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Private Pilot License Requirements

Scott Morris
Written by: Scott Morris
on July 23rd, 2008

“What are the Requirements to Get a Private Pilot License?”

This is a very common question. The Private Pilot Pilot License is an amazing journey, and by the end of your training your reward is the gift of flight Рthe ability to rent/buy and aircraft and fly it just about anywhere you want to. The purpose of this article is to outline the process and requirements of getting your Private Pilot License.

A Minimum of 40 Hours of Flight Time.
You will be required to have a minimum of 40 Hour of Flight Time… Oh, you wish it was that simple…

Of the 40 Total Hours, you must accomplish the following:

20 Hours of Flight Instruction
You will need to fly at least 20 hours with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). Keep in mind that this is a minimum. In actuality it will probably be closer to 30 hours.

3 Hours of Cross Country Training
3 of your 20 hours of flight instruction must be used for Cross Country Training. Don’t be intimidated by the word ‘Cross Country’ as it just means a flight more than 50 miles from the airport from which you started.

3 Hours of Night Flight
Flying at night isn’t something you’ll be doing a lot, but with a Private Pilot License you are allowed to, so part your time with a flight instructor will be done at night.

1 Night Cross Country of at least 100 nautical miles.
At some point during your night flight training you will be required to do a night cross country flight of at least 100 miles total distance – basically the airport needs to be at least 50 miles away to make the 100 mile total distance requirement.

3 Hours Simulated Instrument Training
Simulated Instrument Training is done by having you wear some special glasses that restrict your view outside the cockpit, but allow you a clear view of your instruments. These 3 hours are used to hone your skills flying the aircraft and reading the instruments without being able to back them up by looking outside.

10 Hours of Solo
10 Hours of your time must be while you are the Pilot in Command (PIC) – since you can’t carry passengers as a Student Pilot this can only be done when you are alone in the airplane, so you need 10 hours alone in the airplane. Like the Flight Instruction time, the 10 hours of solo time is also a minimum – more than likely, you will have around 20 hour of solo flight time.

5 Hours Cross Country
Of your 10 hours of solo, 5 must be done flying cross country (again, keep in mind that cross country is defined as a flight more than 50 miles from the origin airport).

1 Cross Country flight of at least 150 nautical miles total distance with landings at a minimum of 3 points with one leg of the flight having a straight line distance of at least 50 nautical miles.
You are only required to have one cross country flight meeting the requirements above, but you more than likely have 1 or 2 shorter solo cross country flights in preparation for the required “long” cross country flight.

3 Take Offs and Landings to a Full Stop and a Controlled Airport
You will have many many solo take offs and landings at your home airport, but if that airport doesn’t have an operating control tower (such as our training airport at Stead) you will be required to meet this requirement by going to a controlled airport and doing your 3 full stop landings (as opposed to touch-and-go’s where you do not stop on the runway, you just touch down and take off again)

3 Hours in Preparation for the Practical Exam Within 60 Days of the Practical Exam
This is a complicated way of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) saying they don’t want you taking you Practical Exam (simply you “final exam” that is done with an FAA examiner) without flying at least once withing the last 2 months. Honestly, this really isn’t an issue, but it’s a requirement so I had to list it…

And that concludes the Flight Experience portion of the requirements to get a Private Pilot License. The only other requirements that the FAA has outlines is the ability to read, write and speak English, and be at least 17 Years Old. However, you can fly Solo at the age of 16 and there is no requirement on when you can start your flight training.

I hope this article helps clear up some of your questions regarding the requirements to get a Private Pilot License. Another article that I highly recommend you read is 3 Crucial Tips on Picking a Flight School. It will help give you an idea what to watch out for with some flight schools that could end up costing you extra time and money.

Thank you for your interest, and I hope your consider Ace Flight School for your Flight Training Needs!

About Your Author: Scott Morris

Scott Morris

My name is Scott Morris and I am the author of this website and blog. I am a Computer Technicial and Flight Instructor (CFI/CFII) in the Reno, Nevada area and enjoy both giving people their wings and giving people a helping hand with their computer needs. If you are in need of computer assistance and you live in the Reno/Tahoe area, be sure to check out my Computer Services website at

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