What Can You Do With a Private Pilot Certificate?

The options available to those who hold private pilot certificates are plentiful.

Find out what you can do with a private pilot certificate here. [Credit: iStock]

Are you trying to decide whether or not to get your private pilot certificate? Did you know it gives you more privileges than just flying by yourself? 

The options available to those who hold private pilot certificates are plentiful. You might not be able to make a living as a private pilot, but it enriches your life. It can also be a stepping stone to acquiring a job in the aviation sector. 

Easily become an airplane or commercial pilot online! Courses designed by industry experts can help you pass FAA tests and get into the sky!

Enroll Now
Enroll Now

What Is a Private Pilot Certificate? 

A private pilot certificate is a type of pilot certificate that allows you to command an aircraft for private use. Because the training requirements are more intense than the sport or recreational license, you are also allowed to fly at night and at controlled airports. 

Furthermore, you can also earn additional endorsements on your private pilot certificate to fly different aircraft categories.

How Do You Get a Private Pilot Certificate? 

To get your private pilot certificate, you need to be at least 17 years old and capable of reading, speaking, and writing in English. Below we’ll go through the steps you need to take to obtain your private pilot certificate.

Step 1: Obtain a third-class medical certificate. You must meet basic medical requirements to fly. 

Step 2: Apply for an FAA student pilot certificate. You must first have earned either a student, sport, or recreational pilot certificate to be able to get your private pilot certificate.

Step 3: Start taking ground instruction and flight lessons. Ground instruction will cover the academics of flying, whereas flight lessons will cover the practical aspects.

Step 4: Pass a private pilot knowledge test. To be able to take the test, you will need to acquire an endorsement from your flight instructor.

Step 5: Pass the private pilot practical exam. The practical will start with an oral exam. Afterward, you will do your checkride. Finally, you will go on an exam flight with a designated pilot examiner and demonstrate that you can properly perform basic maneuvers and pilot the aircraft.

Learn to fly with an online ground school that you can trust. Get started for free on acing your private pilots license.

Try Now
Try Now

Things You Can Do With a Private Pilot Certificate 

Although you’re not allowed to pilot commercially, there’s still a lot you can do with your private pilot certificate. 

Take Others Flying 

After obtaining your private pilot certificate, you can share your love of flight with your friends and family. You are allowed to take passengers during your flights as long as you are not getting paid for it. 

However, you are allowed to split the bill of the flight costs, as long as you pay your share. Taking three passengers means you must provide 25% of the costs of the flight. Which planes you can fly and how many passengers you can bring depends on which ratings or endorsements you have on your certificate.

Become a Teacher 

With your private pilot certificate, you can share your love for flying by teaching it to others. After passing several written tests, you can acquire your ground instructor certificate, which allows you to teach ground school classes. 

The ground instructor certificate is beneficial if you intend to get your commercial pilot certificate since it will help reinforce your flying knowledge. 

Visit Other Countries 

With your private pilot certificate, you can even fly to other countries. Just make sure to read up on the rules and regulations of your preferred destination. 

Some places might require you to fly with an instructor, but there are many countries where you can rent a plane and start your flight. You can usually get helpful information from your rental place or the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA)

Take a Business Trip 

Your private pilot certificate allows you to travel for work by plane. So instead of driving everywhere or spending a lot of time at the airport, you can hop into your own airplane and fly to your business destination.

Some, if not all, of the costs, are tax deductible as business travel expenses. Flying for business also keeps your flying skills up to date. 


As a private pilot, you are not allowed to get paid for your services. But you are allowed to volunteer for disaster relief, search and rescue flights, and charity events. 

Many charity organizations utilize private pilots for fire-spotting, disaster observation, search and rescue, and the delivery of relief supplies such as blood or medication. Not only is this a unique opportunity to help out in the world, but these organizations will often pay for fuel and operating expenses. 

Tow a Glider 

After having logged at least 100 flight hours in the type of aircraft used for towing, you can obtain an endorsement to your private pilot certificate for towing gliders. Upon receiving the endorsement and completing three tow flights with a qualified instructor, you can earn money by towing gliders. Towing is one of the few job opportunities available to you as a private pilot.

Sell Airplanes 

Another one of the opportunities you have with a private pilot certificate is becoming an aircraft salesperson. Besides your private pilot certificate, all you need is 200 flight hours and a high school diploma.

As an aircraft salesperson, you are allowed to take passengers to demonstrate how the plane maneuvers and functions, but you still need to be a decent salesperson to close the sale. Being a good aircraft salesman can be profitable, as the commission on aircraft sales is high. 

Civil Air Patrol 

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the official auxiliary for the U.S. Air Force and a non-profit organization that performs flight missions for the benefit of local communities. In addition, they perform disaster relief and search and rescue flights. 

The Civil Air Patrol uses a ranking system where you start at the bottom and climb your way up as you gain more experience and responsibilities. You need to be at least 18 years old—unless joining the cadet program—to join the Civil Air Patrol. The cadet program is for youths from 12 to 18 years old. To fly with CAP, you need to have a private pilot certificate.

Aviation Festivals 

Having your private pilot certificate allows you to fly into Aviation Festivals held across the U.S. Hundreds of pilots gather at these festivals, and it’s a fantastic place to share experiences and stories. 

Aviation festivals usually also have all kinds of cool pilot gadgets you haven’t seen before. They even host aerobatics competitions and skills workshops. It is guaranteed to be a fun and educational experience, and you’ll meet other aviation enthusiasts too. 

Ace your FAA written test, save money during flight training, and become a better pilot with Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course.

Learn More
Learn More

Get Your Private Pilot’s Certificate Today

So even if you’re not contemplating becoming a pilot for a living, there are lots of things you can do with a private pilot certificate. 

You can serve humanity by signing up with non-profit organizations to help out in disaster areas. In addition, you can partake in aviation festivals. Finally, and most importantly, you can take to the skies whenever you want and bring your friends and family along for the ride.

You can learn more about the flying adventures you can experience with a private pilot certificate in FLYING magazine. Subscribe today.



How many hours does it take to get a private pilot’s certificate?

Besides the time required to complete your ground instruction, you will need to log 40 hours of flight time to get a private pilot’s certificate. These 40 hours must consist of at least 20 hours of flight training,10 hours of solo flight, and five hours of cross-country flight.

Can you make money with a private pilot certificate?

Yes, however, you are only allowed to earn money as an aircraft salesperson or towing gliders. Additional endorsements or diplomas are required to work these jobs.

Can you fly anywhere with a private pilot certificate?

As long as you comply with the airspace regulations of your destination, you can fly wherever you want.

The World's Most Widely Read Aviation Magazine|🛩 🚁 ✈️ 🚀

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter