Generally, most professional pilots begin their career at a small airport, building flight time and learning the general knowledge necessary to becoming a career instructor, airline, or corporate pilot. For most people, this career path is started with the Private Pilot License. The Private usually takes around 50-55 hours and allows its holder to carry passengers and fly without supervision. Many people continue to rent aircraft while others pursue owning by themselves or with a group of other pilots in fractional ownership or in a Club.
A strict limitation is placed on a newly certified Private Pilot, unless further training is received, flying into the is prohibited. In order to gain additional privilege to fly in all weather conditions, an Instrument Rating must be added to the Private Pilot license. Usually taking about 40 hours, the instrument rating is where a true understanding of clouds, and normal and severe weather are obtained. Once obtained, a pilot can expect to be comfortable in adverse weather situations and not limited to those nice calm days if so desired.
A minimum of 250 hours is required for the Commercial Pilot License. Some additional flying is necessary to "build time", whether flying by yourself for fun or bringing friends to new places, all flight time counts. The Commercial rating allows a pilot to carry passengers and receive compensation. Usually this is limited to scenic flight and local sightseeing, but it is not necessary to obtain a Flight Instructor certificate.
Many times, people combine their Commercial Pilot and their Certified Flight Instructor training as one training program. With the two combined, it requires approximately 20 hours of flying and 50 hours of one-on-one ground training where the student practices teaching the instructor. After receiving these two ratings, a pilot is qualified to begin teaching other prospective students.
Requirements for the Commercial Pilot License
1. Be at least 18 years of age
2. Hold at least a private pilot certificate
3. Be able to read, speak, and understand the English language
4. Obtain at least a current second-class FAA medical certificate
5. Pass the FAA written knowledge test as well as the FAA practical flight test.
6. Before flight training begins, please check out this page - TSA Alien Registration
FAR §61.129 Aeronautical Experience
(a) For an airplane single-engine rating. Except as provided in paragraph (i) of this section, a person who applies for a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 250 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least --
(1) 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in airplanes
(2) 100 hours of pilot-in-command flight time, which includes at least --
(i) 50 hours in airplanes; and
(ii) 50 hours in cross-country flight of which at least 10 hours must be in airplanes.
(3) 20 hours of training on the areas of operation listed in section 61.127(b)(1) of this part that includes at least --
(i) 10 hours of instrument training of which at least 5 hours must be in a single-engine airplane;
(ii) 10 hours of training in an airplane that has a retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller, or is turbine-powered, or for an applicant seeking a single-engine seaplane rating, 10 hours of training in a seaplane that has flaps and a controllable pitch propeller;
(iii) One cross-country flight of at least 2 hours in a single-engine airplane in day VFR conditions, consisting of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure;
(iv) One cross-country flight of at least 2 hours in a single-engine airplane in night VFR conditions, consisting of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and
(v) 3 hours in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test within the 60-day period preceding the date of the test.
(4) 10 hours of solo flight in a single-engine airplane on the areas of operations listed in section 61.127(b)(1) of this part, which includes at least --
(i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point. However, if this requirement is being met in Hawaii, the longest segment need only have a straight-line distance of at least 150 nautical miles; and
(ii) 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.
For more detailed information about the Commercial Pilot License, click here.
For general information about all ratings and licenses, click here.