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How Do You Stay Current As a Private Pilot?

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While a private pilot's license won't let you fly passengers for money, it can be an indispensable tool in many careers. If you need to get to places that are not conveniently served by commercial aviation but are too far to drive, a "ticket" can save you hours of transit or the cost of chartering a flight. In industries where you need to see large areas of land, like agriculture or land development, the ability to do your own aerial surveys is also priceless. While your private pilot's certificate never expires, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires you to keep it current at least every 24 calendar months.

Biennial Flight Review

Every two years, the FAA requires you to have a biennial flight review conducted by a pilot examiner or certificated flight instructor. The review has both ground- and air-based sections. On the ground, you'll receive at least an hour of both training and questioning to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and to share new information with you. In the air, you'll need to prove that your piloting skills are sharp by making multiple takeoffs and landings, handling stalls, and maneuvering your airplane.

Upgrading Your Skills

Instead of going through the biennial flight review, you can also keep your license current by upgrading your flying skills. For instance, you could go through training for multi-engine privileges or earn your instrument rating. Choosing this avenue will probably require more expense and time than undergoing a biennial flight review, but it will also give you new opportunities when you are in the air.

Medical Certificates

The third-class medical certificate you hold as a private pilot also needs to be periodically renewed to stay current. If you're under 40 years old, the certificate is good for 60 months from the month in which it is issued. Once you turn 40, though, you will need to update your certificate every 24 months.

90-Day Requirements

In addition to the FAA's 24-month currency and medical certificate requirements, it also imposes additional requirements if you fly with passengers. Before you can carry other people in your plane, you have to complete three take off and landing cycles, within a 90-day period, in the plane that you'll use to carry them. For night-time flying, your cycles will have to be completed between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise.


Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.

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