What is a Private Pilot Certificate?

Learning to fly usually starts with completing the requirements of a Private Pilot Certificate (PPL). Once known as a Private Pilot License, and still often referred to as such, the Private Pilot Certificate is the entry way to both professional and recreational flying. It allows you to fly for private reasons, meaning in a practical sense you can’t fly for compensation or hire. Other than that limitation, the Private Pilot Certificate is a wonderfully useful tool that will open for you a world of flying adventures.

What are the qualifications to become a private pilot? The basic ones are that you have to be 17 years or older and able to read and speak English. Then you have to receive a specified amount of training for the private pilot certificate which will enable you to take and pass two tests leading to your certificate.

The first test to pass is the Private Pilot Knowledge Test. It verifies that you have mastered the foundational information necessary to fly safety. Topics covered include aerodynamics, weather, regulations, air space, aircraft systems and the like. The test is 60 questions of multiple choice, and is usually prepared for by self study using a ground school study course such as MzeroA or Pilot Institute.

Once you have passed  your Private Pilot Knowledge Test, completed the required training, and are performing the maneuvers required for the private pilot certificate to standards, it’s time to sit with an examiner for your Private Pilot Practical Test.

While the knowledge test verifies what you know, the practical test verifies what you can do. You must be able to demonstrate to the examiner that you can operate your aircraft responsibly and safely. The exam, or check ride as it is usually known, is presented largely as a scenario. The examiner will have assigned you an expected route to follow that you will plan for. The examiner will ask you questions about your decisions that will require you to apply the flying knowledge you have accumulated in real world situations. Once satisfied with your answers, you will go fly for an hour or two to demonstrate your piloting skills. Assuming that goes well, you will walk away with a temporary pilot certificate and wait for the permanent one to arrive in the mail.

Now  you have your certificate, you may be wondering what you can do with it. The uses of a private pilot certificate are many. You can fly most anywhere in most any airplane. Heavy, multi engine, complex and other aircraft will requirement additional training, but that’s usually simple compared to what you have already accomplished. Many pilot spend a lifetime flying with nothing more than a Private Pilot Certificate, though many others find they love the training and challenge so much that they pursue more ratings, airplanes and experiences.

Wherever your Private Pilot Certificate takes you, it will be to a larger, richer, more rewarding life.