rivate pilots comprise the largest group of pilots and are among the most active flyers. In 2003, there were 241,045 private pilots.
To become a private pilot, one must be at least 17 years old, be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language and have a minimum of 40 hours of flight time. The actual national average for obtaining your Private Pilot Certificate is about 70 hours.
A private pilot - with appropriate training, ratings, and endorsements (e.g., floatplane, taildragger, multiengine, helicopter, jet, retractable gear, pressurized, high-performance, complex, etc.) — may carry passengers in any aircraft, day or night, good or bad weather (see Instrument Rating).
Private pilots may not fly for compensation or hire (no passenger or revenue services) but may share equally with their passengers the direct operating expenses of a flight.
Private Pilot Training Requirements:
61.03-a) Be at least 17 years of age.
61.03-b) Be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language.
61.109-a) For a single-engine rating. A person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight training in the areas of operation listed in FAR 61.107(b)(1).
The training must include at least:
(1) 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a single-engine airplane;
(2) Except as provided in FAR 61.110 of this part, 3 hours of night flight training in a single engine-airplane that includes:
(i) One cross-country flight over 100 nautical miles total distance; and
(ii) 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.
(3) 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of a plane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight;
(4) 3 hours of flight training in preparation for the practical test in a single engine airplane, which must have been performed within 60 days preceding the date of the test; and
(5) 10 hours of solo flight time in a single-engine airplane consisting of at least --
(i) 5 hours solo cross country time;
(ii) One solo cross country flight of at least 150 nautical miles total distance with full stop landings at a minimum of three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight line distance of at least 50 nautical miles between takeoff and landing locations; and
(iii) Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating tower.