If learning how to fly a plane is on your bucket list of life dreams, obtaining a license to operate aircraft can be within reach if you meet some basic criteria. While owning a plane authorized to make long distance trips is out of the financial realm of possibility for most people, if you earn a recreational pilot certificate you can simply rent a plane when you feel the urge to fly. The following guide outlines the ins and outs of earning a recreational pilot certificate.
Recreational Pilot Certificate Basics
Civilians can earn three types of pilot certificates: recreational, sport and private. The private pilot certificate requires more extensive training than a recreational qualification while the sport certificate does not allow you to fly after dark.
In order to begin pilot training you must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 17 years old
- Obtain a medical certificate
The cost of obtaining a pilot certificate will cost you at least $5,000 according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The exact cost will vary depending on how many hours of training you need to master flying skills required to earn a certificate.
Medical Certificate Criteria
Before you begin your flight lessons, you need to acquire a medical certificate from an aviation medical examiner (AME) approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The federal agency provides a list of AMEs online so you can find one near your home.
If you suffer from any of the following conditions you will have to complete more stringent medical requirements in order for an AME to issue you a medical certificate:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Insulin-treated diabetes
If you are currently taking prescription antidepressants, your flying privileges may be limited. You will undergo in-depth screening to determine if you are mentally fit to fly an aircraft. In addition, the AME will issue you a special issuance waiver as long you are taking antidepressants and possibly require you to come in for additional checkups.
If you develop a mental condition after you earn your certificate and begin taking antidepressants, the FAA will prohibit you from flying for a year. The agency considers depression a safety hazard that can make it hard for you to focus while flying.
Flying Lesson Details
Schools generally train pilots in single-engine airplanes. If you are earning a recreational certificate, you will need to complete a minimum of 30 hours of flight training.
The training will include in-flight preparation instruction, in-the-air lessons and solo flying time. If you want to fly multi-engine planes, you must undergo additional flying instruction.
If you have limited experience traveling in small aircraft you should schedule an orientation flight before your instruction begins to gauge how your body reacts to flight. You want to make sure that you can manage unexpected biological reactions such as nausea or acrophobia (fear of heights).
When you click here and complete flight training, your FAA-certified flight instructor will administer a written exam. An exam covers:
- FAA regulations
- Airspace procedures
- Aircraft specifications
- Landing techniques
- The basic physics of flying
You must also complete a solo flight as part of your certification process. During the flight test you will be required to perform pre-flight procedures, in-flight maneuvers, successful taxiing and other crucial tasks required for a safe flight.
When you complete the exam requirements, your instructor will help you complete the FAA paperwork to apply for a certificate. You pay the FAA certificate fees directly to your instructor. You will receive a temporary certificate until the official FAA version arrives in the mail.
Earning a recreational license is the fastest way to fulfill your goal of learning how to fly. It is also a good way to find out if you will actually enjoy flying before investing in obtaining the more advanced private pilot certificate. Once you obtain your license, you can impress your friends by taking them on fun, short trips and enjoy the freedom of soaring above the ground.