How Long Does It Take to Become a Pilot

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Career Advice

Becoming a pilot is a dream for many. It is an exciting career with plenty of opportunities for growth and development. However, one of the most common questions people ask is how long it takes to become a pilot. We will discuss the different factors that can affect the time it takes to become a pilot.

Factors Affecting the Time to Become a Pilot

There are several factors that can impact the time it takes to become a pilot. Here are some of the most significant factors:

Type of Pilot License: The type of pilot license you want to obtain will impact the time it takes to become a pilot. For instance, a private pilot license can take as little as 6-12 months, while a commercial pilot license can take up to 2 years.

Flight Training Program: The flight training program you choose can also impact the time it takes to become a pilot. Some flight schools offer accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as 6-12 months, while others may take up to 2-3 years.

Frequency of Flight Training: The frequency of your flight training can also impact the time it takes to become a pilot. If you train regularly, you can complete your flight training program much faster than if you only train sporadically.

Aviation Medical Exam: You must pass an aviation medical exam to become a pilot. The time it takes to obtain a medical certificate can vary depending on the individual’s health status and the availability of medical examiners.

Types of Pilot Licenses

There are several types of pilot licenses, including:

Private Pilot License (PPL)

A Private Pilot License (PPL) is a certificate issued by Transport Canada (in Canada) and the Federal Aviation Administration (in the United States) which permits individuals to act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of a single- or multi-engine aircraft, and carry passengers, but only for non-commercial operations. The PPL requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, which must include at least 17 flight exercises demonstrating proficiency in areas such as takeoffs, landings, instrument approaches, and navigation. The licensee may also obtain ratings from the PPL for flying in different weather conditions and at night.

Commercial Pilot License (CPL)

A commercial pilot license (CPL) is the highest level of pilot certificate that you can obtain. It requires applicants to be at least 18 years old and have a minimum of 250 hours of flight experience, including 100 hours as pilot in command. With a CPL, you can fly as a professional pilot or transport passengers and cargo for hire. Additionally, you may be required to hold instrument and multi-engine ratings.

Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)

The Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), or Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, is the highest level of piloting license awarded by civil aviation authorities in most countries. That license allows the holder to serve as a pilot-in-command of a commercial airline. Prerequisites for being granted an ATPL include: a minimum of 18 years of age; a medical certificate; a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time, of which at least 500 hours must be on a multi-engine aircraft; a minimum of 250 hours of pilot-in-command time; and a minimum of 70 hours of instrument flying. An ATPL license is valid for the life of the holder and must be renewed periodically to maintain the holder’s medical qualifications and currency in flight skills.

Sport Pilot License

A Sport Pilot Certificate is a type of pilot license that allows individuals to fly certain categories of aircraft in the United States. This type of certificate was introduced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2004 and is designed to make flying more accessible to people who may not have the time or resources to obtain a full Private Pilot Certificate.

To be eligible for a Sport Pilot Certificate, an individual must be at least 17 years old, able to read, speak, write, and understand English, and hold a valid driver’s license. In addition, the individual must complete a minimum of 20 hours of flight training, including at least 15 hours of flight instruction from a certified flight instructor and at least 5 hours of solo flight time.

The aircraft that a Sport Pilot is allowed to fly are limited to those that meet specific weight and performance restrictions. For example, the maximum takeoff weight for a Sport Pilot aircraft is 1,320 pounds, and the maximum airspeed is 120 knots. Sport Pilots are also limited to flying in daytime conditions and in certain types of airspace.

A Sport Pilot Certificate is a great option for individuals who are interested in flying for recreation, sightseeing, or other non-commercial purposes. It can also be a good starting point for individuals who eventually want to pursue a Private Pilot Certificate or other advanced pilot licenses.

Recreational Pilot License

A Recreational Pilot License (RPL) is a type of pilot license that allows individuals to fly for recreational purposes in certain countries. In the United States, the equivalent license is the Sport Pilot Certificate, and in Canada, it is known as the Recreational Pilot Permit.

To obtain an RPL, an individual must meet certain requirements set by the aviation authorities in their country. Generally, the requirements for an RPL are less stringent than those for a Private Pilot License (PPL) or Commercial Pilot License (CPL), and the training is typically less extensive. In the United States, for example, an individual must be at least 17 years old, able to read, write, speak, and understand English, and have a minimum of 30 hours of flight time, including at least 15 hours of flight instruction and at least 5 hours of solo flight time.

An RPL typically limits the pilot to flying certain categories of aircraft and within certain airspace restrictions. The aircraft that a recreational pilot is allowed to fly are limited in weight and performance, and the pilot is generally restricted to flying during daylight hours and in good weather conditions.

An RPL can be a good starting point for individuals who are interested in flying for recreational purposes or who want to gain experience before pursuing a more advanced pilot license, such as a PPL or CPL. It is also a less expensive and less time-consuming option than obtaining a PPL or CPL. However, it is important to note that an RPL may have limitations on the types of flying that can be done, and it may not be sufficient for those who want to fly professionally or in more complex aircraft or airspace.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Private Pilot License?

To obtain a private pilot license, you must complete a minimum of 40 flight hours, including 20 hours of flight training with an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight. The time it takes to complete the required flight hours can vary depending on your flight training program and the frequency of your flight training. On average, it takes about 6-12 months to obtain a private pilot license.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Commercial Pilot License?

To obtain a commercial pilot license, you must have a private pilot license and complete a minimum of 250 flight hours, including 100 hours of pilot-in-command time and 50 hours of cross-country flight time. The time it takes to complete the required flight hours can vary depending on your flight training program and the frequency of your flight training. On average, it takes about 1-2 years to obtain a commercial pilot license.

How to Speed Up the Process

  • If you want to become a pilot quickly, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process:
  • Choose an accelerated flight training program.
  • Train regularly and frequently.
  • Obtain your medical certificate as soon as possible.
  • Consider attending a college or university with a flight training program.


Becoming a pilot requires a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. The length of time it takes to become a pilot can vary depending on the type of license and the individual’s circumstances. For a private pilot license, it can take several months to a year or more of training and practice, while obtaining a commercial or airline transport pilot license can take several years of experience and advanced training. It is important for individuals interested in becoming a pilot to research the requirements and options available to them, and to be prepared for the commitment required to achieve their goals. With dedication and perseverance, however, the rewards of becoming a pilot can be significant, including the opportunity to travel, work in a dynamic industry, and experience the thrill of flight.

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