The following are the types of aviation licenses you can obtain in Canada. To my knowledge, the requirements are very similar in the USA, Great Britain, and Australia, but I am unsure on the definate figures. I DO know, however, that the Canadian Private Pilot License and Commercial Pilot License are valid in every country in the world, so these requirements are a bit of a higher standard than usual (see also: Why you should learn to fly in Canada).

There are 3 main categories of pilot's licenses, for fixed-wing aircraft. Each license can be appended with a variety of "ratings," such as Instrument Flying Endorsement, Night Flying Endorsement, Float Endorsement, Mountain Flying Endorsement, etc. It is also common to add unofficial ratings for various aircraft; for example, if you have flown a Cessna 172 in the last 2 years, you are said to be "Current" for the Cessna 172. Many flying clubs or rental agencies require you to be 6 months current in the aircraft you are flying.

The categories of flight licenses and their requirements are as follows:

  • Recreational Permit (RPP)
    The Recreational Permit is not an actual license to fly, but a permit. The main difference is really semantics, but could be thought of like this: Because the passing requirements are lower for the RPP, the government is allowing you the "privelege" to fly, even though you may not know enough to get yourself out of a sticky situation. If you were to get a PPL or a CPL (see below), you would have earned the "right" to fly, and you have proven that you can handle yourself safely in most situations.

    Because of the limitations set out below (such as only being able to carry 1 passenger, only allowed to flying during daylight, etc.) you are less likely to make mistakes, but are equally restricted in the activities you can perform. Recreational pilots must be extra-vigilant in their safety, and must be extra-careful to not enter bad weather or darkness. It is NOT required reading to know how to fly at night or in bad weather, and getting into trouble will result in the invalidation of your permit or a suspension, a monetary fine, and possibly even you and your passenger's death.

    Note that you are not allowed to make any money with a RPP (not your own business, not under-the-table, not working for a company, just for fun only). You ARE allowed to charge for costs such as fuel and the aircraft rental, however. You just can't turn a profit.

    It is interesting to note that there is no required reading, ground-based classes, or theory of flight for this permit. Though most flight schools will offer it, it is not a government requirement. That's why they don't trust you to fly in bad weather and such.

    • Allows you to carry up to 1 passenger
    • Only allowed flying an aircraft with no more than 4 seats
    • Single engine aircraft only
    • Not allowed to fly "high-performance" aircraft
    • Not allowed to leave the country while in flight
    • Only allowed VFR Flight (no IFR Flight permitted)
    • Only fly in daylight hours
    • Minimum age: 16
    • Minimum 25 Hours of Flight Training - 10 hours Dual, minimum - 5 hours solo, minimum. In addition, 2 additional dual hours of "cross-country" flight are required, which is consisted of trip(s) of at least 2 legs of 30 minutes each.
    • Must acheive 60% on Examination (Must have letter of recommendation and at least 10 hours of flight time to write exam)
    • Must pass flight test
    • Must have a Category 4 Medical Certificate (see the Aviation Medical Certificates writeup for more details)

  • Private License (PPL)
    The Private License gives a pilot a lot more mobility in the air. Though they are not allowed to fly in bad weather nor in darkness, the pilots-to-be are fully versed in what to do in those situations. It is then possible to get "ratings" that will legally allow you to fly in nearly any situation. Ratings for float planes, multiple engines, jet engines, mountain flight, flying by instruments (ie: through bad weather or in darkness), and just about anything else you can think of can be "added-on" to your PPL, making it one of the least expensive but most dynamic (and therefore most popular) pilot's license available.

    You can upgrade to a PPL from an RPL, though most people will just go straight for the PPL (you save a few hundred dollars in "testing fees" and training time isn't much longer). If you aren't sure of where you want to go with your flying (career? fun?), you can always apply your PPL or RPL hours towards your Commercial License at a later date. Your "ratings" will also carry over.

    Note that you are not allowed to make any money with a PPL (not your own business, not under-the-table, not working for a company, just for fun only). You ARE allowed to charge for costs such as fuel and the aircraft rental, however. You just can't turn a profit.

    • Minimum age: 17
    • Minimum 40 Hours Ground School
    • Only allowed VFR Flight (no IFR Flight permitted)
    • Only fly in daylight hours
    • Only allowed to fly single-engine aircraft
    • Not allowed to fly "high-performance" aircraft
    • Must pass written examination (Must have 10 hours flight training to write test) (pass mark of 60% in all of the 5 categories and 60% overall)
    • Must pass flight test (Must have 35 hours flight training to write test)
    • Minimum 45 hours flight training - 9 hours Dual, minimum - 7 hour Solo, minimum. Additionally, you must fly 3 dual hours of cross-country flight and 5 solo hours of cross country flight (consisting of a flight(s) composed of at least 2 legs of 30 minutes each), as well as 3 dual hours of instrument flying.
    • Must have a Category 3 Medical Certificate. A Category 1 will also suffice (see the Aviation Medical Certificates writeup for more details).

  • Commercial License (CPL)
    The Commercial Pilot's License is basically a PPL (see above) with a lot more theory added in and a lot more practice. Though a PPL Pilot, with his 50 hours of experience, may be able to land safely... the ability to land safely and comfortably in a large jet with hundreds of passengers not losing their lunch; that's a skill that takes some time to develop.

    The main, number-one outstanding difference between the CPL and the PPL is that you are allowed to fly for money with the CPL. The second biggest difference is that there is a lot of emphasis put on flying at night and flying by instruments.

    • Minimum age: 18
    • Minimum 40 hours Ground School (in addition to the PPL training)
    • Minimum 200 hours flight experience (current flying to-date counts), including at least 100 hours of pilot-in-command time (no co-piloting!) and at least 20 hours of cross-country flight
    • Minimum 65 hours of CPL flight training, 35 dual hours and 30 solo hours. Of the dual hours, 5 must be acquired in cross-country flight, 5 hours must be acquired in night flight (2 of those hours must be cross-country as well), 20 hours of instrument flying, and 5 hours of general improvement of skills. Of the solo hours, 5 hours must be night flight, 5 hours must be cross-country flight, and 20 hours must be spent on the general improvement of skills.
    • Must pass written examination (pass mark of 60% in all of the 5 categories and 60% overall)
    • Must pass flight test
    • Must currently own a PPL
    • Must have a Category 1 Medical Certificate (see the Aviation Medical Certificates writeup for more details)

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