited to a max takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds, and no more than two seats.

  • Pilots are restricted to fly only during daylight hours.

  • The pilot is limited to an altitude of 10,000 feet MSL or 2,000 feet AGL and below.

  • Total training flight hours

    • Minimum 20 flight hours


Additional certificate information

In addition to the information provided above, there is a few other requirements to consider.  All pilot certificates require the same prerequisites except for a couple of differences. Those differences are total minimum training hours and age requirement.  The requirements are as follows:

  • Private Pilot License, Recreational Pilot License, Sport Pilot License

    • Must be at least 17 years old.

    • Must be able to read, speak, write, and understand English.

    • Receive logbook endorsements from an authorized flight or ground instructor.

    • Pass an FAA written knowledge exam with 70% or better.

    • Pass a practical exam on the areas of operation for aircraft rating being sought.


  • Commercial Pilot License age requirement must be at least 18 years old and have a minimum of 250 hours flight time.

  • Air Transport Pilot (ATP) age, must be at least 21 years of age and have a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time.

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