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I would like to ask: if you are a private pilot that wants to fly really high, what are their options?

I know that for gliders it's not uncommon to reach FL160. Beechcraft Baron can reach FL190. Assume they want to reach FL200 or FL300 or FL400. What are their options each time? Anything possible for a civilian with a reasonable budget?

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    $\begingroup$ Hot air balloons have almost reached FL700! $\endgroup$ Jun 1 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what you're asking here. A US private pilot can fly business jets if they have the required training and type ratings. So really the only obstacle is money (in the US, at least); "FL400" and "reasonable budget" don't usually go together :) $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jun 1 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a particular reason you want to fly high? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jun 2 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ A Cessna 421 can reach 30,000’. $\endgroup$ Jun 2 at 11:53
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There are no regulatory limits on the altitude that a private pilot can fly. Class A airspace requires an Instrument Rating, but that’s just an addition to your PPL, not a new license.

There are many turbocharged piston airplanes that can get into the low or mid-20s, for not much more than a normally aspirated piston. Turboprops cost quite a bit more, especially when it comes to fuel, but they’ll get you to the high 20s or low 30s.

Above that, you’re looking at jets, and that means a type rating—and a lot more money. Contrary to popular belief, you can get a type rating as a PPL. However, the checkride for any type rating is to ATP standards, so you might as well get at least your CPL along the way, and your ATPL as well if you have the hours to qualify for one. Regardless, that’ll get you to the high 40s or low 50s, depending on the jet you buy.

Beyond that, you’ll have to wait for the next generation of supersonic planes that always seem to be 5 years away. While you’re waiting, be sure to win the lottery so you can afford one—and then several more lotteries to pay the fuel bills.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Bianfable Edited, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 1 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ "Contrary to popular belief, you can get a type rating as a PPL. However, the checkride for any type rating is to ATP standards, so you might as well get at least your CPL along the way, and your ATPL as well if you have the hours to qualify for one." This isn't true, unless you equate "jet" with airliner. You can get Single Engine Turbine added to your PPL with relatively little tuition (Around 10-15hrs training, plus some ground school). In the UK it's possible to fly some old jet war birds with just the above $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Jun 1 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Dan In the US, at least, any jet requires a type rating. And if you can pass a type rating checkride, you can probably pass a CPL checkride too. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 1 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ "There are no regulatory limits on the altitude that a private pilot can fly." If you are using a pressurized aircraft, you will need a high altitude rating for levels above 25,000 feet. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 1 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer Endorsement, not rating. You can still do it with a PPL. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 1 at 21:45
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Here in the UK you can relatively easily get your hands on (to fly, if not to buy!) some old 60's and 70's war birds. Something like the Jet Provost will get you to a good 35,000ft, and is doable (as in, training and buy-in) for about £15k.

Obviously you need to be a competent PPL prior to that and be lucky enough to get a share going for sale, but £15k to fly a "fast" jet seems like a bargain and I'm sure it's doable elsewhere too

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