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FAA Licenses and the Ratings to Become a Commercial Pilot: What You Need to Know

June 9, 2022
by Kent Parrish

Working as a paid commercial pilot entails more than having an education. You must also be rated and hold the appropriate license or certificate. What are the FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration) licenses and ratings to become a commercial pilot?

For an aspiring commercial pilot, you should look into licenses like Private Pilot and Commercial Pilot. You also need additional ratings such as Instrument Rating and the Commercial Multi-Engine add-on. To continue building hours, many aspiring pilots also earn their Certified Flight Instructor Rating.

In this article, we’ll explain in detail what each pilot license and rating is and which one(s) you should pursue. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know the next steps to start this exciting new stage of your life and career!

What Are the Types of Pilot Licenses and Ratings?

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA issues pilot licenses and ratings. Each of these is classified into different categories. Let’s start by examining the various FAA pilot licenses.

Private Pilot

Private Pilot or a PPL license allows you to legally fly an aircraft. Thus, it's the first step on your pathway to become a commercial pilot.

The best way to think about a PPL license is like the license you hold in your wallet to drive a car. Without that license, you can’t legally drive. Likewise, without a PPL license, you can’t legally fly. The PPL allows you to fly an aircraft; however, you are not able to fly other passengers for pay.

For example, California Flight Academy (CFA) offers a PPL program that you can complete in roughly four months. This includes the flight hours (dual and solo), the simulator hours, ground instruction, air traffic control communications instruction, and check rides to earn your PPL.

Instrument Rating

Once you complete your PPL, you'll want to earn your Instrument Rating on your way to becoming a commercial pilot.

The Instrument Rating is required by the FAA and gives you the flying skills to pilot an aircraft in low visibility such as flying in cloud cover or at night.

This rating requires additional flight hours, simulator hours, ground instruction, and check rides to complete.

Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and Multi-Engine Rating

To become a holder of a Commercial Pilot License, or CPL, the FAA requires you to complete the PPL license and complete additional flight hours (dual and solo), simulator hours, ground school, and check rides.

To complete the entire commercial pilot program from start to finish, it might take upwards of 200+ flight hours or more, and take you over a year. If you're especially ambitious and willing to put in the flight hours weekly, you could reasonably complete the entire program in a year or less. Here is an example timeline to complete the full commercial pilot program at CFA.

Once you successfully pass your check rides, you would then be eligible to work as a commercial pilot of a multi-engine airplane and can receive pay for transporting passengers.

Airline Transport Pilot

Airline Transport Pilot or ATP rating holders have earned a credential that is the highest level of certification issued by the FAA.

An ATP certificate is earned upon completion of the ATP requirements that include additional required flight hours and successful completion of a knowledge exam.

Once you hold this certificate, you have more job opportunities that may come with a higher pay grade.

Certified Flight Instructor

Aspiring commercial pilots will gravitate towards the Commercial Flight Instructor or CFI rating. This rating allows you to teach new flight students.

Once you earn your commercial pilot license, you might only have 200 to 300 hours accumulated. By earning the CFI rating, this allows new commercial pilot license holders to continue building hours until they meet the minimum hours to get hired by an airline.

Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument

A step up from the CFI license is the Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument or CFII rating. Most commercial pilots who have a CFI rating will complete the CFII requirements as well.

As a CFII, you still maintain the privileges that your CFI rating affords you, but you also gain the ability to teach students instrument flying.

Ready to Kickstart Your Commercial Pilot Education?

With a Commercial Pilot License, you can open doors to your career that were never possible before. At California Flight Academy, our commercial multi-engine training will prepare you to advance your career as a successful pilot for pay.

Our top-notch Redbird Simulator along with ground school instruction and prep for real flight time will ready you to confidently navigate the skies!

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