license ratings mean
are many different kinds of pilots. After all, millions of folks have
learned how to fly. Some fly just for fun. Some fly as a way to travel to
their jobs. And some are career pilots who fly professionally to earn a
there are small differences from country to country, the basic types of
pilots in successive order of qualifications include student, sport,
recreational, private, instrument rated, commercial, certificated flight
instructor, airline transport pilot, and designated pilot examiner.
are certificated by their country's Civil Aviation Authority for
particular types of flying activities. A system of certificates, together
with a set of add-on ratings is used to specify not only what types of
aircraft pilots may fly, but also whether they may carry passengers, fly
for hire, or fly in certain weather conditions.
certificates are earned through the successful completion of ground
school, written examination, oral examination, and flight test. In
addition to a pilot certificate, pilots also must have a current medical
certificate issued by a designated physician. Before they fly, they must
meet various currency requirements.
is where everyone starts. Student pilots learn to fly while working their
way through the knowledge and flying skills needed to earn their sport,
recreational, or private pilot certificate. A student pilot's flying
privileges are very limited, but provide enough freedom to allow them to
learn all of the basics, including standard airport-to-airport
cross-country flying skills and interaction with air traffic control (ATC).
student pilots first start learning to fly, they complete all of their
flights with a certificated flight instructor (CFI) on board. Once they've
reached the age of 16, have a valid medical, and have mastered the basic
skills and educational topics of flight, they can solo (fly alone without
an instructor or other certificated pilot at the controls). The
destination and duration of each solo flight must be approved.
pilots are allowed to operate only at or near their "home-base" airports
and — with a special sign-off by their instructors — travel to other local
airports to practice their airport-to-airport cross-country flying skills.
Student pilots learn how to fly in good weather during the day and night.
They also learn basic instrument flying skills, which teach them how to
fly by reading the instruments in the cockpit and without visual reference
to the ground. They are not allowed to carry any passengers, or to fly for
hire. They are not allowed to operate in the busiest airspace around our
largest cities without special training and flight instructor approval.
This is a
rating that is now in force in the United States. Sport pilots generally
fly in aircraft that fly at low speeds — less than 100 mph. The sport
pilot certificate, introduced in 2004, created a new medical standard for
pilots. Sport pilots do not need a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
medical certificate to fly an aircraft. They may use their current
driver's license as proof that they are medically fit to operate low-speed
pilots must be at least 17 years old and have a minimum of 20 hours of
flight time (although experience suggests that the certificate may take
closer to 30 or 35 hours to earn). This includes 15 hours of flight
training and five hours of solo flight.
pilots may fly cross-country; however, they cannot operate at airports or
in airspace that require communication with air traffic control (ATC)
unless they receive the proper training and endorsements from a
certificated flight instructor (CFI). They cannot fly after dark, and they
can carry only one passenger.
They must revalidate their pilot certificates every 24 months by
undertaking a flight review with a CFI.
pilots are primarily people who learn to fly for fun, with little interest
in becoming professional pilots or using airplanes as a practical means of
traveling from place to place. Recreational pilots must be at least 17
years old and have a minimum of 30 hours of flight time (the real-world
average is more than 40 hours), including a minimum of 15 hours of flight
Recreational pilots may not fly more than 50 nautical miles (about 58
miles) from an airport at which they have received instruction, unless
they receive appropriate cross-country training and a special instructor's
endorsement. Recreational pilots may not carry more than one passenger at
a time, and they may not fly for hire or at night. They are not permitted
to operate an aircraft on any charity flights, nor in connection with a
business or their employment. They may fly only single-engine airplanes
that have fixed landing gear, no more than four seats, and an engine of no
more than 180 hp. They may not fly in airspace where communication with
air traffic control (ATC) is required unless they receive the appropriate
training and have a special endorsement from a certificated flight
result of these restrictions, the vast majority of people studying for
their recreational pilot certificate continue to earn their private pilot
certificate. Because of this, there usually are only about 300 pilots with
the recreational certificate each year.
