The world of aviation offers a wide range of pilot licences, each with its own characteristics and requirements. For those interested in becoming pilots, it’s critical to understand the differences between these licences and how they fit your goals and aspirations. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the different types of pilot licences, from recreational to commercial licences, and discuss their key differences. Join us on this informative tour to gain a clear and detailed understanding of the various options available in the exciting world of aviation.
Many people think that an ultralight is not a real airplane, but it is practically like a small plane, albeit with some limitations. However, it allows you to fly and enjoy the flight just like any other airplane.
It is an excellent option if your goal as a pilot is only recreational, either to fly with your partner, with friends or for small trips. Also, you should keep in mind that this option will be the most economical, both in terms of license and flight hours, being the most affordable alternative.
- How to obtain the license: To obtain the license, you will have to complete a simple theoretical part and a practical part in which you will have to accumulate at least 15 hours of flight time.
- Price: The course will cost approximately 2000€.
- Minimum hours: A minimum of 15 hours is required to be able to take the practical exam. However, as in a driving school, the duration of the flight hours may vary depending on each person and their ability.
You should also keep in mind that the ultralight license is regulated by national regulations established by AESA. This regulation limits the maximum take-off weight of ultralight aircraft to 450 kg, as well as the flight in visual conditions and a maximum flight altitude of no more than 300 meters over land or water.
The flight hours you accumulate in an ultralight will not be valid if you are thinking of obtaining a higher flight license, since the rest of the flight licences are regulated by European regulations, unlike ultralights which are subject to national regulations. While you will gain experience, these hours will not be counted towards higher pilot licenses.
Light Aircraft Pilot Licences (LAPL)
The LAPL license is an intermediate option between the ultralight license and the private pilot license. With it, the limits set by the ultralight license are extended, as with the LAPL you can fly aircraft up to 2000 kg and carry a maximum of four people. This means that you can fly aircraft such as the Cessna 172, Piper Archer or Piper Arrow, which are within these weight ranges.
The LAPL is still an excellent choice for recreational flying and trips with friends and family, allowing you to carry a little more luggage and arrange slightly longer trips.
- How to obtain the license: To obtain the LAPL license, you will have to complete a theoretical and a practical part.
- Price: As for the cost, it will depend on the flight school, but it will be in the range of 5000-6000€ approximately.
- Minimum hours: The minimum is 30 hours of flight.
If your goal is to maintain recreational flying, the LAPL is a good choice. However, if you are considering a professional career in the aviation field, it is recommended to go straight for the private pilot license.
Private Pilot Licences (PPL)
If you are considering a professional career in aviation, the first step you should take is to get the private pilot license. While it’s important to note that you won’t be able to do paid work or earn money through flying, this license gives you the opportunity to gain experience, start flying and discover all the options available to you. Also, unlike other private pilot licenses, the private pilot license allows you to fly aircraft up to 5700 kg, which means that you will be able to fly considerable aircraft such as the Pilatus PC-12.
- How to obtain the license? To obtain the private pilot license, you will have to pass a theoretical part composed of two subjects and complete a practical part.
- Price: The approximate cost of this process will be in the range of 8000-9000€.
- Minimum hours: The practical part requires a minimum of 45 hours of flight time.
Once the private pilot license is obtained, you will be able to continue accumulating flight hours gradually until you reach the 150 hours required to start the commercial pilot course.
Commercial Pilot Licences (CPL)
Obtaining the commercial pilot license will depend on the ratings we have. If we have obtained the ratings while flying with the private pilot license, the course will be shorter. In case we do not have the instrument or multi-engine ratings, we will have to add them as additional requirements for the commercial pilot license.
- Parts of the course: The commercial pilot course will include a theoretical part, as well as a practical part that will include flights and simulator.
- Hours: If we already have the ratings, 15 hours of flight time will be required. If you do not have instrument or multi-engine ratings, 25 hours will be required.
- Cost: The course will range between €5,000 and €6,000.
The advantage of obtaining a commercial pilot license is that you have a wide variety of career options in the aviation industry, we leave you a link where you can read a summary of the career opportunities for a commercial pilot.
