Are you an aviation geek who’s dreamed of flying recreationally but are not sure where to begin? Flying isn’t just reserved for commercial airline or military pilots. If you’re not interested in pursuing flying as your full-time job to earn money, there are still a variety of ways to get your feet off the ground.
Becoming a private pilot is one way of making your dream of flying a reality. As a private pilot, you get to fly a small aircraft by yourself and can even take some family and friends with you. You can also test aircraft with potential buyers as well as fly to and from charity and non-profit events.
If you’re interested in becoming a private pilot, you’ll need to obtain a private pilot certification– also known as a private pilot license–from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
What Are the Restrictions for a Private Pilot Certification?
Becoming a private pilot comes with certain nonnegotiable restrictions, which are necessary to ensure the safety of you, your passengers and other aircraft sharing airspace with you.
That being said, obtaining and maintaining private pilot certification requires strict adherence to numerous aviation regulations:
- You must be at least 17 years old and hold a valid third-class medical certificate. The medical certificate is issued after passing a physical exam done by an FAA-approved doctor.
- You must complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, including 20 hours of instruction from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight time.
- You must pass a written, oral and practical exam administered by an FAA-designated examiner.
- As a private pilot, you’re restricted to flying only during daylight hours and in good weather conditions, unless you have additional training or certifications such as instrument rating or night rating.
- You’re restricted to flying only within the United States unless you have additional training or certifications, such as foreign pilot license privileges or international operations privileges.
- You’re permitted to fly in every airspace except Class A (for which you must have an instrument rating). Private pilots who have an instrument rating can fly in Class A, but must stay below 18,000 feet.
What Are the Third-Class Medical Certificate Requirements?
When pursuing a private pilot license, you’ll first and foremost need to pass the required physical exam to ensure you’re healthy enough to fly. Without passing the exam, any training you’ve completed and any written and oral tests you’ve studied for and passed will be in vain.
To obtain your third-class medical certificate, you’ll need to meet several different requirements:
- Visual: You must have at least 20/40 vision (see things clearly at 20 feet what others with normal vision can see at 40 feet) and not be color blind or have any ocular diseases.
- Auditory: There must not be any disease or malfunction of your auditory system. You must pass various tests for auditory acuity, such as the ability to hear in a noisy environment.
- Mental: Your mental health plays a vital role in your ability to operate aircraft safely and exercise sound judgment. You cannot have a diagnosed personality disorder, bipolar depression or a psychotic episode.
- Neurological: You must not have any chronic or likely to reoccur conditions affecting your nervous system, such as epilepsy, sciatica and multiple sclerosis.
- Cardiovascular: You must not have any cardiovascular diseases, including angina and coronary heart disease. Pacemakers and heart transplants aren’t allowed either.
Can I Be Compensated to Fly with a Private Pilot License?
A private pilot license isn’t a commercial license, meaning you cannot make money flying as a private pilot. To fly for an airline or private jet company, you need to obtain a commercial pilot license.
You can, however, carry passengers such as family and friends when flying recreationally. You can also fly passengers to charity and community events, assist in search operations and ask others on board to reimburse you for fuel, rental fees and airport expenses.
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