How To Get A Recreational Pilot License
The flying world is confusing and convoluted, especially when it comes to certifications, ratings, and licenses. When starting out your flying journey it is very easy to get lost in all the information out there. This article aims to give you everything that you need to know about recreational pilot licenses/certificates.
In this article, we will use the license and certificate interchangeably because in this context they mean the same thing. Officially, the FAA uses recreational pilot certificate, but it is commonly called a license.
We will dive in and explain the ins and outs of the recreational pilot certificate. Our goal is to share with our readers the information they need to know to make an informed decision for their aviation desires!
What Is A Recreational Pilot License?
So, what exactly is a recreational pilot license? An easy way to help wrap your head around it is to think of it as the step below a private pilot license. If it was tiered, it would go sport, recreational, then private pilot license.
The recreational pilot certificate allows you to fly in your local area with less training hours than a typical PPL would take. This comes with certain advantages such as lower costs, but also means you are more limited than those who have completed their PPL. This is due to a smaller curriculum.
This license is very similar to the sport pilot certificate but it allows you to fly bigger, slightly faster, and more powerful aircraft.
One thing to note is the fact that this certificate is not supremely popular due to the requirements being like those of the PPL but with more limitations. Many student pilots decide to go straight for the PPL for this reason.
What Can You Do With A Recreational Pilot License?
When operating as a recreational pilot, you as the pilot must operate within the following guidelines of the recreational pilot certificate:
Privileges For Recreational Pilots
Limitations For Recreational Pilots
Eligibility For Recreational Pilot License
In order to be eligible for a recreational pilot certificate you must:
- Be at least 17 years old.
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English. If you cannot read, speak, write, and understand English because of medical reasons, the FAA may place limits on your certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of aircraft.
- Receive a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor
- Pass required knowledge test
- Pass Practical test (check ride) after proper training with a certified instructor (and endorsement)
Items Required To Obtain A Recreational Pilot License
The first thing you will need is a student pilot certificate. It is very important to get started on the process for this as soon as possible.
Learn everything that you need to know about this certificate here. The article goes into the process of getting one, what it does, and common questions.
Before getting your student pilot certificate you will receive a temporary student pilot certificate while you wait for your actual one. Find out about the temporary certificate here. It aims to answer common questions associated with it.
To fly as a Recreational Pilot, you must possess a valid FAA medical certificate (first, second or third class) or fly under the BasicMed rule.
Cost Of Getting A Recreational Pilot License
On average, it will cost around $7,000 to get a recreational pilot certificate. This is the average and the range varies between 5K – 8K for the certificate.
This number would make sense considering the biggest cost of any license/certificate would be the flying portion. A private pilot license costs roughly $10,000, and a recreational pilot certificate requires 3/4 of the hours as the PPL depending on the school type.
It is important to note that the minimum number of hours isn’t necessarily the time that a student pilot would receive their certificate. Everyone works at their own pace, but if it takes more hours to achieve it, it will end up costing more.
What are other factors that go into this number?
- Flight Instruction: Flight instruction cost is dependent on your area and the experience of the instructor. A flight school in Richmond, VA will have different rates than Miami, FL. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30-$60 per hour for the instructor.
- Airplane Rental: Similar to the instruction, it varies on location and aircraft type. You can expect around $100 per hour.
- Supplies and Gear: Most flying schools will offer student headsets and supplies for flying, but the caveat to using the school’s gear is that it probably will not be the best or the cleanest. Especially during covid times, consider getting your own gear and supplies.
- Training Materials & Exam Fees: You will have to take courses and get books to pass the knowledge exam. This could be in the ballpark of $300-$600 depending on what courses you go for. Make sure to check them all out and review them before making the choice. The most expensive isn’t necessarily the best and vice versa
- Here is a list of 7 awesome resources for student pilots that are free! Check it out below
Top 7 Free Reading Material For Any Pilot
What Are The Training Requirements to Receive A Recreational Pilot Certificate?
The training requirements for a recreational pilot certificate with airplane category and single-engine land or sea class privileges are as follows:
(1) 15 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor that consists of at least:
(i) 2 hours of flight training en route to an airport that is located more than 25 nautical miles from the airport where the applicant normally trains, which includes at least three takeoffs and three landings at the airport located more than 25 nautical miles from the airport where the applicant normally trains; and
(ii) 3 hours of flight in the aircraft for the rating sought in preparation for the practical test within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.
