Although the public’s perceived glamour of being a pilot has long since disappeared, many people Commercial pilot training still look up at the aircraft flying above them and think “I want to do that”. If you want to fly, at any level from simple recreational flying to international aviation with an airline or the military, you need to know how to become a pilot.
It is a long process involving medical assessment, written exams and practical tests requiring 40 or more hours of logged flight time.
As with driving, not everyone is able to become a pilot. The various agencies around the world with responsibility for issuing pilot’s licences and maintaining safe airspace have placed a list of eligibility requirements on would-be pilots.
In the United States, the FAA requires that applicants be at least 17 years old, reasonably fluent in English (as English is a requirement for communicating with air traffic control, and also other aircraft) and able to present a third class medical certificate. Canada makes similar requirements, as a 424 physical and mental health qualification is required.
The European Union also requires a strict physical and mental health check before issuing licences. In the UK, however, the National Private Pilot Licence is available on a lower-grade health check compared to a standard pilot’s licence. This is because the NPPL allows only daylight flying of single-engine aircraft, and only within UK airspace. It is similar to an American Recreational Pilot certificate.
All pilot’s licences come with a requirement to undertake a certain amount of flying time; both accompanied and solo. In the UK for example, the CAA requires 45 hours of logged flight time at a minimum before the pilot’s licensing exam may be taken. At least 25 hours must be spent flying with an instructor and at least 10 hours must be flown solo. Additionally, 5 hours of cross-country flying must be logged.
The American requirements are almost identical to the British requirements, with new pilots looking for a Private Pilot’s certificate being required to log 40 hours flight time; at least 20 hours of which must be with a trainer, 10 hours solo flying, 3 hours instruments-only flying and 3 hours cross-country flying.
The cross-country flight is a 1.5 hour solo fight for daytime certification. The pilot must cover 280 kilometers distance, with one straight-line distance of at least 93 kilometers between take off and landing locations. The pilot must undertake 3 solo take offs and landings, coming to a full stop, at airports with operating control towers.
For night-time certification, the flight time is 1.3 hours of solo flying. The pilot must cover 190 kilometers distance, and undertake 10 solo take offs and landings, coming to a full stop at an airport. Each landing must involve a flight in the traffic pattern.