When you think about a pilot, images of airline captains or Air Force jets may come to mind, but the truth is that virtually any adult in the United States can become a pilot. In fact, owning and operating a private aircraft is both a hobby and a career for many who love to take to the skies, and you don’t have to work for an airline or be in the military to soar through the clouds. Everyday citizens can obtain pilot certificates to operate aircraft, and there are different levels of certification for different types of flying.
Many recreational or private pilots also have resources available online to obtain aircraft and aircraft parts with the click of a mouse. You can search for individuals selling small aircraft online, and if you’re a hobbyist, you can also purchase aircraft landing lights for your next project through the web. These opportunities make it easy for those interested in aviation to have access to many of the same technologies as the “professionals” that were once considered only available to corporate airline companies and manufacturers.
If you’re interested in getting into the cockpit, below are a few pilot certificate options to pursue:
Student Pilot Certificate
When you’re just starting out in your flying journey, you’re probably going to pursue your Student Pilot Certificate first. With this certificate, you only need to be 16 years of age, read, speak and understand English and submit the proper paperwork to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This certificate allows you to learn to fly under guided instruction and, in some limited cases, fly on your own. A Student Pilot Certificate is the first step in graduating onto obtaining a Recreational Pilot License and a Commercial Pilot Certificate.
Recreational Pilot Certificate
With a Recreational Pilot Certificate, you can fly within 50 nautical miles of your origin airport, but you can only fly during daylight and can only pilot light aircraft. You are not, however, able to fly in controlled airspace or land at towered airports. To obtain this type of certificate, you must have a Student or Sport Pilot Certificate, complete 30 hours of flight time training and pass an FAA-administered test. This type of certificate is ideal for pilots who want or need to take occasional flights in limited areas without the need for compensation.
Commercial Pilot Certificate
If you want to make money using your passion for flying, a Commercial Pilot Certificate can help. With a Commercial Pilot Certificate, you’re able to fly commercially; however, you are not able to pilot large jetliners. For this, you will need an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. You can, however, pilot aircraft for profit doing things like towing banners, operating charter flights in private aircraft and operating freight flights. To obtain this type of certificate, you will need have at least 250 hours of flight time, understand the basics of things like aircraft lights, aviation lighting and other technical aspects of flight operation as well as take and pass a number of FAA exams.
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate
The Airline Transport Pilot Certificate is designed for professional airline pilots who fly large commercial jetliners. If you’re interested in becoming a pilot for a major airline, this is the certificate to pursue. The prerequisites for this certificate include 1,500 hours of experience in an aircraft and the holding of a Commercial Pilot Certificate. You will also need to know a lot about the technical aspects of various aircraft, including things about aircraft lights, meters and instrument reading, aircraft lamps and aircraft light bulbs and much more. Commercial airline pilots also operate around the world and may have non-traditional schedules, so these are things to keep in mind if you decide that this is the path you want to take.