While I'm thankful that third class medical reform has passed, I currently have a special issuance medical that the FAA has been reviewing for several months. This go around, they requested additional documentation further delaying the process.

I'm currently a private pilot. However, the aircraft I fly meets the requirements to be able to be flown by a recreational pilot. Looking at FAR 61.96, it doesn't look like I can "downgrade" my certificate with an additional recreational pilot rating per:

§ 61.96 Applicability and eligibility requirements: General.

(b) To be eligible for a recreational pilot certificate, a person who applies >for that certificate must:

(1) Be at least 17 years of age;

(2) Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. If the >applicant is unable to meet one of these requirements due to medical reasons, >then the Administrator may place such operating limitations on that applicant's >pilot certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of the aircraft;>

(3) Receive a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor who -

(i) Conducted the training or reviewed the applicant's home study on the >aeronautical knowledge areas listed in § 61.97(b) of this part that apply to >the aircraft category and class rating sought; and

(ii) Certified that the applicant is prepared for the required knowledge test.

(4) Pass the required knowledge test on the aeronautical knowledge areas listed >in § 61.97(b) of this part;

(5) Receive flight training and a logbook endorsement from an authorized >instructor who -

(i) Conducted the training on the areas of operation listed in § 61.98(b) of >this part that apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought; and

(ii) Certified that the applicant is prepared for the required practical test.

(6) Meet the aeronautical experience requirements of § 61.99 of this part that >apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought before applying for the >practical test;

(7) Pass the practical test on the areas of operation listed in § 61.98(b) that >apply to the aircraft category and class rating;

(8) Comply with the sections of this part that apply to the aircraft category >and class rating; and

(9) Hold either a student pilot certificate or sport pilot certificate.

Specifically (9). Is there a way I can exercise the privileges of a recreational pilot? I'm willing to take another knowledge test / checkride. Thanks!

  • $\begingroup$ The type of flight, not the level of pilot certificate, set the medical requirements. For example, an airline captain with an ATP does not need a 1st class medical to fly his personal C-152 just because ATPs need 1st class medicals to do their job. $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2016 at 10:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A third-class medical is still required for a recreational pilot (see 61.23(a)(iii)(2)). You may be thinking of a sport pilot, where you can fly with a driver's license instead? But that's only possible if you've never had a medical revoked or an SI withdrawn. It isn't completely clear from what you've said if that applies to you or not. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 23, 2016 at 12:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (The answer I posted this on looks like it was removed) There is another option to avoid losing your "currency", you could always go flying with an instructor. You don't need a valid medical (or even license) to fly with an instructor while waiting for your medical to get reviewed. Even with third class medical reform you may not qualify to fly if you've ever been revoked as @Pondlife said. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


Not technically.

You could opt to surrender your private pilot certificate to the FAA thus making you not a pilot, and then you could take a checkride for recreational.

Of course, there is no reason to do this at all! You can do the same things as long as you're exercising the privileges of the lower certificate, then whatever medical rules are there should only apply for that operation if I'm not mistaken.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ this is correct -- but I want to emphasize that regardless of the certificate you hold you may elect to exercise the privileges of a lower certificate. $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Aug 23, 2016 at 12:15

Recreational Pilot is NOT the same as Light Sport. I think there have only ever been a couple hundred people with Recreational Pilot certificates. This predates LSA. Recreational Pilots can fly something like a 172, though with lots of limitations.

If you are thinking of a Light Sport Airplane, then, as mentioned above, your Private Pilot ASEL certificate includes all the privileges of the lower Sport Pilot certificate. Get checked out in the airplane and have fun.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! I may have missed something but I don't see any confusion between recreational and sport in the question. In any case, if you're new to StackExchange the tour meet be useful. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Feb 7, 2019 at 4:03

i suppose you could surrender your PPL to the FSDO, thence receive and log ground and flight training with an instructor for a recreational pilot certificate and pass both the knowledge and practical exams for RPL.

But why would you want to?

Recreational pilot certificates hamstring what you currently can do with your PPL ie no night flying, cross country flying, etc. without additional training and logbook endorsements, etc. you would also need a current medical certificate to take the checkride as well. In addition a RPL requires either a current medical certificate or BasicMed compliance in order to act as PIC aboard an airplane.

I’d say a better option for you would be to go the BasicMwd route per Part 68 and just limit your PIC activity to the restrictions listed in Part 68. It’s would be much simpler to do and offer you much more flexibility in your future flying.


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