Flying a plane can be a thrilling adventure. With flying being an exciting activity, many wonder how old you must be to fly a plane.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, you must be at least 16 years old. You’ll require a student pilot certificate, regardless of your age, before you can fly alone.
Obtaining a student pilot certificate is essential before you can fly yourself. However, the certificate is not required to initially take flying lessons.
The application for the student flight certificate can be submitted online or on paper. A certified flight instructor, airman certification representative, or FAA-designated pilot examiner can submit the application to the Airman Certification Branch.
Table of Contents
How Old Do You Have to Fly a Plane? What Do You Need?
Although you need to be at least 16 to fly a plane solo, there is no minimum age that you must be to learn how to fly.
In addition to learning to fly a plane that you own or have control of, there are also different age requirements for some circumstances. For example, if you plan to become a military pilot or fly for a commercial airline, there are different requirements.
How Old Do You Need to Be for Flying Lessons?
There is, technically, no minimum age at which someone can take flying lessons. Many who own and fly their planes and have kids start teaching them the basics as soon as they are old enough to reach the controls.
However, formal flying lessons may have to wait until the age of 16 or older. Most flight schools have a minimum age limit and are not willing to teach anyone under that age.
Many pilots feel there is no harm in giving kids a general idea of how planes work. Introductions to planes at a young age could motivate children to take formal flying lessons later.
When Are You Old Enough to Fly Solo?
Although a person can learn to fly a plane at any age with a licensed pilot controlling everything, flying solo will have to wait until you’re at least 16. In other words, you have to be at least old enough to drive a car to fly a plane by yourself.
Before flying solo, it is important to use flight planning calculators for private pilots to ensure a safe and successful flight. Our calculators can help you plan your route and calculate fuel requirements, among other things.
The common belief that younger people cannot learn to fly is likely based on airline pilot age. Extensive experience is usually preferred for airline pilots, making the average age almost 44 years old.
What Does a Flight Certificate Do?
Knowing how to fly a plane doesn’t automatically confer status as a pilot. Becoming a pilot involves classes, training, test flights, and, most importantly, certifications.
If you’ve completed the necessary training and are at least 17, you can get your flight certificate. Getting your flight certificate is a major milestone because this is your pilot’s license.
How Old Do You Need to Be to Fly in the Military?
Because you need to be at least 18 to enlist in all branches of the military, you won’t be able to fly at 16 or 17 in this setting. Because the military uses some of the most advanced aircraft in the world, it is reasonable to expect military pilots to be of adult age.
Flying for the Air Force
Flight training in the Air Force requires an applicant to have taken flight training between ages 18 and 33. Applicants also require a Bachelor’s degree, with an understanding of the following:
- Aircraft operating procedures
- Flying directives
- Theory of flight
- Air navigation
- Mission tactics
Other requirements include Officer Training School and a background check. There are also specialty-specific requirements that may apply, depending on the aircraft.
Flying for the Navy
Prospective Navy pilots must meet the requirements for getting a U.S. Navy commission. You must be 19 to 32 years old and have a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.
You’ll also require a minimum passing score on the Aviation Selection Battery Test (ASBT). These scores will evaluate your academic and pilot training levels.
Flying for the Army
Army Aviation Officers must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Applicants must be between 18 and 34 years old, in addition to holding a degree.
You will also need to take an Officer Basic Leadership Course, as well as other courses that might be necessary for the position. Another requirement is meeting the criteria for a Secret security clearance.
Flying for the Marine Corps
Marine Corps pilots must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and have an officer’s commission of at least second lieutenant rank.
You’ll need to be a minimum of 20 years old but no older than 28 when you get a commission. Passing the Aviation Selection Test Battery is also necessary.
Flying for the Coast Guard
Anyone enlisting in the Coast Guard must be at least 17 years old. Officers must be no younger than 21 and no older than 27 unless they have a waiver.
Commissioned officers must possess a four-year degree from the Coast Guard Academy, followed by Officer Candidate School. There is also a scholarship pathway with obligatory service for eight years.
How Old Do You Need to Be to Fly for an Airline?
Becoming a commercial pilot is an important goal for many. Although private pilots can make a living with their skills, there are few careers that have the appeal of being an airline pilot earning a good salary.
The FAA allows pilots to get a commercial license at 18 years old. However, most airlines have a minimum age of 21 for the pilots they hire, which is the minimum age for a Restricted Airline Pilot Transport License.
The license that most airline pilots use is an Airline Transport Pilot License. For this license to be issued without restrictions, pilots must be at least 23 years old.
In addition to minimum age limits for pilot licensing, there are also maximum age limits. For example, in the United States, 65 is considered the maximum age which people can fly safely for an airline without health or cognitive issues being a concern.
For pilots of any age to maintain proper licensing, they must have a first-class medical certificate. Pilots of any age can lose their status upon failing a medical exam.
Pilots must have excellent visual acuity, with distance vision of at least 20/20, either with or without correction. Near vision must be 20/40 or better.
In addition, pilots over 50 must meet minimum intermediate vision criteria, with 20/40 or better required. Color vision testing is also required to ensure a pilot’s ability to perceive certain colors, such as runway lights safely. Can you become a pilot if you’re colorblind?
Pilots also have non-vision health criteria that they must conform to for retaining licensing at any age. Electrocardiograms (ECG) that detect certain cardiac diseases take place at 35 and annually after age 40.
Blood pressure must be maintained at healthy levels as well. The threshold that a commercial pilot may not exceed is 155/95.
In addition to physical health, a pilot must also be in good mental and emotional health. Pilots, for example, may not have mental disorders or substance abuse problems.
Although age restrictions apply to commercial airlines, they are less of an issue for private jet charter companies. The experience that an older pilot has can be an asset for these companies.
Although you could theoretically fly at 16 years old, there are further restrictions for flying in military or commercial settings. Finding out how old do you have to fly a plane is one of the most important steps to take to become a pilot.