Private Pilot License (PPL) Privileges & Limitations
Private Pilot Privileges & Limitations – Video Transcript
Today we are going to talk a little bit about Private Pilot privileges and limitations. This is something that I’ve had requested a couple of times now from some of our current students and so I thought we would dive in and talk about how this works. What I’m going to do, for the purposes of this conversation, is divide up privileges and limitations for us as a pilot into three categories. I’m going to more or less make this like a flow chart. If we got an example of a scenario of “can you do this flight”, I think that there’s three basic criteria that we’ll ask ourselves about to determine if we have the capability as the pilot to do this flight. One is the aircraft, the second is what we’ll call currency, and the last one is the operation itself. What we’re going to do in this video is take a deeper dive into each of these and figure out exactly what our privileges and limitations are as a private pilot.
Aircraft Category, Class & Type
First up is the aircraft. So, jumping into that, I want to divide that into two different groupings. First, we’re going to talk a little bit about aircraft category, class, and type. Then we’ll talk about some of the special endorsement pieces as well. So starting off with the aircraft category, class, and type, why I think this is so important is because ultimately when we receive our Private Pilot certificate we get this little green card and on the front it just says Private Pilot, that’s all it says. So what’s important is when we turn it over and we look at the back of that card, we will identify what particular category and class aircraft along with any type ratings we might have associated with that certificate, which means which aircraft we’re allowed to operate. So, I’m going to focus specifically on the airplane category. So, we’ll say any airplane and then there’s four classes of airplane, so I’ve just abbreviated them here. We have single-engine land, multi-engine land, single-engine sea and multi-engine sea. So, there are obviously other categories of aircraft, for example, rotorcraft is another category of aircraft of which it has two classes and so on. For our purposes, I think this is sufficient. It is important to point out that just because we can fly single-engine land does not mean we could fly a multi-engine airplane or a seaplane.
So, the last bit of that is a type rating. Sometimes we get a little bit confused about this. We mistake type for what some might refer to as make and model of aircraft, and type is different just because it has a very specific meaning, especially with the FAA. A type rating means that you’re going to receive a specific authorization on the back of that pilot certificate to operate a certain type of aircraft. Generally, type is a make and model but not all aircraft need a type rating. Specifically, there’s three requirements that the FAA puts in place. Either it is considered a large aircraft, which means it has takeoff weight greater than 12,500 pounds, or if it’s turbo jet, or turbofan-powered, or if the FAA is deemed it to need a type rating. Outside of those requirements, aircraft don’t necessarily need a particular type rating. As an example, let’s say I got my private pilot’s license here at AeroGuard. We fly Piper Archers as our single-engine airplane. So now the question is: “After completing all of my training in the Piper Archer and then taking my checkride in the piper Archer, could I go on and rent a Cessna from a friend of mine or another flight school or something like this?” So, the answer to that is in essence, yes, because if I rented for example a Cessna 172, it’s for all intents and purposes identical to an archer. It has all the same function; it is airplane single engine lands no type rating required. So least for the purposes of this first section, that’s fine. This basically would say that I could fly any airplane single-engine land that does not require a type rating. Now some of you might be thinking well there’s examples of that that I can’t do. That’s accurate as well. So, let’s go now to number two, the idea of special endorsements.
With special endorsements, this comes from the same regulation that talks about type ratings, which is 6131. Inside of there, beyond where it talks about type ratings, it talks about different endorsements we might need from specialized training in order to fly certain kinds of aircraft. It talks about complex airplanes (which are those that have flaps, retractable landing gear, and a constant speed propeller), high-performance airplanes (which would be any airplane that has an engine that has greater than 200 horsepower), a tailwheel airplane (which is obviously one that does not have a nose wheel but instead a tail wheel), and then high-altitude aircraft (which have service ceilings or maximum altitudes at or above 25,000 feet). So, in those cases, I would need specialized training per the regulations and a specific endorsement in order to be able to operate those aircraft.
As an example, let’s take another piper aircraft so the piper m600 for example. The piper m600 is a turboprop airplane that has retractable landing gear and a controllable pitch propeller, so technically it meets a few of these requirements in that it’s a complex airplane, it’s a high-performance airplane, and I believe its service ceiling is above 25,000 feet, in which case it probably is also a high-altitude airplane as well, in which case even though the piper m600 is airplane single-engine land, I would have to have these special endorsements in order to be able to fly it. Whereas for example a Cessna 172 is just airplane single-engine land, doesn’t necessarily have any of these other requirements to me, and therefore without these special endorsements, I would still be able to fly it. Let’s jump over now to our next topic which is going to be currency.
Next up is currency and what I want to focus on here are two particular regulations. One is 6156 which talks about a flight review and the other is a regulation 6157 which talks about recent flight experience or recency of flight. So, with the flight review, this just identifies whether we are eligible to exercise our privileges as a pilot in command. This really applies to all pilots but absolutely still applies to private pilots. It identifies that every twenty-four calendar months, or every two years, we need to be checked. Either we can do that through a check ride for another rating or pilot certificate or we can do that with a flight instructor, in which case the flight review process is a minimum of one hour ground and one hour of flying. Now in addition to that, we have another rule, the 6157, the recent flight experience, which talks more specifically not just about being pilot in command, but for operations where we are going to carry passengers. In this case, in order to carry passengers, not only would we need to meet the requirements of this flight review but we would also need to have three takeoffs and three landings in the last 90 days in the same category class and type aircraft, if required. If we were going to fly in a single-engine airplane, that means in the last 90 days we need three takeoffs and three landings in the same airplane single-engine land category and class.
