How to Qualify for a Commercial Pilot License

Pilot License


Obtaining a commercial airline pilot’s license requires dedication, skill, training and experience. To become a commercial pilot, you must obtain a private pilot certificate first, meet experience requirements and pass several written and practical tests. This summary provides an overview of the application process and what you can expect when seeking a commercial pilot career.

Basic Requirements for Commercial Pilot Certificates

All applicants must write, speak, read and have a good understanding of English to qualify for commercial pilot certificates. Everyone applying for their commercial license must be 18 or older. Pilots must also have obtained a 1st class FAA medical certificate.

Private Pilot Certificates

To complete private pilot certification, which is needed to become a commercial airplane pilot, you must be 17 and qualify for a 3rd class FAA medical certificate. You will need to complete a minimum of 40 hours of flying time. However, the US average is closer to 70 hours. A good portion of these hours will be spent with a flying instructor.

10 of your hours should be completed as solo flying (flying by yourself). Five hours out of the solo flying time must be done as cross-country flying, which means flying between airports.

Besides achieving flying time qualifications for private pilot certification, applicants must take and pass the written examination for a FAA private pilot. In addition, you will have to pass the practical and oral examination for private pilots.

Meeting Commercial Pilot Requirements for Aeronautical Experience

To complete the process for commercial pilot certification for airplanes with single engine ratings, applicants must have completed a minimum of 250 hours piloting a plane. Flying times and requirements are quite specific. However, this brief summary of minimums should provide an idea of the basic requirements to achieve the 250 hours:

  • 10 hours of solo flying in single engine planes, which includes cross-country flying.
  • 20 hours in operations, which includes instrument training and flying a plane with controllable pitch, flaps, propellers and specialized landing gear.
  • In addition, applicants will complete some night and nautical flying miles for a number of hours.
  • 100 hours flying must be completed in powered aircrafts. 50 of these must be in a plane.
  • 100 hours should be completed as the pilot in command.

Completing Commercial Pilot Knowledge Tests

Applicants must take and pass a written FAA test to acquire a commercial license. You will be asked to answer several questions on a number of subjects including:

  • Aerodynamics
  • Performance calculations
  • Complex systems for aircraf
  • Commercial operations

Besides the written evaluation test, you will be given an oral examination by an examiner, which may cover questions about cross country planning, weather and commercial operations.

Practical Test by the FAA

After passing the written knowledge tests, you’ll pilot a plane with an examiner representing the FAA and be expected to show your flying abilities using several flight maneuvers and specialty landings. The practical test is the last test required to get your commercial pilot license.

Qualifying for a commercial airlinelicense means completing a lot of flying time and passing your exams. However, most people that are passionate about flying are more than willing to undertake the requirements to become commercial pilots.