Which Rating?

A tremendous amount of confusion revolves around the different types of ratings available for a student pilot to seek and the time and cost to attain each of them. To further the confusion, many flight school web sites provide unrealistic completion times and costs in an attempt to lure students to their school. CSP believes in being honest and upfront with our customers about time and cost so that our customers can plan accordingly.

Flight Time: There is no set amount of hours one will have when completing a given pilot certificate. While the FAA does set minimum flight time requirements, these numbers are generally well below realistic expectations for a new student to obtain the proficiency level required for that certificate.

Cost: There is no set cost for earning a pilot certificate. Cost varies with the number of flight hours a given student requires to obtain the proficiency level required for that certificate.  The best way to minimize the time and hence the cost of training is to fly regularly - at least two to three times per week. This will allow the student to retain proficiency between flights.

It should also be noted that another major factor in controlling time and hence cost is the age of the pilot. For a sport pilot certificate, a student younger than age sixty who is flying two to three times per week will generally complete the course with flight hours within 10 hours of her age. For example a forty year old would complete training with 30 to 50 flight hours. After age sixty, students students vary a lot more in completion time and it is impossible to predict the number of hours they will require.

Ground School: There is no FAA ground school requirement, simply a knowledge level. Most CSP students enjoy home study of our text books although a number of commercial DVD packages are available to supplement these books. Students should plan about three hours of home study for each flight lesson.

Aircraft: Since all of Chesapeake Sport Pilot's airplanes are designated light sport single engine airplanes, we can do any of the rating listed below on any of the planes we offer. You need only select a plane you are comfortable in! Note: We choose to reserve the Searey for advanced training only.

Decision Time? Learning to fly an airplane is learning to fly an airplane. There is no need to decide on which rating you seek until well into your lessons.

Ratings – From Least to Most Amount of Time and Money

Recreational Pilot Certificate: Abbreviated or Full

Pros: Quickest way to earn a pilot certificate. Allows pilot to fly almost all single engine airplanes anywhere in the country in the daytime with one passenger.

Cons: Requires an FAA medical certificate.

The recreational pilot certificate is the most misunderstood and underutilized pilot certificate offered. In its abbreviated form, a pilot simply needs to take a knowledge test attain proficiency at a handful of airborne maneuvers, solo the aircraft, and learn short and soft field take off and landing technique before taking their FAA exam.  The FAA minimum flight time requirement for this is 30 hours and this is realistic for many.

In its abbreviated form, pilots may only fly near their home airport but this restriction is easily lifted either during the pilot's initial training or after the pilot FAA exam by the pilot taking training with a flight instructor which covers basic navigation and cross country planning.  In its full form (including the navigation and planning training) recreational pilot training is identical to sport pilot training but offers higher privileges.

Sport Pilot Certificate

Pros: FAA medical certificate not required. Pilot can fly anywhere in the country with one passenger in the day in good weather  for pleasure.

Cons: Limits pilots to flying light sport airplanes.

The sport pilot certificate is nearly identical to the full recreational pilot certificate in its training requirements. The student will take a knowledge test attain proficiency at a handful of airborne maneuvers, solo the aircraft, and learn short and soft field take off and landing techniques, navigation and cross country planning before taking their FAA exam.  While not required by the FAA, CSP also includes training at a local towered field for all of our sport pilots.

The FAA minimum flight time requirement for this is 20 hours as this rating was originally designed as a stepping stone rating for ultralight pilots who already know how to fly but have no logged flight time. Twenty hours is not realistic for students who begin sport pilot lesson without already knowing how to fly.

Private Pilot Certificate

Pros: Quickest way to earn a pilot certificate. Allows pilot to fly almost all single engine airplanes anywhere in the country on the daytime with one passenger.

Cons: Long and often arduous rating if started from scratch. Requires an FAA medical certificate.

The private pilot certificate is the Cadillac of initial pilot certificates. It allows the pilot to fly any single engine airplane anywhere in the world, daytime or  night time with unlimited passengers and by air travel for work. It requires the most amount of training. In additional to the sport pilot requirements it requires additional cross country training, instrument training and night training.  The FAA minimum flight time requirement for this is 40 hours but this is not realistic for most.

Recommendation: Starting with a recreational or sport pilot certificate before completing a private pilot certificate can provide a welcome break in flight training. This stepping-stone approach allows you to enjoy flying with a passenger while finishing up the remaining requirements for private pilot. Yes, your time and training towards your initial certificate will count towards your private certificate.