For students who aren’t able to dedicate practically all their time to get a commercial pilot license, a Part 61 flight school is often the preferred choice.

While the requirements are largely the same as under Part 141, there are a couple of key differences that you should know about.

Part 61 Commercial Pilot Requirements

Medical Certificate

Before you enroll in a Part 61 flight school and work your way towards getting a commercial pilot license, you will need to make sure that you qualify for a second-class medical certificate. If not, all the time and money you spend on training will be wasted.

If you had no problem getting your third-class medical certificate, it’s very likely that you won’t run into any issues. The only difference is that distant vision now needs to be correctable to 20/20, and intermediate vision needs to be correctable to 20/40 if you’re aged 50 or older.

Flight Hours

According to FAR 61.129, a minimum of 250 flight hours must be logged consisting of:

  • 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in airplanes
  • 100 hours of pilot-in-command time (50 of which must be in an airplane), and 50 hours of cross-country time (10 of which must be in an airplane)

20 hours of training, including:

  • 10 hours of instrument training using a view-limiting device (of which 5 must be in a single-engine airplane)
  • 10 hours of training in a complex, or turbine-powered, or technically advanced airplane
  • A 2-hour cross country flight in a single-engine airplane in daytime conditions that covers a straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles
  • A 2-hour cross country flight in a single-engine airplane in nighttime conditions that covers a straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles

10 hours of solo flight time in a single-engine airplane, or 10 hours performing the duties of pilot in command with an authorized instructor on board, including:

  • A cross-country flight no less than 300 nautical miles, with landings at a minimum of three point one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from your departure point
  • 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings at an airport with an operating control tower
  • Written Knowledge Exam

The written knowledge exam consists of 100 questions. It lasts for 3 hours, and a minimum score of 70% is required to pass.

Topics that you will be tested on include but are not limited to commercial and aeronautical decision making, cross-country procedures, flight maneuvers, emergency procedures, and advanced aerodynamics.

Checkride

Before you are able to take the practical test (i.e. commercial checkride), you must log 3 hours in a single-engine airplane with an authorized instructor. This must be done within the preceding 2 calendar months before you want to take the test.

Broadly speaking, compared to the PPL checkride, more precise maneuvers are required, and there is less room for error.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Differences Between Part 61 and Part 141 Commercial Pilot Requirements?

The biggest difference between Part 61 and Part 141 commercial pilot requirements is that a minimum of 250 flight hours is required under Part 61 compared to 190 hours for Part 141.

Part 61 often ends up being more expensive due to its more flexible training structure, as opposed to the more structured and rigorous training involved in Part 141 flight schools. If you can treat getting your CPL like a full-time job, Part 141 is usually the better choice.

How Much Does Part 61 Flight School Cost?

If starting from zero (i.e. you haven’t yet got certification beyond a student pilot license), obtaining a commercial pilot license through a Part 61 flight school costs approximately $40,000.

If you already hold a private pilot license, you can expect to pay approximately $30,000.

What Disqualifies Someone From Becoming a Commercial Pilot?

To be eligible for a CPL and become a commercial pilot, you must be at least 18 years old; be able to read, speak, write and understand English; hold a private pilot license; complete all the required training; pass the required exams; and be issued a second-class medical certificate.

Failing to meet the required hearing and vision standards, including color vision; failing to pass a criminal background check; having substance dependence or abuse issues; or suffering from a disqualifying mental or medical condition, including but not limited to psychosis, bipolar disorder, severe personality disorders, epilepsy, coronary heart disease, or diabetes mellitus, are all disqualifying factors when it comes to being issued a second-class medical certificate.

Can You Be Too Old to Get a Commercial Pilot License?

There is no maximum age limit to be eligible for a commercial pilot license. As long as you are aged 18 or older, you can become a commercial pilot at 30, 40, 50, or even 80.

Only an airline transport pilot license has a maximum age restriction, which is 65 years old, and at which point an airline pilot must retire.