(2) 3 hours of solo flying in the aircraft for the rating sought
(b) The holder of a sport pilot certificate may credit flight training received from a flight instructor with a sport pilot rating toward the aeronautical experience requirements of this section if the following conditions are met:
(1) The flight training was accomplished in the same category and class of aircraft for which the rating is sought;
(2) The flight instructor with a sport pilot rating was authorized to provide the flight training; and
(3) The flight training included training on areas of operation that are required for both a sport pilot certificate and a recreational pilot certificate.
You must pass a knowledge test on the applicable aeronautical knowledge (more later on in the article)
You must pass a practical test on the applicable areas of operation
Tests For A Recreational Pilot License
Recreational Pilot Certificate Knowledge Test
Before you can take the knowledge test required to receive your recreational pilot certificate, you must obtain a logbook endorsement from the instructor you trained with. It can also be an instructor who reviewed and evaluated your home-study course on the outlined aeronautical knowledge.
To apply for a recreational pilot certificate, you must receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course on the following aeronautical knowledge areas:
(a) General. A person who applies for a recreational pilot certificate must receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course on the aeronautical knowledge areas of paragraph (b) of this section that apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought.
(b) Aeronautical knowledge areas. (1) Applicable Federal Aviation Regulations of this chapter that relate to recreational pilot privileges, limitations, and flight operations;
(2) Accident reporting requirements of the National Transportation Safety Board;
(3) Use of the applicable portions of the “Aeronautical Information Manual” and FAA advisory circulars;
(4) Use of aeronautical charts for VFR navigation using pilotage with the aid of a magnetic compass;
(5) Recognition of critical weather situations from the ground and in flight, windshear avoidance, and the procurement and use of aeronautical weather reports and forecasts;
(6) Safe and efficient operation of aircraft, including collision avoidance, and recognition and avoidance of wake turbulence;
(7) Effects of density altitude on takeoff and climb performance;
(8) Weight and balance computations;
(9) Principles of aerodynamics, powerplants, and aircraft systems;
(10) Stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin recovery techniques, if applying for an airplane single-engine rating;
(11) Aeronautical decision making and judgment; and
(12) Preflight action that includes—
(i) How to obtain information on runway lengths at airports of intended use, data on takeoff and landing distances, weather reports and forecasts, and fuel requirements; and
(ii) How to plan for alternatives if the planned flight cannot be completed or delays are encountered.
Recreational Pilot Certificate Practical Test
Before you can take the practical test required to receive your recreational pilot certificate, you must obtain a logbook endorsement from the instructor you trained with. This endorsement certifies that you meet the applicable aeronautical knowledge and experience requirements and are prepared for the practical test.
To apply for a recreational pilot certificate, you must receive and log ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on the following areas of operation, as appropriate, for airplane single-engine land or sea, glider, gyroplane, airship, balloon, powered parachute land or sea, and weight-shift-control aircraft land or sea privileges:
(a) General. A person who applies for a recreational pilot certificate must receive and log ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on the areas of operation of this section that apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought.
(b) Areas of operation. (1) For a single-engine airplane rating: (i) Preflight preparation;
(ii) Preflight procedures;
(iii) Airport operations;
(iv) Takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds;
(v) Performance maneuvers;
(vi) Ground reference maneuvers;
(viii) Slow flight and stalls;
(ix) Emergency operations; and
(x) Postflight procedures.
The biggest thing they are looking for on practical tests or check rides is that you operate the aircraft safely and effectively. The evaluator does not expect perfection. They will look for mistakes and if you recognize the mistakes and whether or not you react accordingly. Pilots with thousands of hours make mistakes. A student with 30 hours is not expected to be Sully.
Should I Get A Recreational Pilot License?
A recreational pilot license would be good for anyone that wants to be a certified pilot but does not plan on using it to go very far. This certificate is great if you want to just stay in the local area and check out the ground from a bird’s eye view whenever you want.
You will be saving money by not going for the private pilot license since it requires less training. This also comes with stipulations, which were mentioned in the limitations section above.
It allows you to carry a passenger so that you will not be lonely. As long as you are happy with staying in smaller aircraft, not going super-fast, and the limitations did not deter you then this could be a great option for you.
At the end of the day, if you decide you’d like to have more privileges added on or seek a higher certification, you have this option.