Have you ever wondered what sets private pilots apart from commercial pilots? From the type of aircraft they fly to the level of training and certification required, the differences between the two are vast. So, what exactly is the difference between private and commercial pilots?
Although both private and commercial pilots have a pilot's license and are in charge of operating aircraft, their duties and responsibilities are significantly different. For example, commercial pilots fly larger and more intricate aircraft for commercial airline companies. In comparison, private pilots who fly smaller aircraft for personal or business use.
Today, we will compare the distinctions between private and commercial pilot licenses and examine the limitations and permissions of private pilots in contrast to commercial pilots. We will also compare the differences in training between private and commercial pilots to understand better the abilities and knowledge gained for each certification.
A private pilot license (PPL) or Private Pilot Certificate is a certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Holding a PPL certification allows an individual to act as an aircraft's pilot-in-command (PIC) for non-commercial purposes. In other words, it gives the holder of the license the ability to fly a plane for personal or business use, but not for hire or compensation.
What is a Private Pilot License?
A private pilot can fly with some restrictions on when and where they can fly. They can also fly with passengers and share the cost of the flight with them, but they are not allowed to be compensated.
Another constraint of the Private Pilot Certificate is that it only allows pilots to fly under visual flight rules (VFR) conditions, if the pilot does not hold an Instrument Rating. With an Instrument Rating, pilots can operate the aircraft in cloud cover without visual reference to the ground, relying solely on the instruments for guidance.
Without the added instrument skills, VFR limitations mandate maintaining a visibility of three miles and a distance of 500 feet below clouds or 1000 feet above them. Private pilots must always comply with these VFR regulations to avoid hazardous situations. Though most pilots who are flying for pleasure are content with the VFR guidelines, there may be instances when a pilot might require experience flying in different weather conditions.
To obtain a private pilot license, an individual meets specific medical, educational, and flight experience requirements set by the FAA. Our professional pilot programs begin with the private pilot course, where students aim to obtain their Private Pilot Certificate. This is an opportunity for students to gain practical experience operating aircraft, whether it be an airplane or helicopter.
What is a Commercial Pilot License?
A commercial pilot holds a commercial pilot's license (CPL) or Commercial Pilot Certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that allows the holder to act as an aircraft's pilot-in-command (PIC) for hire or compensation. In other words, operators can pay a commercial pilot to fly an airplane.
To obtain a commercial pilot's license, an individual must meet specific medical, educational, and flight experience requirements set by the FAA, which are more stringent than those for a private pilot license. The requirement is to accumulate 250 hours of flight time, with at least 100 hours as the pilot-in-command, and successfully pass both theoretical and practical examinations.
Commercial pilots typically fly larger and more complex aircraft, such as commercial airliners, cargo planes, and corporate jets. They are also responsible for the safety of the passengers and crew and the aircraft they fly. Therefore, they must adhere to strict regulations and procedures set by the FAA.
How does private pilot training differ from commercial training?
While you begin flight training as a student pilot, students learn basic aircraft operations and airport/heliport operations. During your private pilot course in our professional pilot program, you will have the opportunity to undertake a cross-country flight and gain knowledge of navigation and communication techniques. Additionally, you will learn about emergency procedures. These are all crucial skills for the highlight of your training, your first solo flight. A solo flight is when you, the student pilot, are the sole operator of the aircraft without the presence of a flight instructor.
You will also learn essential skills such as aircraft maneuvers, navigation, takeoffs, and landings. As part of the training, you will practice flying a single-engine aircraft leading up to your first solo flight, a significant milestone for any pilot. During this solo flight, you will fly the aircraft independently without the presence of your flight instructor. Before this, your instructor will also teach you about airport operations and emergency procedures, ensuring you have the knowledge and skills for your solo flight. Additionally, you will complete a cross-country solo flight to an airport that is 50 nautical miles away as part of your private pilot training.
As you move on to commercial training, you will acquire more in-depth knowledge of advanced aerodynamics and how to operate a multi-engine aircraft. During the initial phase of your commercial pilot training, you will focus on expanding your experience by flying to various destinations to help you feel at ease flying in new places. In the later stage of your training, we will work on honing your skills and knowledge to prepare you for your initial job as a commercial pilot.
As you progress through commercial pilot training, you will refine and expand your piloting abilities. You will learn to fly at a higher level, using more advanced techniques that are necessary for commercial flight operations. With your Commercial Pilot Certificate, you are able to earn a salary as a pilot as you now have the necessary skills required for commercial pilot jobs. After achieving the necessary hours and proficiency, your instructor will recommend you for the final examination. Upon passing, you will receive your Commercial Pilot Certificate and be on the path to a career as a professional pilot.
What can I do as a Private Pilot?
If you are seeking a new adventure and want to fly for enjoyment, obtaining a Private Pilot Certificate is the appropriate path for you. Private pilot training enables you to fly virtually anywhere, alone or with companions and family, for leisure and recreation.
It is all that is required if you are looking to fly for pleasure and don't intend to earn a salary as a pilot. With this certificate, pilots can fly for personal reasons, such as with friends or family, or for transportation. Obtaining a private pilot license can be thrilling and a gateway to new recreational fun; however, it is restrictive as far as being able to make a salary or as a career, as we mentioned earlier.
The good news is, obtaining a private pilot license is the first step in acquiring the skills needed to become a commercial pilot and take you on the path to becoming a professional pilot.
What can I do as a Commercial Pilot?
Once you have finished the professional pilot program and obtained your commercial license, there are various career opportunities available. Professional Pilots have acquired the necessary skills to operate larger aircraft for hire. Commercial pilots can obtain a variety of jobs, including:
1. Airline pilot: Fly commercial airliners for major or regional airlines
2. Corporate pilot: Fly private jets for companies or wealthy individuals
3. Cargo pilot: Transport goods by flying cargo planes
4. Charter pilot: Fly charter flights for individuals or groups
5. Aerial survey pilot: Conduct aerial surveys using specialized equipment
6. Air ambulance pilot: Transport patients needing medical attention via air ambulance
7. Flight instructor: Teach individuals how to fly and prepare them for a career as a pilot
If you currently hold a private pilot certificate and are thinking of taking steps to turn your skills into a career, we invite you to reach out to our admissions team at 1.503.726.3000 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are holding off on beginning your pilot journey, then we encourage you to give us a call and learn about how we can help you make your dream of flight possible.