FAA Private Pilot Eligibility Requirements & Background Checks

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Private pilots must pass several tests including a medical exam.
Private pilots must pass several tests including a medical exam. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

To take the knowledge test for a private pilot, a student must be at least 15 years old. He is eligible for flight testing and certification at 17, but must have a parent or guardian present at the test. He must be able to speak and write English and pass a medical examination. Aliens must pass a background check. Otherwise, the only requirements are successfully completing flight school and passing all requisite tests.

Medical Examination

Before you can obtain a pilot's certificate, you must pass a medical examination from an FAA-approved examiner. Vision for a private pilot must be at least 20/40 in each eye, with or without correction. Pilots must be able to hear at conversational level at a distance of 6 feet. They must have a blood pressure below 155/95. There are many conditions which preclude approval from seeking a pilot's license, including certain heart problems, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, substance abuse and epilepsy.

Alien Flight Student Program

Students who are not United States citizens must pass a background check and apply to the Alien Flight Student Program through the Transportation Security Administration before beginning flight school. They must provide full name, passport and visa information and give fingerprints. They must also complete a 10-page questionnaire through TSA.

Knowledge Test

A private pilot must pass a computerized knowledge test, which asks 252 questions about the functionality of airplanes during flight. The test including questions about vibrations, landing time, maintenance, fuel and required paperwork.

Flight Test

Technically, pilots in an FAA-approved school only have to have 35 hours of flight time to take the flight test. But, according to the FAA, most students require 65 to 70 hours before they're ready to take the test. Schools continue to train students until they feel they're ready to pass the test. The test includes areas such as preflight procedures, takeoffs and landings, slow flight and stalls, emergency operation and night operation.

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