Eric Radtke is an airline transport pilot, Gold Seal flight instructor, advanced ground instructor and NAFI-accredited Master Flight Instructor. Eric has been involved in aviation education since 1998 and currently serves as president and chief instructor of Sporty’s Academy — the educational arm of Sporty’s Pilot Shop. He says:
I’d recommend a recreational or sport pilot course for all students before continuing to a private pilot curriculum. Advantages? Many …
In simpler times, the private pilot license was the “gateway” certificate allowing a pilot to add “advanced degrees” such as an instrument rating as it became necessary. But now, the real requirements are greater for the private than for a commercial certificate half a century ago. In this day of modern flight decks, technically advanced aircraft and complex airspace, utilizing general aviation as a reliable form of transportation makes advanced cross-country training and maybe even an instrument rating a necessity.
A private certificate alone will likely take six months and 60-plus hours of flying time. It’s a long journey filled with ups and downs before you’re able to begin enjoying the fruits of your labor. Today we must consider the recreational or sport pilot the gateway certificate. Pilot candidates pursuing these certificates learn how to control the aircraft, master simple navigation techniques and safely take off and land on a nice afternoon. Once certified, they can show a friend their house from the air, look at the mountains, view the city or cruise over a beach. In other words, they can experience the simple pleasures of flight that likely attracted most of us to aviation in the first place.
The sport or recreational training curriculum will help develop habits and instincts that will increase your likelihood of success in more advanced training courses and allow you to build valuable PIC experience along the way. Your total flight experience will be credited toward your private’s training so it will not create any additional barrier to your end goal, and you decide when and how to proceed.