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Private Pilot License Requirements & Checklist

For those who’ve always dreamt of commanding their own cockpit, traveling to far-off corners of the world, and skipping the hassles of more traditional methods of travel, a private pilot license (PPL) is a worthwhile investment. A PPL is the first certification you’ll need before you’re allowed to roam the skies on your own. With the help of a certified flight instructor, either through a flight school or independently, you’ll be guided through the necessary curriculum to become a safe, competent aviator. But, in order to meet the minimum of 40 hours of flight training, you must fulfill some specific requirements first. With that said, let’s break down several of the many private pilot license requirements that you’ll be expected to complete, as well as the privileges and restrictions you can expect with this type of certificate. With enough work, you can check off all of these to-do items throughout the duration of your flight training experience!

Private Pilot License Requirements

A private pilot license is one of several certificates that allow you to fly small, general aviation aircraft. While you can’t be paid for flying, you do get the ability to fly in and out of almost every public airport in the U.S., giving you an immense amount of freedom to travel how, when, and where you wish. 

The following is a breakdown of how many hours you’ll need and how to divide those hours between different types of flying.

PPL Requirements Breakdown

For a single-engine private pilot license, you’re required to log at least 40 hours of flight time, including at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo training in specific areas of flight proficiency. In addition, you’ll need to divide your hours between the following lessons:

  • Complete a cross-country flight training route: 3 hours
  • Complete night flight training: 3 hours
    • Complete a single cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance
    • Complete 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop
  • Complete basic instrument training: 3 hours
  • Complete practical test preparation with a certified instructor: 3 hours
  • Complete solo flight time: 10 hours
    • Complete solo cross-country flight time: 5 hours
    • Complete a solo cross-country flight of 150 nautical miles
    • Complete three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop
  • Pass a practical test and knowledge test for the Private Pilot-Airplane (PAR) test: 2.5-hour time limit
    • Pass a private pilot checkride: 4 hours

Requirements For Private Pilots

Private pilot certificates are some of the easiest to qualify for, you simply need to meet the following criteria:

  • Although you can start training at any age, you must be 17 years old to become certified.
  • Pass a physical exam from a medical examiner designated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Fluency in English.

Private Pilot License Privileges

By far, the biggest advantage to obtaining a private pilot license is the freedom to fly yourself and passengers at leisure. This means beach vacations on a whim, unforgettable aerial views flying into ski-resort towns, and access to unique events like airshows, fly-ins, and festivals. With a PPL, you can fly night and day under visual flight rules (VFR) out of any public airport in the U.S. Another important reason why you should get your PPL is that it can set you up for future endeavors as a paid professional pilot. As one of the initial steps in the pilot certification process, a PPL gives you a base from which to move onto bigger and better pursuits, like instrument ratings, commercial training, and even the ability to fly jumbo jets. It all depends on your end goals when learning to fly.

Other privileges of a private pilot license include:

  • You may participate in search-and-location operations for a local, state, or federal agency or an organization that conducts these such operations and be reimbursed for any fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees associated with the job
  • You can act as pilot in command (PIC) of an aircraft towing some lightweight, unpowered vehicles.
  • Aircraft salesmen with a PPL and at least 200 hours of flight time may take potential buyers on test flights.
  • You can act as PIC in the testing of light-sport aircraft for certification.

Private Pilot License Limitations

One of the big limitations of a private pilot license, and a reason why so many student pilots continue pursuing more advanced certifications after they graduate, is that you aren’t allowed to be compensated as PIC who’s carrying passengers or cargo. However, you may be compensated as PIC if your flying services are incidental to your business or employer and you’re not carrying passengers or property. And, in some situations, a private pilot may act as PIC of a charitable, nonprofit, or community event flight.

Private Pilot License Checklist

  • Be 16 years old to obtain a student pilot certificate and 17 years old to obtain a private pilot certificate.
  • Obtain a medical certificate from an approved health professional.
  • Practice reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English if you’re not already fluent in the language.
  • Choose a private pilot flight school that you can afford and meets your needs as a student.
  • Three-hour cross-country flight.
  • Three hours of night flight training.
    • Single cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance.
    • 10 takeoffs and 10 full-stop landings.
  • Three hours of basic instrument training.
  • 10-hours of solo flight time:
    • Five hours of solo cross-country flight time.
    • One solo cross-country flight of 150 nautical miles.
    • Three takeoffs and three full-stop landings.
  • Meet any remaining hour requirements for the 40-hour minimum.
  • Three hours of instructor-led training around practical test topics.
    • Pass the PAR test with a score of 70 percent or higher
  • Pass the FAA-administered checkride to prove your flying competency
    • Receive a temporary certificate and wait to receive your plastic certificate card in the mail
  • Take off on a new adventure!

Are you ready to obtain your private pilot license?

Then get in touch with Inflight Pilot Training today. Specializing in fixed-wing training, we’ve transformed countless students into competent, certified pilots. Our experienced team of flight instructors are dedicated to providing personalized, professional services to each and every person who walks through our hangar. 


Ready to get started? Learn more about our private pilot programs today or call (952) 698-3000 for more information about our certification programs.