When does a pilot’s license expire?

by | FAQs for Beginners, Learn to Fly

When does a Pilot’s License Expire?

Unlike driver’s licenses, U.S. pilot licenses don’t expire.

That’s the simple answer, but the reality is a little more complicated and it starts with understanding that there are three documents you need to carry with you when flying an airplane.

  1. The card the FAA issues after you complete your training and pass your checkride is called the pilot certificate. It shows the level of training you have received and once you have earned it, your pilot certificate never expires.
  2. You also need a medical certificate. Depending on your age and whether you are using your license as a professional pilot, your medical lasts between 6-months and 5-years.
  3. After 9/11, a new requirement was added to carry a photo i.d., which can be a state-issued driver’s license or other government issued document.

In addition, the FAA expects pilots to maintain a level of proficiency depending on the type of flying they are doing. At a minimum, this includes a one-hour with a flight instructor sitting at a table talking about flying and one-hour in an airplane with an instructor demonstrating your proficiency. This flight review is completed with a signed endorsement added to your logbook which will keep your license valid for another two years.

Depending on the type of flying you do, you may not need a medical certificate either, but for most people passing a medical is not too challenging and it will open up the opportunities you have as a pilot. This includes instrument flying in clouds, flying at night, carrying more than one passenger, and flying faster airplanes. (Once you’ve started flying, you’ll soon discover that there’s no such thing as an airplane that is fast enough! )

There are many pilots who continue to fly into their eighties and beyond. There’s even an organization, the United Flying Octogenarians, for older pilots. In fact for most pilots, who have dreamed of and shared a passion for aviation their whole lives, the challenge is knowing when the time has come to hang up their headsets.

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