There are two types of certificates available for the beginning pilot. These certificates., Called licenses, are the recreational pilot or the private pilot license. Although there are many similarities between the two, there are also some significant differences. The recreational pilot is generally restricted to a fifty mile radius of his home airport. He also may not fly at night, nor may he fly in air space requiring communication with air traffic control. The advantages of the recreational license are a shorter training time, thirty hours compared to forty for the private pilot, and this translates into a major cost savings. The major reason for the reduced training time is that instrument flying, and air traffic control communication training is left out. It is important to note that it is easy to upgrade from the recreational to the private pilot license, and usually involuntarily making up the deleted hours of training.
Both licenses have the following minimum requirements:
—- You must be 16 years of age in order to fly solo
—- You must be at least 17 to get the private pilot license
—- You must be able to read, speak, and understand English
—- You must have a minimum of a third class medical certificate
There are some other restrictions that need to be considered when selecting the recreational license. You may only fly during the day, and then in only good weather. You also may not fly over 10,000 feet, however, the FAA is usually understanding if you happen to have a 11,000 foot mountain in your path. You also are limited to single engine planes with less than 180 horsepower engines, and only up to four seats. Two of those seats are going to stay empty, as you are not allowed to have more than one passenger.
Although this seems to be fairly restrictive, it is not such a bad deal as far as training is concerned, and puts flying within the reach of just about anyone with a serious interest in learning to do it. Most areas are going to have a training school nearby. The training schools are going to also have aircraft of the required size available for training purposes or for rental after the certificate is earned. The schools will provide all the pilot supplies, and aircraft supplies that are needed as well.
Once the recreational pilot has completed his training, he will be able to take short flights from time to time. Flying like any other skill requires practice, and until the pilot has logged at least 400 hours of solo flying, it is required to make three take offs and three landings every ninety days in order to be allowed to take passengers.
Flying is an exhilarating activity, and it is not that far out of the reach of the average person. It is also a very dangerous activity, and the margin of error is not that high. The first and most important step to insure the safety of yourself, and those who may fly with you, is good training. Cost and the availability of good aviation supplies are an important consideration in selecting a flight training school, but a good reputation is even better. Make your choice as if your life depends on making the right one.