Pilot Certifications

And How to Earn Them

Earning your pilot certificate is both challenging and rewarding. Once earned, it is good for life as long as you keep your skills current. There are many paths to flying for pleasure, business or as a career. Your best source for detailed information on pilot certificates and ratings is the FAA website, which is kept up-to-date with all the latest rules, regulations and requirements. Here we list those certificates you can earn with us, along with those you can earn elsewhere in more specialized programs.

Pilot Certificates

Pilot certificates are generally issued once you have completed a training program, passed a written test and a practical test (flying) for the category and class of aircraft you would like to fly. Generally, your ground school portion will be coupled with flying so that you can see the practical application of what you are learning. You can earn a private pilot certificate in an airplane, rotorcraft or other category. We are happy to help you navigate the best fit for how you see yourself flying and customize your training program to reach your individual goals.

  • Sport Pilot
    This certificate is the most restrictive, but easiest to obtain. You can earn it in as little as 20 hours of flight time, but can only fly in light-sport category aircraft and outside of controlled airspace. More about sport pilot certificates >
  • Recreational Pilot
    The next step up, you can earn a recreational certificate in as little as 30 hours of flight time. There are additional restrictions, such as instructor endorsements, distance and number of passengers allowed that allow you to fly locally. More about recreational pilot certificates >
  • Private Pilot
    This certificate allows you to be pilot in command for aircraft for which you have received training, cross-country and within controlled airspace. It is the 'general' pilot's license that allows you to fly the most places with few restrictions, namely that you can't fly for compensation/hire. It can be earning in as few as 40 hours of flight time, however, like all licenses, unless you are an exceptional student and extremely diligent, most folks earn this in around 60-65 hours of flight time. More about private pilot certification >
  • Commercial Pilot
    Stepping up to this certificate level allows you to fly for compensation or hire. Here you may start considering aviation as a career option, though, to improve your options, an instrument rating and/or multi-engine rating is highly recommended. This certificate requires at least 250 hours of flight time. More about commercial pilot certification >
  • Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI)
    A flight instructor certification allows you to instruct pilots and student pilots for the category and class of aircraft that you received your certification in. Many pilots who love to teach choose this route to earn flight time by helping others learn to fly. More about CFI certification >
  • Airline Transport Pilot (ATP)
    This certificate provides the same priveleges as a commercial pilot with an instrument rating, but requires significantly more education and time, ensuring that ATP pilots exemplify professionalism, skill and dedication. Most "mainline" carriers that you may be familiar with will only consider pilots with this level of certification. It requires at least 1,500 hours of flight time and training from specialized schools. More about ATP certification >

Categories and Classes

These are the specific categories of aircraft you can learn to fly. These can be applied to most of the certificates above, with some exceptions, and some aircraft require specific type-ratings. Don't worry - it is a lot simpler than it may seem - contact us for more information.

We are able to provide training for all of the bold categories below, those that are italicized/grayed items may be obtained from third-party providers.

  • Airplane
    • Single-Engine Land
    • Mutli-Engine Land
    • Single-Engine Sea (able to land on water)
    • Multi-Engine Sea (able to land on water)
  • Rotorcraft
    • Helicopter
    • Gyroplane
  • Powered Lift
  • Glider
  • Lighter Than Air
    • Balloon
    • Airship
  • Powered Parachute, Land
  • Powered Parachute, Sea
  • Weight Shift, Land
  • Weight Shift, Sea


A rating can be added to an earned pilot certificate to authorize additional priveleges. Like certifications, ratings require training by a CFI and passing both written and practical exams.

  • Instrument
    Allows one to fly into other than VFR (visual flight rules) weather and greatly enhances the value of your pilot certificate.
  • Multi-Engine
    Allows one to pilot larger, multi-engine aircraft with longer range and greater useful loads.


Endorsements are earned through training and demonstrated proficiency with a CFI who, based on their judgment of your skill, will endorse you for additional priveleges. To pilot more powerful aircraft (those rated more than 200 HP) will require a High Performance Airplane endorsement. Piloting aircraft with retractable gear and constant speed propellors will require a Complex Airplane endorsement. You may also earn a Tailwheel endorsement or a High Altitude endorsement. All enable you to fly further, faster and higher.


Don't be! All of the requirements for earning certificates, ratings and endorsements are clearly delineated in aviation regulations, which we will help you learn on your way to becoming a safe, proficient pilot! Call (916) 427-7707 or write today and we'll be happy to explain what you can do to take your first step to start flying!