How To Get a Private Pilot License

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: December 1, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Transportation
Approved Course is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission.

Are you ready to fly? Learning how to get a private pilot license can lead you into the air. While there are certainly some Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules you will need to follow, getting your pilot license is rather exciting.

Whether you want to get a private pilot license for fun or for your career, it’s a big step. The private pilot license (PPL) is known as the supreme pilot license and has for a very long time. With this type of license, you can operate nearly any aircraft and even add ratings, such as instrument ratings, or multi-engine ratings.

Before you can move forward with a plan to get a private pilot license, you must qualify. Let’s look at what a private pilot is, how to qualify, and how to get a private pilot license.

What is a Private Pilot?

Someone with a private pilot license is known as a private pilot. This license is issued by the FAA and it’s called an airman certificate. If you’ve been issued this certificate, you are a private pilot.

As a private pilot, you will gain many privileges including:

The main restriction of a private pilot license is simply that you cannot fly for commercial purposes. It’s not easy to make money with a private pilot license, but it does come with many other privileges.

Private Pilot License Qualifications

You will need to meet the full list of eligibility requirements to get your private pilot license. These requirements start with the ability to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. Other requirements include:

Most private pilots start by getting a student pilot certificate. This is rather easy as it doesn’t involve much more than completing an online application. If you already have a recreational or sport pilot licensed, your training will likely be easier and faster.

Your medical certificate will require an application through MedXPress. You will need to schedule an appointment with an Aviation Medical Examiner, as well.

How to Get a Private Pilot License in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Meet the Basic Requirements

As long as you meet the basic requirement outlined above, you’ll be able to start training towards your private pilot license to make sure you have the proper licensing and medical certification before moving on to the next step.

Step #2 – Complete Ground Training

Getting your private pilot license really begins with ground training. This training will introduce you to aeronautical knowledge and help you to understand the Federal Aviation Regulations and radio communication procedures.

It’s possible to complete ground training through instructor lessons or a home-study course. There are two types of pilot schools to choose from: Part 61 and Part 141. With Part 61 schools, there are no minimum ground hours, while Part 141 schools provide at least 35 hours of ground training.

You can enroll in an online course with either and complete ground training at home.

Step #3 – Complete Flight School

Along with ground training, you will need to complete flight school. This training will teach you how to fly an aircraft. You will learn many different things throughout this training including:

These are the three main segments of every flight lesson. You will go through many flight lessons with this format.

Part 61 schools will require a minimum of 40 hours of flight lessons, while Part 141 schools will have a minimum of 35. You will go through 20 hours of flight training with an instructor with both, along with solo hours, cross-country hours, night flight time, and instrument hours.

It will take between 60 and 75 hours for most to gain flight proficiency during flight school. Most students will take about three months to complete the private pilot course. There are some accelerated courses you can complete in just a few weeks, however.

Step #4 – Pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test

You will need to pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. This test consists of 60 multiple-choice questions all with three possible answers. You will have two and a half hours to complete the test.

you need to get a score of 70% or higher to pass the test. If you don’t pass, you can retest with the endorsement of an instructor. A passing grade is valid for two years.

It’s possible to take the Aeronautical Knowledge Test when you’re 15 years of age. Many pilots take this before they start flight training.

Step #5 – Pass the Practical Test

Also known as the checkride, you will need to pass the private pilot practical test. This test will be taken after completing the pilot training, passing the aeronautical knowledge test, and getting an endorsement from your instructor. The endorsement from your instructor will come after you perform a three-hour preparatory flight. You must take the practical test within two months of this flight.

This test will be conducted by a Designated Pilot Examiner or an FAA inspector. It will include an oral test and a flight. Both will last about 90 minutes. After passing, you will receive a temporary pilot certificate. The permanent certificate will come from the FAA after all your qualifications have been reviewed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting a Private Pilot License

How much will it cost to get my private pilot license?

The costs to get your private pilot license include:

There is no actual cost for the license through the FAA, however. You will likely also need to rent an airplane if you don’t own one. The total cost you can expect with aviation books, study supplies, and other expenses will range from about $500 to $1,000. If you need to rent an aircraft, expect to spend $5,000 to $7,000 for rental fees.

Another way to go about getting your private pilot license is attending an actual flight institute. If you go this route, you may end up spending between $10,000 and $20,000 for tuition. Usually, the tuition fee will include everything you need, however.

How long will it take me to get my private pilot license?

The length of time depends on the type of training you go through. Some training will consist of many more hours than other types of training. You might be able to complete the private pilot training in a few weeks. However, it’s more common for students to go through about three months of training.

How old do I need to be to get my private pilot license?

If you are at least 16, you can fly solo, but you will need to be at least 17 to earn your private pilot license.

What happens if I fail the Aeronautical Knowledge Test?

If you don’t pass the knowledge test on the first try, you can retake the test. However, you will need to get a new instructor endorsement.

Is the checkride or practical test difficult for private pilots?

The difficulty level depends on how you prepare. You will go through an oral exam, which will test your knowledge of aeronautics. Along with the oral exam, you will need to perform a cross-country flight to test your flying skills.

Since you will have already passed the knowledge test, this test may not seem as difficult. Your instructor already endorsed you, which means you should be able to pass the checkride. In most cases, you will have already done a mock checkride, too.

What type of aircraft can I fly with a private pilot license?

This type of license will allow you to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. You can fly for fun or for sport, but this can also be the start towards a career as a pilot. You can fly in good weather below 18,000 feet. However, if you get an instrument rating, you can fly above 18,000 feet and in bad weather.

If you want to learn how to fly, learning how to get a private pilot license is a good option. Use the steps above to become a private pilot and enjoy flying.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.