I often find myself answering this common question: How old do you have to be to get a private pilot license? Well, the answer from the FAA is 17 years old, but before you close this window, consider some of these things.
You do need a student pilot certificate in order solo in an airplane, but guess what?! You can get a student pilot certificate when you are 16 years old! If you’re not 16, there is still some hope for you. If you want to get started in a glider or balloon, you can get your student pilot certificate when you’re 14 years old!
Of course, if you are planning on flying an airplane, I would recommend getting a glider rating over the balloon. Keep in mind though, that FAR 61.103(b) says that you have to be 16 in order to get your rating in a glider or balloon. But that means that if you time your training just right, you can be ready by your 16th birthday and be flying a glider before getting your drivers license. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.
The controls of a glider are very similar to a powered aircraft, so the transition from glider to a powered airplane will have less of a learning curve. When you’re 16 and have a student pilot certificate and at least a 3rd class medical, you can start your private pilot training toward your solo flight. Interestingly, by assumption, it seems that you can take flying lessons at any age! I have yet to run across a regulation that says otherwise.
So what are you waiting for? Buy an official logbook and run down to the airport to get your aviation career started! You can read more frequently asked questions on the FAA’s website.