Aviation has its own lingo or language, just as many other professions do. It can be confusing when you are first learning about the industry. And often the first confusion lies in wondering what all the different certificates and ratings are. Here is a summary explanation of each of the certificates and ratings you will need to know about as a aspiring career pilot. We will focus of those certificates that are important to professional pilots (as opposed to recreational pilots).
PRIVATE PILOT CERTIFICATE: This certiifcate allows the pilot to operate an aircraft day or night under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Passengers can be carried, but not for compensation or hire. The minimum flight hours required by the FAA to achieve this is 35 (under FAA flight regulations FAR 141) or 40 hours (under FAA flight regulations FAR 61). Most students require a bit more than the minimum to achieve this first certificate, so plan on this when you budget.
INSTRUMENT RATING: This rating allows the pilot to operate under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). No minimum flight hours are required under FAR 141 or FAR 61.
COMMERCIAL PILOT CERTIFICATE: You will need to achieve your Private Pilot Certificate and your Instrument Rating before your Commercial Pilot Certificate. The Commercial Pilot Certificate allows the pilot to fly for compensation or hire, assuming the pilot has met the industry requirements in order to be hired. Minimum flight hours required for this certificate is 120 (under FAR 141) or 250 (FAR 61).
MULTI-ENGINE RATING: This rating allows a pilot to perate an aircraft with more than one engine. The Phoenix East multi-engine course is 21.4 hours of flight training and 15 hours of ground school.
AIRLINE TRANSPORT PILOT: This is the highest certificate a pilot can achieve. It is a requirement of some of the major airlines when hiring flight crew. A pilot must have a total of 1,500 flight hours before applying for this certificate, plus have completed Private and Commercial certificates with Instrument rating, and three instructor ratings to be eligible.