Are you a commercial or private pilot

Ways into the cockpit: Don't dream, become a private pilot

It always starts with the private pilot license (PPL). It is not only the entry ticket into the world of private aviation with aircraft up to 2000 kilograms in flight weight, but also the basis for all subsequent licenses and authorizations for those who want to fly professionally. There are several ways to achieve this goal for prospective private pilots. Commercial flight schools offer their services at many airports throughout Germany. But it is also possible to acquire a private pilot license in many clubs. Both options have their own individual advantages and disadvantages. But they always have one thing in common: The training requires a certain amount of commitment from the candidates, mentally and financially. Those who are willing to take on this commitment will find many fascinating and challenging moments waiting for them during their training.

Requirements for the license

In order to begin the private pilot training course, four pieces of evidence are required. The simplest is certainly the minimum age. Young people can start their training at the age of 16. The flight license will only be issued to them after their 17th birthday. A medical grade 2 medical certificate is also required. Correspondingly licensed doctors are happy to name flight schools and clubs. You can also find them on the Internet without any problems.

Robin aircraft are mainly found in clubs as training aircraft. © Volker K. Thomalla

The requirements for Medical Class 2 are not particularly high. Normal fitness is sufficient. The third requirement is the proof of reliability according to § 24 LuftVZO by the security authorities. The application for the review is submitted to the responsible aviation authority. Last but not least, you have to provide an extract from the central traffic register, which must not be older than three months. Once these points have been ticked off, the training can begin.

What can a cockpit novice expect?

In short: a very thorough training in theory and practice. In the theoretical part, at least 100 hours of lessons are on the program. They are divided into eight subjects with different weighting. Many schools offer either compact courses and evening or weekend courses for the theoretical part. PC-based distance learning courses are another option. Here, the students are largely exempt from the requirement to be present in the classroom, and they can determine their learning pace individually. The theory course then concludes with an approximately ten-hour compact seminar, in which the students can get the final touches for the theory test.

Practically with or even before the theoretical training, it is also necessary to take a radiotelephone certificate. The English language radio communication certificate (BZF I) is clearly the first choice if you later want to fly across borders, acquire an instrument flying license or a professional pilot's license. This also requires a so-called Language Proficiency Test, which certifies sufficient English language skills. For the German speaking radio communication certificate (BZF II) a declaration of being able to speak German is sufficient.

Practical training usually runs parallel to theory. It comprises 45 hours of flight, including at least 25 hours with the flight instructor in the cockpit. The flying part can be divided into three phases: At the end of phase 1, the students are already flying alone in the traffic pattern area. Phase 2 involves cross-country flights. After passing the theory test, there are at least five hours of solo cross-country flight. Phase 3 then mainly serves to fine-tune the flying as the final preparation for the test flight.

If the proud graduate holds his PPL (A) in his hand, he is initially given permission to fly single-engine aircraft up to 2,000 kilograms in flight weight with piston engines (single-engine runways / SEP). This so-called class rating can later be extended to multi-engine (MEP), heavier and more complex aircraft. There are further authorizations for aircraft towing, aerobatics and instrument flight, which are later open to every pilot as further training opportunities.

What does the PPL (A) training cost?

The costs for a PPL (A) training cannot be quantified that easily. They are between 9,000 and 15,000 euros. The wide range is explained by the various possible training paths. Volunteer flight instructors often teach in clubs. This of course reduces the costs. Differences can also result from the aircraft types used for training.

Flight school or club?

Whether you should entrust your training to a commercial flight school or an association can only be answered individually. Those who have a lot of time can be in good hands in a club flying school. But you should keep in mind that you may be dependent on the schedules of the volunteer flight instructors, which are not always available. In some clubs, the student has to be prepared for more frequent changing flight instructors, which can extend the practical training.

Training at a commercial flight school is easier to calculate from the outset, both in terms of time and finances. The professional organization of the training at a competent flight school, from the first registration with the state aviation authority to the test flight, relieves the student pilots. Permanently employed flight instructors usually bring more continuity to the training, which promises rapid learning progress. Many prospective private pilots are happy to accept that commercial training entails around 20 to 30 percent higher training costs than training in a club.

LAPL (A) as a cost-effective alternative?

For some years now, the Light Aircraft Pilot License, LAPL (A) for short, has been a somewhat simplified alternative to the PPL (A). It is also a license with which one can fly single-engine, piston-engine-powered aircraft with a weight of up to two tons. However, there are some restrictions here. In contrast to the PPL (A), which in principle can be recognized and rewritten by national aviation authorities worldwide, it is only valid in Europe. A flight vacation, for example in the USA, would not be possible for LAPL (A) holders. It is true that LAPL (A) pilots can also obtain authorization to fly more complex aircraft with retractable landing gear and controllable pitch propellers and for night flights under visual flight conditions by means of so-called differential training. However, they are barred from flying multi-engine aircraft and under instrument flight conditions. A later retraining to the PPL (A) is basically possible, but associated with a relatively high effort. Among other things, a further 15 hours of flight must be completed.

On the credit side of the LAPL (A), on the other hand, there is the shortened training. This goes hand in hand with slightly lower costs. As a minimum, you only have to fly 30 hours. The theoretical training does not differ very much from the "normal" pilot license, but it is shortened by 15 hours. The rules regarding the radiotelephony certificate are the same.

For prospective pilots who know from the outset that they will only be traveling in Europe and privately, the LAPL (A) training is an alternative worth considering. For everyone else, this training, which initially seems a little cheaper, is not worthwhile. The only one PPL (A) training opens the way to "higher consecration" in private aviation, as does the entry into training as a professional pilot. However, one thing is common to all types of private pilot training: Fantastic experiences are guaranteed.


Brief info: PPL (A) training


  • Minimum age: 16 years
  • Medical certificate class 2
  • Proof of reliability according to § 24 LuftVZO (ZÜP)
  • Extract from the central traffic register

Theory training:

about 100 hours in

  • Air law
  • General aircraft knowledge
  • Flight performance and flight planning
  • Human capacity
  • meteorology
  • navigation
  • Operational procedures
  • aerodynamics

Practical training:

  • at least 45 flight hours, of which
  • at least 25 hours with a teacher
  • at least 10 hours solo
  • at least 5 hours overland flight
  • maximum 5 hours of simulator training

Heiko Müller



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About Heiko Müller

Heiko Müller has been at home in many fields of aviation journalism for three decades. Until 2016 he worked as an editor for the specialist magazine aerokurier, from 2003 he also shaped the magazine Klassiker der Luftfahrt as managing editor. Today he works as a freelance author and advises companies - not only in the aviation industry - on PR and project management issues.