How Many Hours Do You Need to Get a Private Pilot License

If you’re considering becoming a private pilot, one of the most important questions you’re likely asking is, “How many hours do I need to get my pilot license?” The answer varies depending on several factors, which FLT Academy will explain below.

Federal Aviation Regulations for Private Pilot Certificate

To begin with, let’s start with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations that govern how many hours you need to fly to earn your private pilot certificate. According to Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 61, you must complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight time to become a private pilot. However, the national average is around 60-70 hours, and it may take more or less time depending on your experience level and aptitude.

It’s important to note that FLT Academy is certified under (FAR) Part 141, which reduces the total minimum flight experience required to 35 hours instead of 40.

Did you know there are several types of pilot licenses you can earn in the first 40 hours of training? Here’s the breakdown:

  • Student Pilot – Starts at 0 hours
  • Sport Pilot – 20 hours
  • Recreational Pilot – 30 hours

In the Part 61 program, you need a minimum of 40 hours for a Private Pilot certificate, while the Part 141 programs only require 35 hours. You can learn more about the Part 141 program at FLT Academy HERE.

While the FAR only requires a minimum of 40 hours to qualify for a private pilot certificate, those 40 hours can take months to complete depending on a student’s availability and aptitude.  

One thing to keep in mind is that the amount of time required to obtain your private pilot certificate varies based on individual learning capabilities, comfort level, and schedule. Some people may take longer than others to get comfortable in the cockpit, while others may be able to finish quickly. It’s essential to stay focused, motivated, and committed to the training process to ensure that you’re progressing at a reasonable pace.

Requirements for Private Pilot Eligibility

In addition to the hours required for training, other standards must be met to be eligible for a private pilot certificate. An individual must:

  • Be at least 16 years old to solo (a training requirement for certification)
  • Be at least 17 years old to obtain the private pilot certificate
  • Read, speak, comprehend, and write English
  • Obtain at least a Third Class medical certificate from an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)

If all those requirements are met, a prospective pilot can begin flight school, including ground school, flight training, the FAA knowledge test (written exam), and a practical exam (more commonly referred to as a check ride).
Please note, although the FAA minimum age requirement for a Private Pilot Certificate is 17, FLT Academy requires all students to be at least 18 years old.

Types of Flights Required for Private Pilot Certificate

One of the most critical parts of your training is the different types of flight hours you’ll need to complete. You’ll begin flying accompanied by your flight instructor (20 hours), and will eventually graduate to solo flights, followed by flights with passengers. To qualify for your first solo flight, you must demonstrate proficiency in both the aircraft you’re flying and the maneuver you’ll be performing. This typically requires anywhere from 15-20 hours of flight training, depending on your skill level.  In order to qualify for a private pilot certificate under FAR 61.109, a student pilot must meet the following aeronautical experience requirements:

(a) For an airplane single-engine rating. Except as provided in paragraph (k) of this section, a person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight training in the areas of operation listed in § 61.107(b)(1) of this part, and the training must include at least—

(1) 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a single-engine airplane;

(2) Except as provided in § 61.110 of this part, 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane that includes—

(i) One cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance; and

(ii) 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.

(3) 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight;

(4) 3 hours of flight training with an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test, which must have been performed within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test; and

(5) 10 hours of solo flight time in a single-engine airplane, consisting of at least—

(i) 5 hours of solo cross-country time;

(ii) One solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations; and

(iii) Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

Cross-country flights are those that consist of at least a 50 nautical mile straight-line distance between takeoff and landing points, and some of those flights will need to be completed solo. 

Instrument Training for Private pilot certificate

During your private pilot certificate training, you’ll need to become proficient in the use of various equipment and instruments in your aircraft. You’ll typically need at least three hours of simulated instrument flight training to become proficient. 

While some prospective pilots might find more thrill in actual flight time, instrument training is imperative for successful flights. Pilots must know how to rely on instruments in low visibility, and how to use them for flight planning.  

Ground School Requirements for Private pilot certificate

In addition to your flight and instrument training time, you’ll also need to complete ground school training to earn your private pilot certificate. This includes courses on subjects such as aerodynamics, flight operations, weather, flight planning, navigation, and aviation regulations. Most ground training programs consist of 36-40 hours of dedicated classroom instruction, as well as any time outside of class needed by the student to study and review the information they have been learning.

At the conclusion of your ground school studies, you’re required to take and pass the written FAA exam.

Finalize Training with a Practical Exam (Check Ride)

Flight school culminates with a check ride. This is your final exam to officially become a licensed pilot. You’ll demonstrate your aeronautical knowledge and piloting skills by working with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). When you pass the check ride, you’ve completed the final step for earning your private pilot certificate.

What You Can Do With a Private Pilot Certificate

Once you’ve earned a private pilot certificate, you can take to the skies for leisure flights. Private pilots cannot be compensated for their role as a pilot and are responsible for their share of the pro-rata cost.  As long as you’re not taking payment, you can share your love of flying with passengers. Many pilots continue their training and go on to earn additional certificates, or they become flight instructors themselves.

Becoming a private pilot takes time, effort, and dedication. It’s not something that can be done overnight, and the hours required to obtain a private pilot certificate vary based on individual progress. However, with the minimum requirement of 40 flight hours and additional training in equipment, solo flight, and ground school, you’ll be well on your way to receiving a private pilot certificate. So, if you’re considering this exciting career path, remember that it takes time, but it’s worth the investment.