Plane & Pilot
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Challenge Yourself


There are lots of ways to have more flying fun. But if you sign up for advanced ratings, you’ll also end up being a better pilot.


Challenge YourselfNo question about it—earning the private license is a major accomplishment. Some pilots will never need to seek additional ratings. The private allows pilots to operate in a wide variety of conditions, and many aviators content themselves with the entry-level ticket.
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Challenge Yourself No question about it—earning the private license is a major accomplishment. Some pilots will never need to seek additional ratings. The private allows pilots to operate in a wide variety of conditions, and many aviators content themselves with the entry-level ticket.

For others, however, even those who don’t aspire to make a living in the left seat, the private is exactly what many say it is—a license to learn. For pilots seeking an airline job, there are at least three more tickets needed to meet minimum requirements. Others realize that challenging themselves to advanced ratings make them better pilots.

Here’s a quick look at basic requirements for the most popular follow-on ratings and licenses. Remember, these are simply bare minimums. To list every necessity for every license and rating would take up most of the magazine’s pages.

Instrument: After the private pilot’s license, there’s little question the instrument rating is by far the most valuable follow-on ticket. If the private allows expanding your horizons, the instrument rating lets you do it pretty much on demand, certainly not in any weather, but in most reasonable conditions.

Instrument flying is a very different skill from VFR operation, however, and accordingly, the FAA requires more experience than for the private. Specifically, the feds proclaim you eligible for an instrument rating after you’ve acquired at least 50 hours of cross-country flight as pilot-in-command and 15 hours of instrument time. You’re also required to have logged 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time, with no more than 20 hours in a simulator, unless the flight training is conducted under Part-142 rules.

In the real world, expect to need more like 50 to 55 hours of instrument training before you’re ready for the flight test. The written test for the instrument is regarded by many as the toughest of any flight rating, and you’ll be required to pass the written before you can take the oral and the flight test.

Commercial: The commercial license has few advantages if you’re not planning on flying for a living, but it’s a sign of increased proficiency and a credential that may lower insurance rates. Probably because the commercial is regarded as an entry to professional flying, the FAA makes the requirements considerably stiffer than for the private.

In addition to holding a second-class medical, the commercial requires passing an extensive written test and an instrument rating as prerequisites, along with at least 250 hours total time, with no more than 50 hours of that with an instructor in a simulator. You’ll be required to have logged at least 100 hours in powered aircraft (the rest could theoretically be in gliders), 50 hours in airplanes and 10 hours in a complex single with retractable gear, a controllable pitch prop and flaps.

You’ll need at least 20 total hours of instruction, including 10 hours of instrument training and 10 hours in a complex aircraft. Finally, you must have at least 100 hours pilot-in-command time, including 50 hours of cross country.




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