The Private Pilot License Defined and Understood

aircraft cockpit view
March 22, 2021
The Private Pilot License Defined and Understood
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The most sought-after classification that allows individuals to fly, the Private Pilot Certificate, is commonly referred to as a Private Pilot License but is officially called the Private Pilot Certificate in the United States — and at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology. In the simplest terms, it allows a pilot to operate a single-engine airplane and carry passengers in much the same way that a driver’s license allows a driver to drive a car and transport others. 

To earn a Private Pilot License (certificate), aspiring pilots must demonstrate a mastery of aircraft maneuvers, aviation navigation, cross-country flight, and emergency procedures. After accruing the knowledge and skill needed to obtain a Private Pilot License, you will be ready to fly a plane solo. 

Depending on factors that range from flight school program structure and prevailing weather conditions to student financial limitations and schedule availability, the total amount of time needed to secure a Private Pilot License (certificate) can vary quite dramatically. However, a dedicated student can secure a Private Pilot License in a matter of months. 


The Benefits of a Private Pilot License 

People pursue a Private Pilot License for a variety of reasons. While many private pilots are hobbyists who are content to fly for fun, the Private Pilot License (certificate) is also the first major steppingstone on the path to becoming a commercial pilot. 

Whether you trained in a Cessna 172 or a new Piper Archer at Spartan College, you are officially cleared to act as pilot in command (PIC) of most single-engine land airplanes after certification. These aircraft typically contain either two or four seats. 

Your status as PIC gives you the final authority and ultimately responsibility for aircraft operation and flight safety. Additional authorization endorsements may be necessary to act as PIC in certain single-engine aircraft that include tailwheel and high-performance planes. 


How to Obtain a Private Pilot License 

Newcomers to the world of aviation may be intimidated by the specific processes necessary to pursue a Private Pilot License (certificate). Although it takes time and dedication, you can begin to work toward your Private Pilot License by taking the following steps: 


  1. Make Sure You Meet Eligibility Requirements

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a detailed list of eligibility requirements that you must meet in order to embark on your journey toward your Private Pilot License (certificate). Briefly summarized, these requirements insist that all Private Pilot License applicants must… 

  • Be at least 17 years old.
  • Adequately speak, read, and understand English.
  • Have the physical and mental abilities needed to successfully complete all flight training requirements as well as the final knowledge exam, verbal exam, flight test, and logging flight hours.

If you have specific questions about your eligibility for a private pilot license, contact an approved or instructor. 


  1. Pass a Third-Class Aviation Medical Exam

A good flight training school can also help you obtain the basic credentials that you need to embark on your journey to becoming a private pilot. Before beginning to fly as a private pilot, you must possess a valid Third-Class Medical Certificate from the FAA. This document proves that you are physically fit to take to the air. 
The Aviation Medical Exam will take care of the medical portion of qualifying you for trainingHowever, a Flight Instructor is responsible for recommending a student for a Student Pilot Certificate. This will ensure that you’re ready to begin your career-oriented training.  

  1. Obtain a Student Pilot Certificate

Although most people choose to secure a Student Pilot Certificate and a Third-Class FAA Medical Certificate at the same time, you also have the option of submitting an electronic Student Pilot Certificate application through the Integrated Airman Certification and/or Rating Application (IACRA). Many flight schools will help you with the application, so talk with them first. However you obtain it, the Student Pilot Certificate allows you to train in the air as a student pilot. Although you can complete some training without your Third-Class FAA Medical Certificate, you cannot fly solo until you obtain one. 


  1. Complete Training Through at Qualified Flight School

As we have previously highlighted, many different types of flight training programs are available. The key is finding one that meets your specific wants and needs. For example, the flight school at the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology provides thorough training, allowing students to earn an associate's degree in 17 months. 


  1. Pass the FAA Written Exam

Whether you take it before you set foot in an airplane or you wait until your training progresses, you cannot complete your final private pilot check ride for your Private Pilot License without passing the FAA Private Pilot Written Exam. This comprehensive knowledge examination ensures that you have the background information that you need to know in order to pilot a plane. 


  1. Start Logging Time in the Sky

Of course, practical training in a real plane is also supremely important. In order to prepare for your final check ride, you'll need to become comfortable executing basic maneuvers, such as takeoff, climbing, turning, descending, and landing. While there isn’t a minimum requirement of flight time required before you, and other students, can fly solo, Spartan instructors will be there for you until you’re ready. Under part 61, students are required to have 10 hours of solo time. However, under Spartan’s approved course, you are only required to fly solo five hours. After your first solo flight, you'll begin to work toward cross-country flights, master navigation techniques, and perform more advanced maneuvers. 


  1. Pass the FAA Practical Exam

Otherwise known as the check ride, the FAA Practical Exam actually consists of two parts: a verbal exam that generally lasts for several hours. The flight portion of the exam usually lasts between one and two hours.  The entire process can last anywhere for several hours, depending on the skill level of the student and the assessment methods of the designated FAA examiner. 

The FAA also requires a minimum of 10 takeoffs, 10 landings, three hours of basic instrument training, and three hours of night flying. In terms of cross-country training, student pilots must complete three hours in the air under the guidance of an instructor, five hours of solo cross-country flight, and a solo cross-country flight that spans at least 150 nautical miles and incorporates three landings at different airports. 


Making the Most of Your Private Pilot License 

After passing your FAA Practical Exam, your examiner will help you fill out the online FAA paperwork that you need to submit for your Private Pilot License. You will also have to submit the associated FAA fees. 

However, you won’t have to wait to enjoy the privileges of your new pilot license. While you wait for your official FAA Private Pilot Certificate to arrive in the mail, you can use a temporary private pilot certificate that your examiner will present you on-site. Even better, you can begin celebrating the bright new possibilities that your Private Pilot License entails. 

Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology does not guarantee third-party certifications. Certification requirements for taking and passing certification examinations are not controlled by the College, but by outside agencies and are subject to change by the agencies without notice to the College. Therefore, the College cannot guarantee that graduates will be eligible to take certification examinations, regardless of their eligibility status upon enrollment. 
Licensed to operate by OBVPS. For consumer information visit www.Spartan.edu   

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