For some pilots, a private pilot license is a first step on the way to a commercial license that allows you to fly for hire. While the private certificate requires a minimum 40 hours of flying time, the commercial certificate requires at least 250 hours of flying time. Time spent as a private pilot can frequently be applied to the commercial pilot requirement.
As you start working toward your private pilot's license, you will spend time in the air with a flight instructor. The flight instructor will show you the basics of operating the plane, including how to handle in-air emergency situations. You can also expect to have to demonstrate your ability to use navigation skills and to do longer-distance flights. You will have to spend at least 20 hours in the plane with a flight instructor to qualify for a license.
The FAA requires you to spend at least 10 hours of solo flying while you are still in training. To do that, you will need to get a student pilot certificate from your instructor, which requires you to pass an FAA-certified third-class medical examination, as well.
Special Flight Training
In addition to flying with and without an instructor, you will need some special training. With an instructor, you will have to receive three hours of cross-country training, three hours of night flight training and three hours of instrument training. As a solo pilot, you will also need at least five hours of flying at least 50 nautical miles. You will also need a 150-nautical-mile flight with three full stops, and at least one leg of 50 or more nautical miles. The FAA also wants you to log three takeoff and landing cycles at an airport that has a control tower.
While the FAA allows pilots to get a license with as few as 40 hours of experience, most pilots end up with more. The East Coast Aero Club estimates that a pilot will need 55 hours to gain a certificate. According to aviation expert Rod Machado, the average is 71 hours, although this statistic includes pilots that spread their training out over longer periods of time.
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