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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

What are the differences in the types of pilot licenses (certificates)?

  • A student pilot license (certificate) is designed for the initial training period of flying. The student pilot must have a flight instructor present. He or she can solo after appropriate instructor endorsements.

  • A recreational pilot certificate limits the holder to: specific categories and classes of aircraft, the number of passengers which may be carried, the distance that may be flown from the departure point, flight into controlled airports, and other limitations.

  • A private pilot certificate lets the pilot carry passengers and provides for limited business use of an airplane.

  • A commercial pilot certificate lets the pilot conduct some operations for compensation and hire.

  • An airline transport pilot certificate is required to fly as captain by some air transport operations.

You can find information on how to get a pilot certificate on our website.