Today, the beginning pilot has many paths to choose from when learning to fly. There's the Light Sport activity, which gets you going in a basic airplane. Then there is the recreational route which expands horizons a bit. Finally there's the tried and true private certificate that expands piloting privileges by a lot. If initial cost is a big factor, the best start is at the Light Sport level. However, history has shown that pilots like to move upward and onward, and most people who get one of the lesser certificates will likely eventually earn a private with probably an instrument rating. Because light-sport airplanes and certificates are new and untried, and because the recreational certificate has attracted little following over the years, we'll concentrate on the private which is, and will continue to be, the first certificate earned by the vast majority of pilots.