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I will be 16 in a few weeks and I really want to get flying so I am currently thinking that I should get a Student Pilots license and then get a Private Pilot License next summer when I am 17 but I was wondering what is required to advance from an SPL to a PPL? Is it significantly more economically wise to just wait to get a PPL?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! Which country are you in? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jun 7 at 3:58
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You have a bit of a misconception about the way these things work. Everyone gets a student pilot's license before they get a private pilot's license. The student license is just a step along the way to the private license. The requirements for getting a student pilot's license are minimal. It's the equivalent of a "learner's permit" in the automobile world. The reason that the requirements for a student pilot's license are minimal is that you will be operating under the supervision of an instructor. Just having the student license does not authorize you to fly an airplane without an instructor on board. When you hold a student pilot's license, an instructor has to endorse your license for solo privileges in each make and model of aircraft, and also has to endorse your logbook for solo privileges every ninety days. An instructor also has to review your planning for every cross-country flight, with exceptions for flights to another airport within 25 miles or repeated flights to another airport within 50 miles. These and other requirements for solo flight under a student pilot's license are spelled out in FAR 61.87 and 61.93.

Without a student pilot's license, there would be no way to build solo flight time as needed to qualify to take the checkride for a private pilot's license.

This answer is assuming that

1) You live in the USA

2) You haven't already learned to fly, and accumulated flight time, in the military..

Highly related-- essentially the same question in fact-- see all answers--

Am I required to obtain a student license before a sport, recreational, or private one?

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If you are in the U.S., Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 61.3 requires you to have a Student Pilot Certificate in order to solo an aircraft. You have to solo an aircraft in order to get a Private Pilot Certificate per Part 61.109. There is no economical way of going from no pilot certificate to a private pilot certificate without getting a student pilot certificate first. Also, prior to taking the final (for right now) exam called the checkride, you must fulfill the requirements of Part 61.103.

§61.3 Requirement for certificates, ratings, and authorizations.

(a) Required pilot certificate for operating a civil aircraft of the United States. No person may serve as a required pilot flight crewmember of a civil aircraft of the United States, unless that person:

(1) Has in the person’s physical possession or readily accessible in the aircraft when exercising the privileges of that pilot certificate or authorization—

(i) A pilot certificate issued under this part and in accordance with §61.19;

(ii) A special purpose pilot authorization issued under §61.77;

(iii) A temporary certificate issued under §61.17;

(iv) A document conveying temporary authority to exercise certificate privileges issued by the Airmen Certification Branch under §61.29(e);

(v) When engaged in a flight operation within the United States for a part 119 certificate holder authorized to conduct operations under part 121 or 135 of this chapter, a temporary document provided by that certificate holder under an approved certificate verification plan;

(vi) When engaged in a flight operation within the United States for a fractional ownership program manager authorized to conduct operations under part 91, subpart K, of this chapter, a temporary document provided by that program manager under an approved certificate verification plan; or

(vii) When operating an aircraft within a foreign country, a pilot license issued by that country may be used.

(2) Has a photo identification that is in that person’s physical possession or readily accessible in the aircraft when exercising the privileges of that pilot certificate or authorization. The photo identification must be a:

(i) Driver’s license issued by a State, the District of Columbia, or territory or possession of the United States;

(ii) Government identification card issued by the Federal government, a State, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession of the United States;

(iii) U.S. Armed Forces’ identification card;

(iv) Official passport;

(v) Credential that authorizes unescorted access to a security identification display area at an airport regulated under 49 CFR part 1542; or

(vi) Other form of identification that the Administrator finds acceptable.

§61.109 Aeronautical experience.

(a) For an airplane single-engine rating. Except as provided in paragraph (k) of this section, a person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight training in the areas of operation listed in §61.107(b)(1) of this part, and the training must include at least—

(1) 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a single-engine airplane;

(2) Except as provided in §61.110 of this part, 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane that includes—

(i) One cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance; and

(ii) 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.

(3) 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight;

(4) 3 hours of flight training with an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test, which must have been performed within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test; and

(5) 10 hours of solo flight time in a single-engine airplane, consisting of at least—

(i) 5 hours of solo cross-country time;

(ii) One solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations; and

(iii) Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

§61.103 Eligibility requirements: General.

To be eligible for a private pilot certificate, a person must:

(a) Be at least 17 years of age for a rating in other than a glider or balloon.

(b) Be at least 16 years of age for a rating in a glider or balloon.

(c) 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.

