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Learn to Fly - Become a Pilot

Step 1: Pilot Certificates and Ratings


There are various pilot certificates and ratings that you can obtain. Regardless of what your flying goals are, the first certificate you will earn is either the Recreational or Private Pilot Certificate. After earning your Recreational or Private Pilot Certificate, you can continue your training by earning the instrument rating, commercial certificate, multi-engine rating, and/or flight instructor certificate/ratings. As pilots advance in their careers, most will also earn the Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, Type Rating(s), and/or possibly the Flight Engineer Certificate. Each certificate and rating you obtain will add to your qualifications, flying skills, and aeronautical knowledge.

For detailed information for each certificates’ or ratings’ prerequisites and minimum flight time requirements, read the FAA’s Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61 - Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors. You should also speak with a flight instructor at a local flight school to learn more about the pilot certificates’ and ratings’ prerequisites, eligibility requirements, and costs.

AvScholars.com has provided a brief description for each type of certificate and rating below:
Recreational Pilot Certificate
Private Pilot Certificate
Instrument Rating
Commercial Pilot Certificate
Multi Engine Rating
Flight Instructor Certificate/Ratings
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate
Type Rating
Flight Engineer (FE) Certificate


Recreational Pilot Certificate

The Recreational Pilot Certificate allows you to act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of an airplane carrying 1 passenger at a time, in which you’re only allowed to fly during the daytime under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Other restrictions associated with this certificate are: no flying at night, no flying beyond 50 miles, no flying at airports that require radio communications with a controller, and a few other restrictions. This certificate is not a very popular due to its many restrictions. In order to avoid these restrictions, many pilots choose to obtain a Private Pilot Certificate.

As a Recreational Pilot, you may share the flight costs with your passengers, but you cannot charge or accept compensation for the flight, or work as a pilot for a company that charges to carry passengers or cargo. You are also required to hold at least a Third-Class Medical Certificate when acting as Private Pilot.

For more details about the prerequisites and requirements to obtain a Recreational Pilot Certificate, browse the FAA’s FARs Database and search for the following links below:

  Subpart D----Recreational Pilots
• 61.96 Applicability
• 61.96a Eligibility requirements: General.
• 61.97 Aeronautical knowledge.
• 61.98 Flight proficiency.
• 61.99 Aeronautical experience.
• 61.100 Pilots based on small islands.
• 61.101 Recreational pilot privileges and limitations.


Private Pilot Certificate

The Private Pilot Certificate is the first certificate earned by most pilots. This certificate allows you to act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of an airplane carrying passengers, in which you’re only allowed to fly during the day or night under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). As a Private Pilot, you may share the flight costs with your passengers, but you cannot charge or accept compensation for the flight, or work as a pilot for a company that charges to carry passengers or cargo. You are also required to hold at least a Third-Class Medical Certificate when acting as Private Pilot.

  For more details about the prerequisites and requirements to obtain a Private Pilot Certificate, browse the FAA’s FARs Database and search for the following links below:

Subpart E----Private Pilots

• 61.102 Applicability.
• 61.103 Eligibility requirements: General.
• 61.105 Aeronautical knowledge.
• 61.107 Flight proficiency.
• 61.109 Aeronautical experience.
• 61.110 Night flying exceptions for private pilot certification.
• 61.111 Cross-country flights: Pilots based on small islands.
• 61.113 Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command.
• 61.115 Balloon rating: Limitations.
• 61.117 Private pilot privileges and limitations: Second in command of aircraft requiring more than one pilot.
• 61.118 through 61.120 [Reserved]


Instrument Rating

An Instrument Rating allows you to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), in which most pilots earn after receiving their Private Pilot Certificate. With an instrument rating, you will become a more accurate, proficient, and safer pilot, even when the weather is VFR. This rating will advance your flying skills by allowing you to control and navigate your aircraft solely by reference to the flight instruments without outside visual references. Without an Instrument Rating, you will undoubtedly experience the frustration of canceling flights due to low ceilings and/or visibility, and it is quite dangerous to fly in this type of weather without this rating. This rating is required for a career as a professional pilot. For more details about the prerequisites and requirements to obtain an Instrument Rating, visit the FAA’s FAR 61.65 Instrument rating requirements.




Commercial Pilot Certificate
The Commercial Pilot Certificate allows you to make money by charging for your services, or work as a pilot for a company that charges to carry passengers or cargo. This certificate is obtainable after earning a Private Pilot Certificate. Without this certificate, you cannot charge anyone or make money for your services performed as a pilot. However, you can split the costs equally. Training for this certificate will teach you how to sharpen your flying skills as a pilot and master your aircraft. You are also required to hold at least a Second-Class Medical Certificate to operate as a Commercial Pilot. A Commercial Pilot Certificate is necessary for a career as a professional pilot.



  For more details about the prerequisites and requirements to obtain a Commercial Pilot Certificate, browse the FAA’s FARs Database and search for the following links below:

Subpart F----Commercial Pilots

• 61.121 Applicability.
• 61.123 Eligibility requirements: General.
• 61.125 Aeronautical knowledge.
• 61.127 Flight proficiency.
• 61.129 Aeronautical experience.
• 61.131 Exceptions to the night flying requirements for the commercial pilot certificate.
• 61.133 Commercial pilot privileges and limitations: General.
• 61.135 through 61.141 [Reserved.]