There are some additional parameters for this regulation that talk about this idea of what we call night currency, which is if you’re going to carry passengers when it’s dark. Make sure these three takeoffs and landings happen when it’s dark. It all basically jives with pretty common-sense stuff. In addition to the legal requirement, I think that the other idea of recency of flight may just come down to how good you feel, how comfortable you feel exercising your privileges. If you haven’t flown in quite a while, and if you haven’t flown in that kind of airplane, maybe it’s a make and model that you haven’t flown in a long time, maybe it’s wise for you to go up with another pilot who is familiar or maybe for you to get up and at least practice a few take offs and landings before you go out on the entirety of a flight with passengers. Either way, these are the legal requirements and then obviously you should have your own checks and balances in place to make sure you don’t put yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe. That’s currency, now we’ll jump over to the operation side and talk a little bit about the requirements there.
Now let’s jump into the last bit, which is the operation itself, what we’re actually doing on the flight. This will solidify our operations as far as being within limitations or outside of our privileges. To start with, we’re going to ask a question, and I’ve made this crazy flowchart, and we’re going to walk through each of these steps. The first question is are you paying your pro rata share as the regulation 6113 talks about. If the answer is yes, you’re paying for your portion. So, if it’s you and a friend of yours on the flight, you’re paying for at least half of the operating expenses, then great you could pretty much move along and that is fine. If the answer to that question is no, then we have a sub question to ask which is, does this particular flight fall under one of the exceptions? So, I’ve listed out six different kinds of exceptions to this rule.
The first one is flight is incidental to the business and you’re not carrying persons or property for hire. That is one example. If for example you are a realtor and you fly for fun on the side, and you need to fly yourself in your airplane to someplace to meet with a potential customer or client or whatever, that could theoretically fall under a similar category as this.
Number two, operating for charity or non-profit event. So, this is more articulated in a regulation 91.146 but basically there’s community events or nonprofit events that you’re authorized to fly the airplane and you don’t have to pay your portion of the operating expenses. The nonprofit or charity organization can do that and then you’re just using your private pilot services.
The third is conducting approved search and location operations. So once again by approved, they just mean that this is either a government agency or some approved organization that is requesting or asking for your help in conducting these flights.
Number four is acting as an aircraft salesperson. So, if you sell an airplane, let’s say you work for Piper or Cessna or Beechcraft or Mooney or one of these organizations, and you’re selling an airplane. You can give demo rides, that’s fine. Obviously, you’re not going to pay for the operating expenses of that particular flight but there is a caveat. In order for you to do those flights, you have to have a minimum of 200 hours of total time.
The fifth one is in a similar vein, so towing gliders, or ultra-lights. So, if a glider needs to be towed into the air, you can often do that so long as you meet some of the particular requirements that are listed in 61.69. Most of that is just that you have some particular experience and you have a certain amount of aeronautical experience in airplanes as well.
Then the sixth one here is acting as a safety pilot. So, this is discussed in a regulation 91.109 and so if you have a friend that wants to fly in simulated instrument conditions under the hood or something like this, they need a safety pilot with them. If you’re rated to be in that aircraft then you can absolutely act in that capacity, and once again you don’t necessarily have to pay your portion of that flight if you work that out with the other person.
One thing that I will highlight is the list of exceptions that I’ve talked about here are pretty specific to airplane operations. There may be additional exceptions for other categories of aircraft but I’m sticking specifically to airplanes for the sake of making this a little bit simpler. So, we go back to the question does the flight fall under one of those exceptions. If it does, great. then we can move on just like if we were paying our pro rata share. If it does not fall under one of those exceptions, then we have a problem. The problem is that we are then not operating within the privileges and the limitations of our private pilot certificates so we would come down here to this outside of our privileges or outside of the tolerances for our certificate.
If we did pass these checks, the next question is about maintenance and so this is a little bit interesting. This is referring to maintenance for our aircraft and specifically what it’s getting to is, as private pilot’s we are authorized to do what’s known as preventive maintenance. What that means is really simplistic routine tasks that aren’t complicated in the least. You can sort of equate this to like doing work on your own car. So, you can change your own oil relatively easily. Those types of things can fall under the category of preventive maintenance. There are a few other caveats to what is described as preventive maintenance so we can find a list of these things in part 43 of the Federal Aviation Regulations in Appendix Alpha. In there it actually gives us a list and it says that it can involve complex interactions so that’s fine, but it talks a little bit more about this in part 43 as well where it says any time any maintenance is done whether it’s preventative or not, it must be documented in the logbook for the aircraft. So, another big piece to this is, do you have access to those maintenance logbooks for the aircraft and are you able and willing to make an entry of the work that you completed? So that’s one of the pieces to this question. If I ask are you conducting maintenance on the aircraft and the answer is no, good, easy, then don’t worry about it. If the answer is yes, then we have to go to, is it major or minor repairs or alterations or is it preventive maintenance? If it falls under this category of preventive maintenance, are you able to ultimately make the required documentation in the maintenance logbook? So, if it is, and you can make all the required documents happen correctly, then good, you’re within your limitations. If it’s not preventive maintenance or you cannot complete the required documentation, then it would fall outside of your privileges. So once again we have this whole flowchart deal. Hopefully, this makes sense to everybody.
So, after this, we we’ve gone through now each of our three areas. We talked about the aircraft, whether we’re approved to fly this aircraft, the concept of currency, and then the operation itself, and in this particular instance I think we’ve basically covered all of the yes and no pieces to our privileges and limitations as a private pilot and I think hopefully if you do have any other additional questions, leave them in the comments below and I’m sure we can get them answered for you.