by Kate Bernard
last updated: 12/30/14

A person applying for a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate in an airplane must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:

  1. Be at least 17 years of age
  2. Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. If unable due to medical reasons, the FAA may issue a certificate with operating limitations necessary for the safe operation of the aircraft.
  3. Receive the ground training required for the certificate and pass the applicable knowledge test
  4. Receive the flight training required for the certificate and pass the applicable practical test (“checkride”)
  5. Possess at least a third-class medical certificate (recreational & private pilot) or driver’s license (sport pilot)

These are the requirements to finish training and earn a certificate, not to start training.

There are no age restrictions to begin training. The FAA allows students to fly solo at age 16, so young students often begin training at age 15. There is no maximum age limit.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires an additional paperwork step before a student is eligible for flight training. Non-U.S. citizens must complete an online application and receive the TSA’s approval before starting flight training. U.S. citizens must show their flight instructor proof of U.S. citizenship, such as an unexpired U.S. passport, or an original birth certificate plus photo I.D.

checklist on a clipboard with pencil


Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What are the Entry-Level Pilot Certificates?
  2. What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Pilot Certificate?
  3. What are the Medical Certification Requirements for Pilots?
  4. What is Ground Training Like?
  5. What is Flight Training Like?
  6. What Tests are Required to Become a Pilot?
  7. How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?
  8. How Can I Find a Flight School or Flight Instructor?
  9. How Does a Pilot Stay Current and Proficient?
  10. What Additional Certificates and Ratings Can a Pilot Earn?
  11. How Do I Sign Up for an Introductory Flight Lesson?