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Requirements for a US FAA Pilot Certificate

It has been said that a motivated individual can be taught to take-off and land an aircraft in as little as a few hours of flight training. The work involved in actually obtaining a pilot certificate or rating goes far beyond the development of the basic skills learned in a few hours in the aircraft!

It is important for you to understand the level of commitment that will lead you to a pilot certificate…

​Our emphasis, as well as the intent of the US FAA in its regulations, is to produce safe, competent, and responsible pilots.

The minimum requirement to prepare for and pass a Knowledge (written) Test will take many hours of focused and disciplined study and note-taking.

​The minimum requirements for Flight Training will require advance preparation and study of the aircraft systems, pre-flight procedures, and maneuvers to be performed BEFORE entering the aircraft. You will have plenty of time to ask questions before then and after during the post-flight “de-briefing”!

After learning about basic control and performance of the aircraft, the minimum requirements for solo flight will require an understanding of operations in the airport traffic pattern, basic navigation, communications, and our shared confidence in your abilities to plan and safely complete the flights.

By endorsing you for solo flight, the Practical Test (checkride), or issuing the pilot certificate or rating, you must remember this: the instructor and examiner are certifying that YOU are capable of SAFELY flying your family and friends and that YOU have developed the necessary JUDGEMENT to make good decisions!

The eligibility, knowledge, proficiency, and experience requirements for all pilots and for all certificates and ratings are clearly defined in Part 61 of the US FAA Federal Aviation Regulations, known as the “FARs” (technically 14 CFR Part 61) and titled Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors. The “rules of the road” are clearly defined in 14 CFR Part 91 of the regulations and titled General Operating and Flight Rules.

Most tests you have ever taken has resource materials to use for test preparation. The US FAA undertook a revamping of the former Practical Test Standards, incorporating suggestions from the flight training community, to clarify and organize areas of ground study and flight training. These new publications by the US FAA are now incorporated into documents referred to as Airman Certification Standards and are available for all Certificates and most Ratings (see links below).

14 CFR Part 61 describes several “grades” or levels of Certificates. Among them are:






          Airline Transport Pilot

To the Private, Commercial, and ATP grades of pilot Certificates, “Ratings” are attached that further describe the allowable category and class of aircraft or operations that the pilot is authorized to conduct, for example:

          Airplane, Rotorcraft, Glider, etc.

          Single-Engine or Multi-Engine

          Land (wheels) or Sea (floats, etc)

          Instrument Ratings

          Instructor Ratings (CFI)

          Type Ratings (any turbo-jet or aircraft heavier than 12,500 pounds)


The majority of beginning pilots will train in single-engine land airplanes for flight under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) towards meeting the requirements of a Private Pilot Certificate. A “PPL” provides the most flexibility to the beginning pilot in terms of types of operations, authorized aircraft, and reduction of instructor oversight. A: US FAA Private Pilot applicant must (ref: 14 CFR 61.102-117):

Receive and log flight training for night operations including at least three (3) hours of dual instruction, ten (10) take-offs and landings, and a cross-country flight as night visual flight under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) is allowed in the United States without an instrument rating.

The pilot applicant must also receive and log training in control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments (Basic Attitude Instrument Flying). This training is only intended to help you escape a situation where you might INADVERTENTLY lose visual references under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). The training is NOT intended to allow you to receive Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) clearances, to conduct flight operations under IFR, or to enter Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). That advanced training is received during your Instrument Rating course.

Under US FAA regulations, it is also possible to train for and receive the Instrument Rating at the same time you are preparing for the Private Pilot Certificate/Airplane or Helicopter (ref: 14 CFR 61.65). Once you understand the value of developing the skills to fly precisely that the Instrument Rating affords, you may want to consider this option!


1). The minimum requirements under 14 CFR Part 61 for US FAA pilot certificates and ratings or Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors are clearly stated and may be found at:

2). Aviation “rules of the road” or General Operating and Flight Rules are found under 14 CFR Part 91 at and the Aeronautical Information Manual at:

3). For a copy of the Private Pilot Airman Certification Standards see:

4). For more information on the Instrument Rating see:

Please call us with any questions!
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