Flying a plane and being the required age to qualify for a student pilot certificate or pilot license are very different things.
There is no specific age to fly a plane, meaning that anyone who wants to can fly a plane at 14 years old, 13, or even younger.
However, before you or your son or daughter jump into the cockpit, there are a few other things you should know and consider, like the age requirements for flying solo and acquiring a pilot’s license, if there’s a maximum age limit for flying, and more.
How old do you have to be to take flying lessons?
While you can be any age to fly a plane and take flying lessons with an instructor, you might want to hold off. This is because you must be at least 16 years old before you can obtain a student pilot certificate and solo a plane, and 17 years old before you can qualify for a Private Pilot License (PPL).
If you are more interested in flying a balloon or glider, you only have to be 14 years old to obtain a student pilot certificate and fly solo, and 16 years old to obtain the necessary certification, which is a Sports Pilot License (SPL) in this case. You can also qualify for a PPL at 16 years old if you’re flying a balloon or glider.
If you’re a parent who will be paying for the lessons, looking from a cost and flight hours point of view, it may therefore not be the best idea to start flying lessons too early.
There’s also the issue of motivation and burn-out, as pilot training can be somewhat rigorous. There is knowledge to acquire, practical and written tests to take, and motor skills to develop that all require a certain amount of maturity and dedication.
Can you be too old to fly a plane or taking flying lessons?
Just like there is no minimum age to learn to fly and take flying lessons, there is no maximum age either.
Going beyond a student pilot certificate can pose a couple of issues, though. This is because with greater age come more medical issues, and it might be harder to meet the requirements necessary to obtain a third-class certificate (private pilot license), second-class medical certificate (commercial pilot license) or a first-class medical certificate (airline transport pilot license.)
These include vision and hearing issues, as well as disqualifying conditions. In the case of the airline transport pilot license, there is also a mandatory retirement age of 65 for airline pilots.
However, older pilots, even those who have never taken flying lessons before, have certain qualities their younger counterparts don’t possess, such as better-developed decision-making skills and life experience.
There is still plenty of joy to be had with a Student Pilot, Recreational, or Sport Pilot License, though, even if there are certain limitations and restrictions with each.
How old do you have to be to fly a commercial plane?
Flying a commercial plane requires a second-class medical certificate (Commercial Plane license – CPL), which a pilot must be at least 18 years old to qualify for. At least 250 flight hours must also have been logged, including 100 hours of pilot-in-command time and 50 hours of cross-country flying.
How old do you have to be to fly a commercial airliner?
Flying a plane for a commercial airline requires a first-class medical certificate (Airline Transport Pilot License – ATPL), which a pilot must be at least 23 years old to qualify for. In addition, a pilot must have at least 1,500 hours before being able to apply, including 500 hours of cross-country time and 100 hours of nighttime.