To obtain the Airline Pilot License (ATPL), which is the highest license, you must start with the theoretical part, which consists of 14 subjects. The ATPL license is divided into two phases:
- Frozen ATPL: In this phase, the theoretical part of the ATPL is completed. It consists of passing the 14 theoretical subjects required for the airline pilot license. Once all subjects have been passed, the Frozen ATPL license is obtained. This license is normally completed in two different ways: Integrated or Modular ATPL.
- Flight hours and practical experience: After obtaining the frozen ATPL, practical experience and flight hours must be accumulated. This involves flying for an airline as a co-pilot or first officer, gaining real flight experience. During this phase, a total of 1500 flight hours must be completed, of which at least 500 hours must be as an aircraft commander, 250 hours must be navigation and 250 hours must be night flights.
Upon completion of both phases, the full Airline Pilot License (ATPL) is attained, allowing commercial flights and pilot performance in various professional capacities in the aviation industry.
How can I obtain the Frozen ATPL license from scratch?
Although there is also the possibility of obtaining the Frozen ATPL license from scratch, by taking a comprehensive course that includes both the theoretical and the practical part. Below, I will explain the general steps to follow to obtain the Frozen ATPL from scratch:
- Theoretical part: In this phase, you must pass the 14 theoretical subjects required for the ATPL license. These subjects cover a wide range of aeronautical knowledge, such as meteorology, navigation, principles of flight, regulations and procedures, communications, etc. The subjects are studied at an approved training centre, and the corresponding exams for each subject must be passed.
- Private Pilot License (PPL): Before continuing with the ATPL training, it is necessary to obtain the private pilot license. This involves completing a practical training that includes flight hours with an instructor, where the basic flying skills and manoeuvres necessary to obtain the license are learned and practiced.
- Commercial Pilot License (CPL): After obtaining the private pilot license, you advance to the next stage, which is obtaining the commercial pilot license. This stage involves additional theoretical and practical training, including the acquisition of more advanced flying skills and specific knowledge related to commercial flying. A minimum number of required flight hours must be completed, and the corresponding theoretical exams must be passed.
- Flight hours and experience: Once the commercial pilot license is obtained, one must continue to accumulate flight hours and practical experience. This is achieved by flying for an airline as co-pilot or first officer, performing actual flights and gaining experience in real operating situations. During this phase, a total of 1500 flight hours must be completed, following the requirements established by the aeronautical authorities.
Once all these steps have been completed and the flight hours and experience requirements have been met, the Frozen ATPL license is obtained. From that point on, you are ready to seek employment opportunities in commercial airlines and move towards obtaining the full ATPL license by accumulating the specific flight hours and experience required for the full license.
Military Pilot Licences
The military pilot license follows a completely different path than other pilot licenses, as it involves flying and gaining experience in a different type of aircraft. If you opt for this route, you will get a unique and different experience from that of a civilian pilot.
It is possible to validate the military pilot license to fly civilian, but it is important to keep in mind that, to make the transition from military to civilian aviation, it is required to have completed a minimum time of military service, which is usually at least 12 years. Therefore, if your primary goal is to become a commercial pilot, this is not the most advisable path. However, if your goal is to become a pilot and you are interested in military experience, the option of becoming a military pilot can be an excellent choice, since it will provide you with a unique experience that you could hardly get as a commercial or civilian pilot.
- Price: In terms of cost, we could say that it is “free”, although the price you pay is your time, since you are investing your years of service in the military to obtain the license.
It is important to carefully consider your goals and preferences before deciding whether to opt for a military pilot’s license. While it can offer valuable and enriching experience, it also comes with specific commitments and requirements not found in civilian licenses.
In short, the path to reach the top license is not unique, as you can opt for different routes depending on the type of pilot you wish to become, even stopping at lower pilot licenses. Although due to the high investment required, it is advisable to advance little by little, that is, start flying ultralights to determine if you like aviation, and then save up to obtain the private pilot’s license. Through flights and experience gained, you can gradually meet the hours required for each license.
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