(d) Receive a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor who:

(1) Conducted the training or reviewed the person’s home study on the aeronautical knowledge areas listed in §61.105(b) of this part that apply to the aircraft rating sought; and

(2) Certified that the person is prepared for the required knowledge test.

(e) Pass the required knowledge test on the aeronautical knowledge areas listed in §61.105(b) of this part.

(f) Receive flight training and a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor who:

(1) Conducted the training in the areas of operation listed in §61.107(b) of this part that apply to the aircraft rating sought; and

(2) Certified that the person is prepared for the required practical test.

(g) Meet the aeronautical experience requirements of this part that apply to the aircraft rating sought before applying for the practical test.

(h) Pass a practical test on the areas of operation listed in §61.107(b) of this part that apply to the aircraft rating sought.

(i) Comply with the appropriate sections of this part that apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought.

(j) Hold a U.S. student pilot certificate, sport pilot certificate, or recreational pilot certificate.

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You can Solo at 16, but need to be 17 to get a license. So, that gives you a year to practice, and study up to pass the Knowledge exam if you plan to start now and get your license at 17. One of the first steps is to log in here, https://medxpress.faa.gov/medxpress/login.aspx and then find an Aviation Medical Examiner so you can get a Class III Medical. Your instructor can take thru the process to apply for the Student Pilot license. You can do lessons before that, you need the Student Pilot License to solo tho. Per Sporty's Academy: "You will need a Student Pilot Certificate before your first solo; that wondrous time when your instructor has enough confidence in your ability to get out of the airplane and send you off by yourself. You can obtain the certificate at any time prior to the solo."

Lessons aren't cheap, don't do much before an intro flight. Maybe an EAA.org Young Eagles flight at your local airport to check out flying before jumping headlong into spending money.

You will need 20 hours with an instructor, and 20 hours of solo time, minimum for each, before you can take your check ride with an FAA Examiner for your license when you are 17. (There's also a Sports License, but it has restrictions on it. Plan to spend the few extra hours and get the full PPL).

Many states are letting flight schools start training again this week after the months long COVID19 shutdown (you and your instructor will be side by side), so it's a good time to start flying.

If you're really into it, join your local EAA chapter and look into the Ray Scholarship https://www.eaa.org/eaa/eaa-chapters/eaa-chapter-resources/chapter-programs-and-activities/ray-aviation-scholarship-fund and maybe get some help paying for your training.

You can study online with these guys, https://checkride-prep.com/, and get an endorsement to take the Knowledge exam at a test site, same as if you had done ground school locally.https://checkride-prep.com/courses/free-online-private-pilot-ground-school/

I was a college grad before I started flying, and just studied the material at home, asking my flight instructor about stuff I didn't understand.

If you look at Top Tasks here https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/ you could start by reading the top 3 manuals. I'd start with the Airplane Flying Handbook. It can be kind of dry reading, try not to get bogged down it in. You can always go back and refresh on stuff after you've tried some of what the book goes into with an instructor.

Blue skies friend!

  • CrossRoads -
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to AviationStackExchange. Please be sure to cite references in your answer. A passing score on the knowledge exam lasts for 24 months. You can take the written for a powered aircraft anytime after your 15th birthday & it will count if you get your PPL on your 17th. The medical certificate and the student certificate are separate carts. You get the Med cert from an AME. You have to have an instructor fill out IACRA for the student cert. You don’t need one to get the other (gliders). You can log hours without a student or Med cert. you just can not fly solo or act as PIC. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Jun 7 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ In many areas, flight schools have been training this entire time through Covid-19. Aviation is considered an essential business. Some flight schools have opted to curtail training as a company policy during this time. But, plenty are flying. If you are getting instruction under Part 61 instead of 141, you need 40 hours of total time. 20 of which must be dual instruction. 10 of which must be solo which you can do at age 16). 2.5 of which can be substituted in an FAA certificated flight simulator. All these rules change if you are flying gliders (solo at 14, private pilot certificate at 16). $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Jun 7 at 5:15
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    $\begingroup$ You can start training and log it at any age with any or no medical or pilot certificate. You must meet the minimum requirements to receive a certificate. You can get a glider cert with no medical or drivers license. You can get a Sport Pilot Certificate without a medical, just a drivers license. All dual instruction, solo, & total time acquired in the Sport category count towards the Private Pilot Certificate. Although product endorsement is discouraged here, Kingschools.com M0A.com the finer points.net rodmachado.com & Sportys are the most used & renowned $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Jun 7 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ "(You cando lessons before that, you just technically can't log them" -- I believe this is not correct-- as another comment has pointed out. So this answer could be improved. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jun 7 at 11:51

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