Congratulations on making your decision to become a Commercial Pilot! With this certificate you gain the challenge of furthering your abilities to stricter standards, lower insurance premiums, and will be allowed to fly for hire (i.e. flight instructing, banner towing, corporate flying, charter flying, airline flying, etc). You will need a current second class medical to act in this capacity.
You may complete this certificate in either a single-engine airplane or a multi-engine airplane, however it is the least expensive to complete in a single-engine. Therefore, this is written from the perspective of gaining your certificate in a single-engine plane. If your career goals are aiming towards the airlines, you may want to consider obtaining the most time possible in a twin, and therefore obtaining a multi-engine Commercial certificate. Once again you will want to sit down with your instructor and discuss your goals in order to come up with a reasonable course for you.
At this point, you are semi-familiar with the FAA’s system of obtaining certificates. Earning your commercial certificate is similar to your previous license (or rating) in that you must take both a knowledge (written) and a practical test. Once again you will have certain maneuvers that you are expected to perform, and you will be given specific parameters to perform within. The examiner is looking to ensure that you will make a safe and competent pilot, that you have good judgment, and can be flexible with your environment.
To that end, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has designed a minimum amount of hours (which equates to flight experience) that they require for you to obtain your rating. It is up to the instructor to ensure that each pilot applicant is prepared before sending them up for an exam (checkride).
Throughout your training for your Commercial Certificate you will be improving your flying skills and developing a mastery of the airplane. There will be several new maneuvers to learn, as well as the challenge of a complex airplane (a plane with retractable landing gear, flaps, and controllable pitch propeller).
For a Commercial Single-Engine Land Certificate regulations require you to have:
- 250 hours total flight time
- 100 hours in powered aircraft, 50 of those must be in airplanes
- 100 hours of Pilot in Command (PIC) time of which: 50 hours must be in airplanes, 50 hours of cross-country flight time (10 hours must be in airplanes)
- 20 hours flight training of which must include:
- 10 hours of instrument training (5 of those must be in a single-engine airplane)
- 10 hours must be in a complex or turbine powered airplane
- one day VFR cross-country of at least 2 hours in a single engine airplane (must be more than 10 nautical miles from original point of departure)
- one night VFR cross-country of at least 2 hours in a single-engine airplane (must be more than 10 nautical miles from original point of departure)
- 3 hours in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test within the 60 day period before the date of the test
- 10 hours of solo flight in a single-engine airplane which must include:
- one cross-country flight of no less than 300 nautical miles total distance,with landings at a minimum of 3 points-one of which is straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point
- 5 hours of night VFR including 10 take-offs and landings at an airport with an operating control tower
Your Written Exam and Checkride
The written exam should be completed several weeks before finishing your flying, and is fairly straightforward. It is a multiple choice computerized exam, consisting of 100 questions for which you are allotted three hours to complete. What makes this test straightforward is that the questions are selected from an FAA bank of approximately 600 questions, which are all published. As long as you review the questions and take some practice tests, you will be prepared for your written exam.
Your practical test will consist of two sections, both an oral part (where you will sit down and answer questions for the examiner), as well as a practical portion. Here, you will go up in the airplane with the examiner and perform the specified maneuvers. Once that is completed to the set specifications, the examiner will issue you your Commercial Pilot Certificate!
Beyond the Checkride
Now that you are Commercially Certificated, you have the opportunity to fly for a living! You may go on to obtain your Certified Flight Instructor Certificates, Multi-Engine Rating, and/or Airline Transport Pilot Certificate!
Can there be any restrictions on my certificate?
Yes, if you do not have your instrument rating before obtaining this certificate, you will not be allowed to fly passengers for hire a distance longer than 50 nautical miles or at night time. This is one of the reasons most pilots obtain their instrument rating first, as well as the fact that all of your instrument time counts towards your Commercial Certificate total time.