If you love the idea of learning how to fly airplanes as a hobby but want to avoid the advanced training and higher cost that often comes with it, the recreational pilot’s license might be for you. This pilot license is for someone who wants to fly for fun, but does not plan on flying very far or in difficult conditions.
If learning to fly just for fun sounds like an exciting hobby for you, keep reading to learn more.
Recreational Pilot License
The recreational pilot license program was started by the FAA to allow an easy way for people to fly single engine aircraft for their own enjoyment. Although this license only allows flight during the day, within 50 miles of your home airport, and with a few other restrictions, it can be earned with less flight time instruction than other licenses and for a lower cost.
In addition to being a great way to fly as a recreational activity, the experience you gain while earning this license can also be a great stepping stone to more advanced flight training, like a private pilot license.
Compared to Other Licenses
The difference between earning your recreational pilot license vs a full private pilot license is the restrictions that are placed on a recreational pilot. According to the FAA regulations, these include:
- May not carry more than one passenger.
- May not fly to an airport further than 50 nmi from the departure point.
- May not fly in Class B, C, D airspace or to any controlled airport.
- May not fly an aircraft that has more than four seats, a tailwheel, more than one engine, or more than 180 hp.
- May not fly aircraft falling under the definition of a complex airplane, with retractable gear, adjustable flaps and variable-pitch propeller.
- May not fly between sunset and sunrise.
- May not fly above 10,000 ft MSL or 2,000 ft AGL (whichever is higher)
- If pilot has logged less than 400 hours and has not acted as pilot in command within 180 days, a flight review is required prior to any flight without an instructor.
Before setting out to earn your recreational pilot license, you should first know the qualifications you need to meet in order to be eligible. Those qualifications are:
- Be at least 17 years old
- Be able to read, speak, and understand the English language
- Hold either a student or sport pilot license (click to learn more about student pilot and sport pilot licenses)
If you are just beginning your journey towards becoming a pilot from scratch, you’re best bet is to first get your student pilot certificate, then work towards your recreational pilot license as soon as you start taking lessons.
Although earning a full private pilot license can be very expensive, the recreational pilot license was designed to be both quicker and cheaper to earn. Since there are portions of training that won’t be required (like flying at night) this license ends up being more affordable.
Let’s take a look at the total cost of earning your recreational pilot license along with a breakdown of the fees.
You can expect the total cost of earning your recreational pilot license to be around $7,000. Let’s take a look at a detailed breakdown of the costs
- Flight Instruction: You’re going to need a qualified and experienced flight instructor that you can work well with. Expect to pay $40-$60 per for each hour of instruction.
- Airplane Rental: Airplane rental fees can vary based on where you are located, the type of plane, and other factors. A good estimate is to plan on $100 per hour with gas included.
- Aviation Supplies: You can expect to have to buy a few hundred more dollars worth of items like aviation headsets and tools necessary to fly.
- Training Materials & Exam Fees: You can expect to spend another $500-$800 for books and courses so you can take and pass the written exam.
If you want to begin the process of earning your recreational pilot license, I would recommend reaching out to a flight instructor or flight school near you to discuss their training program and if it’s right for you. You should ask about the specifics of their process, scheduling, their costs, and anything else you want to know about earning the recreational pilot license.
If you move forward, you should then apply for and get your medical certificate as soon as possible. This includes providing the FAA with some medical background info about yourself as well as having a medical exam.
This process can take several weeks from start to finish, and you still need to wait for your student pilot certificate to get to you in the mail, which can take a few more weeks.
Considering you need this all completed before you can fly solo, I would start the process as soon as possible.
Next, it’s time to start taking lessons with an instructor. You should also take the ground training program at this point, so you can learn all the info you’ll need to pass the written test.
The things you are going to be learning from your instructor while flying and on the ground are very important and are what is going to keep you safe while flying. Be a good student, ask a lot of questions, and get as much practice as you can.
Once you’ve taken all the required flight training and completed the ground course, it’s time to finally earn your license.
Earning Your License
In order to complete your recreational pilot license training program, you’ll have to complete the following training and exams:
- 30 hours of flight training (15 of those with an instructor)
- Learn the basics of flying (regulations, procedures, etc) via a instructional course
- Pass an FAA written knowledge test
- Pass a required oral and practical flight test administered by a FAA designated examiner
Congratulations, after completing all of the above you will have earned your Recreational Pilot License!
As you can see, there are definite advantages and disadvantages to earning a recreational pilot license instead of a sport pilot license or even a private pilot license.
The Advantages of the recreational pilot license are that you can complete the training with less training than that of earning a private pilot license and you can fly larger aircraft than if you only had a sport pilot license.
This lets you get into the air quicker and with less of a financial burden. However, you are still limited to flying during the day, near airports, and under 10,000 feet of altitude.
The downside of a recreational pilot license is that you still can’t fly at night, with more than one passenger, or in many other conditions. It’s basically a license to fly for fun on bright sunny days near your home airport.
Also, compared to a sport pilot license, it does add 10 hours of required flight training which brings with it more costs.
Earning a recreational pilot license is a great way for someone to learn to fly and be able to spend some free time enjoying an exciting and rewarding hobby. If you’ve always wanted to learn to fly just to have another great activity to participate in but have no intention on going on longer flights farther from home or with passengers, this is a great place to start.