Anyone can take flying lessons, but if your goal is to pilot a plane solo, then you will need to obtain a student pilot certificate. In order to obtain a student pilot certificate, you must:
- Be at least 14-years-old
- Be able to read, speak and understand English
The first step to obtaining your student pilot certificate is submitting an application – more specifically, the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA), through the FAA’s website. If you use this option for submitting your application, be aware that your application is not complete until you attend an in-person meeting with a Certified Flight Instructor, also known as a Recommending Instructor (RI). Be sure to bring a valid form of ID to this meeting to complete the application process. The RI will verify your age and your English language proficiency, as well as ensure that you have reviewed the Privacy Act and the Pilot Bill of Rights. Another requirement is that you will have to be successfully vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Once all of these requirements have been met, your temporary certificate will be issued through the online portal within 7 days.
Another option for applying for a student pilot certificate is to use a form from the FAA, called form 8710-1. This is a physical form, and can be turned into a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), an FAA-designated pilot examiner, a certified flight instructor, or an airman certification representative with a part 141 flight school. Whichever route you choose to submit your application, it will be processed by the Airman Certification Branch and your certificate will be mailed to you in about 3 weeks. Remember to always keep your student pilot certificate with you when flying solo.