FAA Pilot Certification Information

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Here you will find all the information you need about all the different types of FAA pilot certificates (pilots licenses) and pilot ratings available in the United States. Once you complete your first flight lesson, you are considered a Student Pilot. A typical pilot looking to get hired by the airlines will usually get the following certificates and ratting in the order listed below.
  • Student Pilot Certificate
  • Private Pilot Certificate
  • Instrument Pilot Rating
  • Commercial Pilot Certificate
  • Multi Engine Pilot Rating with Commercial and Instrument Add-on
  • Flight Instructor certificate
  • Instrument Instructor Rating
  • Multi Engine Instructor Rating
  • Airline Transport Pilot Certificate
United States FAA Pilot Certificate
Student Pilot Certification:
An individual who is learning to fly under the tutelage of a flight instructor and who is permitted to fly alone under specific, limited circumstances. If you have just started your flight training then this is the category that you fall under. After you become a student pilot you will work towards your sport pilot, recreational pilot or private pilot certificate. Each of those pilot certificate let you do different things. So make sure you read about each pilot certificate to decide what type of pilot’s certificate you would like to work towards.
Sport Pilot Certification:
An individual who is authorized to fly only Light-sport Aircraft. This new pilot certificate is more affordable then becoming a private pilot because you need fewer hours to qualify for a sport pilot certificate. The sport pilot certificate offers limited privileges mainly for recreational use.
Recreational Pilot Certification:
An individual who may fly aircraft of up to 180 horsepower and 4 seats in the daytime for pleasure only. Most new student pilots prefer to work towards the new Sport Pilot Certificate instead of the Recreational Pilot Certificate.
Private Pilot Certification:
An individual who may fly for pleasure or personal business, generally without accepting compensation. This is the certificate that the majority of active pilot pursue. If you plan on working for the airlines or flying for hire, this is the first pilot certificate that you will work towards.
Commercial Pilot Certification:
An individual who may, with some restrictions, fly for compensation or hire. Once you complete your private pilot certificate you will either work towards your commercial pilot certificate or the instrument rating. The commercial pilot certificate allows you to get paid for flying under certain circumstances. This doesn't mean that you can jump in your airplane and have someone pay you to fly them somewhere.
Airline Transport Pilot Certification: (Often called ATP):
An individual authorized to act as pilot in command for a scheduled airline. The airline transport pilot certificate allows you to operate as a Captain for an airline or private charter. Most airlines will not hire you until you acquire the atp certificate.
Instrument Pilot Rating:
An instrument rating is required to fly under instrument flight rules. Instrument ratings are issued for a specific category of aircraft; a pilot certified to fly an airplane under IFR has an Instrument Airplane rating. Once you complete your private pilot’s certificate you will more than likely work towards your instrument rating. This will let you fly in clouds and weather that would not normally be feasible (or legal) in VFR conditions.
Multi Engine Pilot Rating:
A multi-engine rating is required to fly an airplane with more than one engine. It is the most common example of a class rating. If you want to become an airline pilot then you will have to get your multi engine rating. You will also need to build at least one hundred hours of multi engine time before any commercial operator hires you. You are better off building as much multi engine time as possible. Commercial operators look for multi engine time experience because most of the commercial flying you will do is in airplanes that have more than one engine.
Flight Instructor Certification:
A flight instructor certificate authorizes the holder to give training and endorsement for a certificate, and perform a flight review. Most pilots that want to become airline pilots pursue their flight instructor certificate. This is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to build your flight hours to meet the hour requirements to qualify for a flying job. Unless you have a few $100,000 lying around this is one of only a few ways you can build you hours without having to pay for them.
Instrument Instructor Rating:
A instrument instructor rating authorizes a certified flight instructor to give training and endorsement for an instrument rating.
Multi Engine Instructor Rating:
A multi-engine instructor rating authorizes a certified flight instructor to give training and endorsement for a multi-engine rating. This is also a great way to build your multi engine time.
Ground Instructor Certification:
The ground instructor certificate allows the holder to offer various kinds of ground instruction required of those seeking pilot certificates and ratings.
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