How old do you need to be to get a pilot license?

If you’re planning a career as a pilot, you may be wondering how old you need to be to get a pilot license. While there’s no minimum age to start logging flight lessons––the only requirement is that you can properly reach the controls––you’ll need a student pilot certificate to fly solo for your training. Depending on the aircraft you’re learning to fly, that will be at age 14 for gliders and balloons, or age 16 for airplanes and helicopters.

How old do you need to be to complete your training and earn your personal flying license? For gliders and balloons you can get your personal flying license at age 16, and for all other aircraft including airplanes and helicopters you’ll need to be 17.

If you’re looking to make a career out of flying, you’ll want to know how old you need to be to get a commercial license, which will allow you to earn money from flying. You need to be at least 18 to get your commercial license, which will allow you to get your flight instructor certificate, also at age 18.

You’ll need to log hundreds of hours before you can apply for a job at the airlines, which will also require an Airline Transport License (or ATP). How old do you need to be to earn your ATP? The minimum age to apply for a Restricted-ATP is 21, which will limit you to the first officer’s position, until you are able to get your full ATP at age 23.

While these numbers are guidelines, the speed you are able to earn your certificates will depend on how much time you are able to devote to your training and how quickly you learn. The table below shows the minimum age requirements for all of the FAA pilot certificates.

  Airplanes & Helicopters Gliders & Balloons
Student Pilot 16 14
Sport Pilot 17 16
Recreational Pilot 17 NA
Private Pilot 17 16
Commercial Pilot 18 18
Airline Transport Pilot 23 (Capt) / 21 (FO) NA
Flight Instructor 18 18