A private pilot licence (PPL) or, in the United States, a private pilot certificate, is a type of pilot licence that allows the holder to act as pilot in command of an aircraft privately (not for remuneration). The licence requirements are determined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), but implementation varies widely from country to country. According to the ICAO, it is obtained by successfully completing a course with at least 40 hours (45 in Europe) of flight time, passing seven written exams, completing a solo cross-country flight (minimum cumulative solo flight time is 10 hours), and successfully demonstrating flying skills to an examiner during a flight test (including an oral exam). In the United States, pilots can be trained under Title 14 of federal code part 141, which allows them to apply for their certificate after as few as 35 hours. However, most pilots require 60-70 hours of flight time to complete their training. The minimum age for a student pilot certificate is 14 for balloons and gliders, and 16 for powered flight (airplanes, helicopters, and gyroplanes). The minimum age for a private pilot certificate is 16 for balloons and gliders, and 17 for powered flight (airplanes, helicopters, and gyroplanes). Pilots can begin training at any age and can solo balloons and gliders from age 14, and powered aircraft from age 16.
A PPL may be issued by the Civil Aviation Authority in many countries such as the FAA for US certification, the CASA for Australian certification, or Transport Canada for Canadian certification. In Europe, national CAAs issue a licence based on common EASA regulations. Each organization has slightly different requirements.
Different types of private licences are issued for the major categories of aircraft. It is possible to obtain a category/class rating for rotorcraft or lighter-than-air aircraft without ever obtaining a rating on fixed-wing aircraft. Some category/class ratings may include limitations placed on the certificate. For example, a glider pilot who has trained and tested using aerotow-, ground- or self-launch techniques will have a limitation placed on his glider rating "______-launch only" until he has completed additional training and a practical exam using the additional launch method(s). In similar fashion, a lighter-than-air pilot with a balloon class-rating will have the limitation "limited to hot air balloons with airborne heater" or "limited to gas balloons" unless he has logged flight training and completed a practical exam on both types of balloon. Other limitations may occasionally be issued, however these are not commonly encountered. The classes listed on the certificate define which aircraft categories its holder is qualified to operate.
A licence will contain a number of sub-qualifications or ratings. These specify in more detail the actual privileges of the licence, including the types of aircraft that can be flown, whether flight under instrument flight rules and at night is allowed, and whether instructing and examining of trainee pilots is authorized. Ratings include Single and/or Multi-Engine Aircraft, Land or Seaplane, each of which require a checkride with an approved examiner.
In addition, a number of endorsements are available for specific skills (additional requirements apply). Endorsements only require instruction and a Flight Instructor's endorsement, they do not require any flight test with an FAA representative and are placed in the pilot's logbook, not on the licence itself.
Sec. 61.31 Federal Aviation Regulations endorsements required to act as pilot-in-command (PIC) are:
Other aircraft operations for which the FAA does not require an endorsement that typically require additional training are glider towing and aerobatics. The FAA also does not require an endorsement for some commercial activities like banner towing. Aerial application (crop seeding, spraying and dusting), whether conducted by a commercial certificate holder operating for hire or by a private pilot treating a crop in which he is the owner of a substantial share, requires an Authorization under Part 137 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.