Recreational pilots must have a current Class III medical, which they must
renew every 24 or 36 months (depending upon age). They must revalidate
their pilot certificates every 24 months by undertaking a flight review
with a CFI.
pilots comprise the largest group of pilots and are among the most active
private pilot — with appropriate training, ratings, and endorsements
(e.g., floatplane, taildragger, multiengine, helicopter, jet, retractable
gear, pressurized, high-performance, complex, etc.) — may carry passengers
in any aircraft, day or night, good or bad weather (see Instrument Rating
pilots may not fly for compensation or hire (no passenger or revenue
services) but may share equally with their passengers the direct operating
expenses of a flight — specifically fuel, oil, airport parking and landing
fees, and aircraft rental charges.
pilots must have a current medical certificate, which they must renew
every 12, 24 or 36 months (depending upon age). They must revalidate their
pilot certificates every 24 months by undertaking a flight review with a
certificated flight instructor (CFI).
technically not a pilot certificate, the instrument rating is the most
common and logical step to take after gaining some experience while flying
with a private pilot certificate. This add-on rating allows a pilot to fly
in weather with reduced visibilities such as rain, low clouds, or heavy
haze. When flying in these conditions, pilots follow instrument flight
rules (IFR). The instrument rating provides the skills needed to complete
flights without visual reference to the ground, except for the takeoff and
landing phases. All pilots who fly above 18,000 feet mean sea level (msl)
must have an instrument rating.
instrument rating makes the use of aircraft more practical for routine
transportation because most of the time, an "IFR-rated" pilot will be able
to safely conduct their flight in spite of the weather conditions they may
instrument rating requires highly specialized training by a certificated
flight instructor (CFI) with a special instrument instruction rating (CFII),
and completion of an additional written exam, oral exam, and flight test.
Pilots applying for an instrument rating must hold at least a current
private pilot certificate and medical, have logged at least 50 hours of
cross-country flight time as pilot in command, and have at least 40 hours
of actual or simulated instrument time including at least 15 hours of
instrument flight training and instrument training on cross-country flight
used on a regular and sufficient basis, pilots must revalidate their
instrument rating every 12 months by undertaking an instrument proficiency
check with a CFI.
United Kingdon has a simplified rating, the IMC which is only valid in UK
the name implies, commercial pilots can be paid to fly aircraft.
Commercial pilots must be at least 18 years old and have a minimum of 250
hours of flight time (190 hours under the accelerated curriculum defined
in Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations), including 100 hours in
powered aircraft, 50 hours in airplanes, and 100 hours as pilot in command
(of which 50 hours must be cross-country flight time). They must hold an
instrument rating, or be restricted to flying for hire only in daylight,
under visual flight rules (VFR), within 50 miles of the originating
airport. They may fly for hire in accordance with applicable parts of
their Civil Aviation Regulations.
certificated flight instructor (CFI) is authorized by the Civil Aviation
Authority to give instruction to student pilots and pilots taking
recurrent training or preparing for additional certificates or ratings.
They also may give flight reviews and recommend their students for flight
tests. CFIs must be at least 18 years old and must hold at least a
commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating. CFIs may earn a
special instrument instructor rating, allowing them to teach instrument
flying (operating an aircraft in the air solely by instrument indications
without visual reference to the ground). An instructor with this rating is
called a CFII.
addition to undertaking their normal flight review every 24 months, CFIs
must revalidate their instructor certification every 24 months.
Airline Transport Pilots
the doctorate degree of piloting. Airline transport pilots (ATPs) must be
at least 23 years old and have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time,
including 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night
flying, and 75 hours in actual or simulated instrument flight conditions.
Most ATPs have many thousands of hours of flight time. ATPs also must have
a commercial certificate and an instrument rating. ATPs may instruct other
pilots in air transportation service in aircraft in which the ATP is
rated. They may not instruct pilots outside of air transportation service
unless they also have an appropriate fight instructor certificate.
must have a current and much more stringent Class I medical, which they
are required to renew every six months. Like all pilots, they must
revalidate their certificates every 24 months with a flight review.
However, most active ATPs undergo a check ride in an aircraft or simulator
every six months.