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Types of Pilot Licenses  

Pilot in an airplane

Want to fly an airplane but not looking for a career as an airline pilot? Well, if you don’t already know, there are more options to learning to fly! You likely know there are several unique licenses to operate motorized vehicles, with different requirements based on whether it’s a car, motorcycle, or truck. An airplane is no different, but the requirements for licensure are much more intensive. Of course, flying hobbyists will be glad to know that flying casually does not require the same amount of effort as becoming an airline pilot. This is because there are several different classifications of pilot licenses you can receive.

We will look over just what those requirements are and what you can do with each type of pilot license.

What is a Pilot’s License?

Like a driver’s license, a pilot’s license is your permission to operate an aircraft. There are various different certifications you can receive from an accredited flight school, from the casual private license to the professional, master-level licenses to fly commercial airlines. In the US, licenses for pilots are actually known as certifications, but the word license is sometimes used synonymously.

The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) oversees the requirements needed to obtain each license type, where the amount of schooling and flight hours vary.

Types of Pilot Licenses

The amount of work, schooling, and flight hours all vary depending on the type of pilot license you’re looking to earn, or what kind of aircraft you want to operate. Each license type serves as a stepping stone to the next. Once you earn more basic licenses, you can continue your education and training to earn more advanced ones. The time it takes to become a pilot will depend on what type you want to receive.

Student Pilot License

Taking the first step in your journey to fly means getting a student license, which will require you to have a certified flight instructor present with you whenever you fly.

Private Pilot License

Those pursuing a new hobby or looking to show off a new skill to a friend can get a private pilot’s license. You will be fairly limited with this option, since you will only be able to fly with a limited number of passengers depending on your rating. You will need minimally 35 hours of flight time to earn this license.

Instrument Rating

Although technically not a certificate, an instrument rating certificate is needed if you want to be able to fly in less than ideal conditions. With low visibility resulting from fog or rain, you will need to be skillful enough to fly using instrument flight rules. You can view this as an add-on to other pilot licenses to earn you more flexibility when flying.

Commercial Pilot License

The next license in the sequence is a commercial license. Since this is the lowest level certificate you need to fly professionally, you can now pursue money-making opportunities like crop dusting, conducting airplane tours, or teaching skydiving. You will need to complete 250 flight hours before you can become a commercial pilot. Single or multi-engine ratings are available.

Flight Instructor

As an alternative career path option, you can always pass on your knowledge to the next generation of future pilots by becoming an instructor yourself. You do not need this license to move forward to pursuing an airline transport pilot license, nor will you need any additional flight hours.

Airline Transport Pilot

After earning a commercial license, you can move on to an ATP license. If your dream is to become an airline captain, this is where you’ll need to get to. If your dream is to fly large passenger jets, this is where you need to get to. But this is no short task. You will need 1500 flight hours before you can call yourself an airline pilot, which can take up to two years to complete.

What are the Steps to Acquiring a Pilot’s License?

Start by asking yourself what your goals are. Since there are many different types of pilot licenses, you will need to think about where you want to land. From there you can create a path to earn your certificate.

  1. Find a flight school and fill out all the necessary paperwork, and find financing.
  2. Begin your training. You will need to complete ground schooling and flight hours with an instructor. Work with your instructor to determine the best way to tackle your requirements.
  3. Enjoy the fruits of your labor! Whatever license type you receive, you will now be able to do what many can’t- taking flight all on your own!

What is the Highest Paid Pilot License?

If you’re looking to make a career out of flying, there are a few options available to you. While you can have a fairly lucrative career with jobs like a flight instructor or airplane tour guide, if you’re looking to maximize your income, then becoming an airline pilot is the way to go.

The highest paid pilots all possess an airline transport pilot license. Even with the long journey to get an ATP license, all the hard work will pay off. The cost of flight school is far outweighed by the salary of a first officer. Once you become an airline captain, your salary will be even higher!

Is a Private Pilot’s License Worth It?

It may not earn you any income, but some might not put a price on learning to fly. Typically, those pursuing a private pilot’s license aren’t doing it for money. A private pilot license allows you to fly other passengers, fly solo, or even travel for business in some cases. There is a reason why private pilot licenses are the most rewarded type of license issued by the FAA.

Finding the Right Flight School for Any Type of Pilot’s License

Regardless of what type of license you choose to get, the journey all starts at the same place. Are you ready to start? It all begins with finding the right flight school. J.A. Flight School is the premier flight program in the Chicago area. J.A. Flight offers a career pilot program to cater to different students. Become a commercial airline pilot in as little as 300 hours! Learn more about how to get your pilot’s license in Illinois, and how we can help you get there!

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