Multi Engine Rating
The Multi-Engine Rating allows you to fly an airplane with more than one engine. This rating is usually obtained after earning a Commercial Pilot Certificate and an Instrument Rating. Training for a multi-engine rating teaches more complex systems and how to safely control and land the airplane in the unlikely event that one of the engines fails. A multi-engine rating can also be added to a Private or Commercial Pilot's Certificate with VFR and IFR. This rating is required to obtain any job flying multi-engine airplanes and is necessary for a career as a professional pilot. For more details about the prerequisites and requirements to obtain a Multi-Engine Rating, read FAA’s FAR 61.63c: Additional aircraft ratings (other than airline transport pilot).

 


Flight Instructor Certificate
The Flight Instructor Certificate/Ratings allow you to teach students how to fly and train other pilots to help them earn their pilot certificate(s) and rating(s). A Commercial Pilot Certificate and an Instrument Rating are required to act as a flight instructor. You are also required to hold at least a Second-Class Medical Certificate.

There are three types of flight instructor certificates:
1. Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) Certificate – allows you to teach students pursuing their Private - Commercial Pilot Certificates.
2. Certified Flight Instrument Instructor (CFII) Certificate - allows you to teach students pursuing their Instrument Rating.
3. Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI) Certificate – allows you to teach students pursuing their Multi-Engine Rating.

  For more details about the prerequisites and requirements to obtain a Flight Instructor Certificate and Ratings, browse the FAA’s FARs Database and search for the following links below:

Subpart H--Flight Instructors

• 61.181 Applicability.
• 61.183 Eligibility requirements.
• 61.185 Aeronautical knowledge.
• 61.187 Flight proficiency.
• 61.189 Flight instructor records.
• 61.191 Additional flight instructor ratings.
• 61.193 Flight instructor endorsements and authorizations.
• 61.195 Flight instructor limitations and qualifications.
• 61.197 Renewal of flight instructor certificates.
• 61.199 Expired flight instructor certificates and ratings.
• 61.201 Conversion to the current flight instructor ratings.


Airline Transport Pilot Certificate
The Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate is considered the "PhD" of pilot certificates! This certificate allows you to act as Pilot-in-Command (aka Captain) of a commercial aircraft weighing more than 12,500lbs. To exercise the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate, you must also hold a current First-Class Medical Certificate.

To be eligible for an airline transport pilot certificate, you must: (paraphrased)
Be at least 23 years of age.
Hold at least a commercial pilot certificate and an instrument rating.
Have at least 1,500 hours of total time logged as a pilot that includes at least:
1. 500 hr. of cross-country flight time
2. 100 hr. of night flight time
3. 75 hr. of actual or simulated instrument flight time
4. 250 hours of flight time in an airplane as a pilot in command, which includes at least 100 hours cross-country flight time and 25 hours of night flight time.

The Airline Transport Pilot Certificate is necessary for a career as a professional pilot and other passenger-carrying operations. Most airlines and large corporations pay for their pilots to obtain the ATP certificate when they upgrade to Captain.

  For more details about the prerequisites and requirements to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate, browse the FAA’s FARs Database and search for the following links below:

Subpart G----Airline Transport Pilots

• 61.151 Applicability.
• 61.153 Eligibility requirements: General.
• 61.155 Aeronautical knowledge.
• 61.157 Flight proficiency.
• 61.159 Aeronautical experience: Airplane category rating.
• 61.161 Aeronautical experience: Rotorcraft category and helicopter class rating with a type rating.
• 61.163 Aeronautical experience: Powered-lift category.
• 61.165 Additional aircraft category and class ratings.
• 61.167 General privileges and limitations.
• 61.169 [Reserved].
• 61.171 [Reserved].



Type Rating
A type rating allows you to act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of a particular aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. Type ratings are added to a Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. In order to obtain a type rating, you must receive specific ground and flight training, and pass a practical test (oral and flight exam) in a simulator or aircraft. The Boeing 737 is the most common type rating. Most airlines will pay for their pilot to receive their type rating when they upgrade to Captain. However, some companies offer type rating courses for various aircraft, in which the length and costs of training will vary. For more details about the requirements to obtain a Type Rating, read FAA’s FAR 61.63d: Additional aircraft ratings (other than airline transport pilot).



Flight Engineer (FE) Certificate
A Flight Engineer (FE) Certificate allows you to act as flight engineer on certain airplanes requiring this crewmember. The FE does not fly the airplane. The FE’s duties involve managing the aircraft systems such as electrics, hydraulics, fuel and more, and assisting the Captain and First Officer. You don't have to be a pilot to become a flight engineer. The most common type of flight engineer certificate is the Boeing 727 flight engineer certificate.

Some major and cargo airlines require applicants to have either a current FE written (passed) or Flight Engineer Certificate. Most pilots opt for the FE written due to the high cost of receiving the FE certificate. Most students enroll in a two-day prep course, which costs approximately $250 including the exam. These courses are typically computer based with the test administered at the end of the course and test scores available immediately. The FE written can be completed in two hours. If you decide to take the knowledge test, take the test shortly before you apply to the major and cargo airlines, because it is only valid for two years. However, some companies offer Flight Engineer courses for various aircraft, in which the length and costs of training will vary. Prior to taking the Flight Engineer Knowledge Test, you must meet the experience requirements of FAR 63.37.

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Medical Certificates


Credit: Written by: Sedgwick Hines Copyright 2004-2007 AvScholars Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved. All photos copyrighted by their respective owners.
 

 

 

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Learn to Fly: Become a Pilot is your one-stop source to information on flight training, flying lessons, flight schools, and helicopter schools. Learn about the entire flight training process to help you earn your pilot certificates or ratings such as student pilot certificate, commercial pilot certificate, instrument rating, and others.

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