Thank you for being here!
Technically speaking, it is not a license but instead a certificate , however, far more people search for “private pilot license” than “private pilot certificate” and so in the interest of making it easier for people to find this information I will be using “license” most of the time.
I will also be concentrating on “airplanes”, or “fixed wing”, as slightly different rules apply to helicopters and other categories of aircraft.
The biggest question I hear from people interested in becoming a pilot: “What can I do with a private pilot license and what kind of airplanes can I fly?” Glad you asked!…
- You can fly airplanes with engines up to 200 horse power. Higher than 200 with ground and flight training from a FAA certified flight instructor (CFI) who can “sign you off” for the high performance endorsement.
- Non complex aircraft unless trained by a CFI and signed off for the complex aircraft endorsement.
- Aircraft with maximum certified ceilings of less than 25,000 feet unless trained by a CFI and signed off for the high altitude endorsement.
- Aircraft with multiple seats so that you can take friends and family flying with you. No seat number limitation but with a 200 horse power limit unless endorsed for more will typically limit you to 3-4 passengers due to aircraft maximum take off weight limits.
- VFR or good weather only unless you have gone through additional training and testing to have an IFR rating added to your private pilot license. In this case you can typically fly in weather that can be as low as ½ mile visibility and 200 foot cloud ceilings, depending on the airport, facilities, and aircraft equipment of course.
- You can fly jets with a private pilot license, however, you do need a “type rating” which requires ground and flight training in a specific aircraft make, model, and type (with exceptions). The same goes for very “large” aircraft. “Large” in this case meaning more than 12,500 lbs maximum certified gross takeoff weight.
So really, you can fly just about anything with wings as long as you start small and work your way up. A good plan for pilot with non commercial aspirations is to set a goal to achieve a new endorsement or rating each year after you first earn your private pilot license. This will keep you current and improve your flying skills thus promoting aviation safety for all of us in the air and on the ground!
One thing that a private pilot certificate does not allow is to fly passengers or property for compensation or hire, with exceptions of course! Those exceptions are: FAA Part 61.113
- A private pilot can recover expenses from fellow passengers related to operating aircraft only but the pilot must pay his pro-rata or equel share. 5 people on the aircraft means the pilot must pay no less than 1/5 of the total operating and/or rental costs.
- Private pilots can fly for hire if it is a non profit charitable flight and must follow the rules as listed in FAA Part 91.146
- All of your flight operating expenses can be completely reimbursed if the flight is for a government agency organized search and rescue. In fact, Harrison Ford found a lost hiker in his Bell 206 helicopter that he flies! Rescued by Han Solo himself!
- Once you are a private pilot you can fly for your business need if it is incidental in nature only. Say you need to meet a client before your competitor does. You fly, he drives, you get the contract, he does not. You just made money as a pilot legally because it was incidental to that business. You cannot add the costs to any bill you charge a customer.
Making money as a pilot gets a whole lot easier and complicated at the same time when you earn a commercial pilot license but that is another story.
The private pilot license is really designed to shrink your world. It is easy to hop from state to state or even across the country in even the simplest training aircraft. Think about no security lines, point to point travel instead of “hub and spoke” airline routes, leaving when you want to leave, stay as long as you like, just pure freedom. However, just as with all freedom comes huge responsibility.
Fly safe and have FUN!