If you don’t already hold a pilot certificate, you are considered to be a Student Pilot.
Essentially, you may begin your training toward a private pilot certificate without first securing a Student Pilot certificate. In other words, you may be a student pilot without actually holding a student pilot certificate. However, the aeronautical experience requirements for private pilot certification (your ultimate goal) include solo flight, and as a student pilot you may not fly solo in an aircraft until you meet the requirements of 14 CFR Part 61 Subpart C, and then only within certain limitations.
In summary, you don’t need to secure a student pilot certificate (officially become a Student Pilot) until you need to solo.
14 CFR Part 61 Subpart C – Student Pilots prescribes:
- the requirements for the issuance of student pilot certificates
- the conditions under which those certificates are necessary
- the general operating rules and limitations for the holders of those certificates
You may notice the general eligibility, knowledge, and flight proficiency requirements, as well as the limitations pertaining to student pilots, are very similar to the certification requirements for private pilot. The knowledge requirements are less extensive, more generally stated, and left largely to the discretion of your instructor. The flight proficiency requirements are more detailed than those for private pilot, but the two have at least 80% in common.
To be eligible for a student pilot certificate, you must be
- 14 years of age for operations in a glider – 14 CFR 61.83 (b)
- able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language – 14 CFR 61.83 (c).
Application – 14 CFR 61.85
All airman certification applications are submitted using the F.A.A.’s Internet-based system called IACRA (Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application).
After submitting your application, you need to schedule an appointment with one of the following authorized agents to complete the process.
- A certificated flight instructor (CFI), not necessarily a glider flight instructor
- A designated pilot examiner
- An F.A.A. Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)
- An airman certification representative associated with a pilot school
At your appointment, you will need:
- your IACRA login ID (username) and password
- your FTN (Federal Tracking Number; issued when you initially registered with IACRA)
- your IACRA student pilot certificate application ID
- Personal identification (preferably a picture ID)
14 CFR 61.87 (b) requires you take a test to demonstrate satisfactory aeronautical knowledge of:
- applicable regulations, specifically those pertaining to pilot certification (Part 61) and operational and flight rules (Part 91)
- airspace rules and procedures for your airport
- flight characteristics and operational limitations of the glider in which you will solo
Your instructor will administer the test (often a written take-home exercise), review all incorrect answers, and certify completion of the test by endorsing your logbook.
14 CFR 61.87 (c) requires you receive and log flight training in a glider and demonstrate your ability to fly that aircraft safely and proficiently.
14 CFR 61.87 (i) lists the maneuvers and procedures you must master before being allowed to solo a glider.
14 CFR 61.87 (n) requires an instructor’s endorsement in your logbook for solo flight in the specific make and model of glider you will fly. Your initial, and all subsequent, solo endorsements are good for 90 days from the date of the endorsement.
14 CFR 61.31 (j) – Additional training required for operating a glider requires you receive ground and flight instruction in the launch method you will use on your solo flights and your instructor will certify that training by endorsing your logbook.