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What Age Can You Learn To Fly? All Ages Explained


Many times I see questions pertaining to age when it comes to flying. For most people these ages are not a factor as most of us end up learning to fly as part of a mid-life crisis, but what about those who want to learn from a young age or cross it off the bucket list?

Anyone can learn to fly as soon as they can reach all the flight controls, but need to be at least 14 years old to solo a Balloon or Glider and 16 years old to take the flight test. For Airplanes or Helicopters, be at least 16 years old to solo and 17 years old to take a flight test.

There are a lot of different flight certificates all with their own age requirements. This article is going to break down each rating with the minimum and maximum age requirements so you can easily find your answer.

References are linked to each applicable requirement in the Federal Aviation Regulations for US-Based pilots or Part-FCL of the EASA Regulations for European-Based pilots.

Age Requirements To Learn To Fly

Young Age

Learning to fly is a fun and challenging time for every person embarking on this journey but what do you do if your young child or grandchild is showing serious interest in flying – Trial Lesson or Flight In Your/Friends Aircraft!

My Son Has Some Growing To Do! – Nurture Them Early!

Nurturing aviation at an early age is a great thing to do for any parent but what is the earliest age at which they can start?

The answer is simple:
As soon as they can easily reach all the controls, buttons, and levers.

There is no reason why young children can not begin to get the feel of an aircraft and start to learn the basics of aircraft control when very young. There are no legal minimum age requirements to learn, however, there are minimum age requirements before they can fly solo in an aircraft.

Older Age

For most older pilots learning to fly can be a life-long dream and should never be discouraged.

The only real requirements limiting age are being able to pass the medical requirements and the older you get the odds begin to stack against you.

If you are 55 and wish to become an airline pilot be aware that at age 60 or 65 you will be required to retire depending on the operation you are working in.

Let’s look at each of the license types so you can determine if any of the age requirements are applicable to you…

Pilot License Age Limitations


Click Here to Jump to the European Age Requirements Part Of This Article


US-Based Pilots:

To be able to fly any aircraft solo that pilot needs to have been issued with a Student Pilot Certificate:

Student Pilot Certificate

§61.83   Eligibility Requirements for Student Pilots.

To fly solo in a Glider the Minimum Age is 14 Years Old
To fly solo in a Balloon the Minimum Age is 14 Years Old
To fly solo in any other aircraft the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold a Student Pilot Certificate

How Old Do You Need To Be To Start Flight School?

To begin flight school you need to be at least 14 years old for a balloon or glider and 16 years old for a helicopter or airplane. The flight test can only be taken once a student is 16 for a balloon or glider and 17 for an airplane or helicopter.

FAA Age Requirements To Apply For A Flight Test

To get ready for any flight test you need to have completed the Theoretical Knowledge Exam for that certificate within the previous 24 MONTHS.

For Example:
If you are young and are planning to take your Fixed-Wing Private Pilot flight exam on your 17th birthday, you need to ensure the knowledge exam has been completed since you turned 15!

Now we can move on to the different types of certificate requirements and their age limits.
Each of the minimum ages you see below is the birthday on which you can take your Practical Flight Test for the applicable certificate. Remember you can learn and solo at younger ages.

Sport Pilot Certificate

§61.305   Age Requirements for a Sport Pilot Certificate?

To apply for a Glider Sport Pilot Certificate the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old
To apply for a Balloon Sport Pilot Certificate the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old
To apply for a Sport Pilot Certificate on any other aircraft the Minimum Age is 17 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold a Sport Pilot Certificate


Recreational Pilot Certificate

§61.96   Applicability and Eligibility Requirements: General.

To apply for a Recreational Pilot Certificate the Minimum Age is 17 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold a Sport Pilot Certificate


Private Pilot Certificate

§61.103   Eligibility Requirements: General.

To apply for a Glider Private Pilot Certificate the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old
To apply for a Balloon Private Pilot Certificate the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old
To apply for a Private Pilot Certificate on any other aircraft the Minimum Age is 17 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold a Private Pilot Certificate


Commercial Pilot Certificate

§61.123   Eligibility Requirements: General.

To apply for a Commercial Pilot Certificate on any aircraft the Minimum Age is 17 Years Old

Maximum Age:

Domestic Flights:
There is no Maximum Age to hold a Commercial Pilot Certificate provided you only fly domestically- Just a Valid Medical Certificate

International Flights:
Once you fly internationally you fall under ICAO 2.1.10:
Single Pilot Operations – Maximum Age is 60 Years Old
Dual Pilot Operations – Maximum Age is 65 Years Old

For More Information – ICAO: What is the age limit for flight crew?


Airline Transport Pilot Certificate

§61.153   Eligibility Requirements: General.

Fixed Wing:
Minimum Age:

To apply for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate the Minimum Age is 23 Years Old

You can apply for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate at 21 Years Old however you will only be able to operate under restricted privileges until you reach 23. (§61.160   Aeronautical experience—airplane category restricted privileges.)

Maximum Age:

Single Pilot Operations – Maximum Age is 60 Years Old
Dual Pilot Operations (Airlines Operating under Part 121) – Maximum Age is 65 Years Old
(Click Here For More information from the Federal Registrar)

Rotary Wing:
Minimum Age:

To apply for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate the Minimum Age is 23 Years Old

Maximum Age:

Dual Pilot Operations (Airlines Operating under Part 121) – Maximum Age is 65 Years Old otherwise no Age Limit – Just a Valid Medical Certificate


Flight Instructor Certificate

§61.183   Eligibility Requirements.

To apply for a Flight Instructor Certificate on any aircraft the Minimum Age is 18 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold a Flight Instructor Certificate – Just a Valid Medical Certificate


European-Based Pilots

Unlike the US, there is no requirement to hold a Student Pilot Certificate to solo in an aircraft however you have to meet the following age requirements and have the Instructors Signed Authorization on your person at all times during the solo cross-country flights.

EASA Minimum Ages to Solo an Aircraft:

AircraftMinimum Age
Aeroplane16
Helicopter16
Airship16
Sailplane14
Balloon14

EASA Age Requirements To Apply For A Flight Test

Light Aircraft Pilot License – LAPL

SUBPART B
FCL.100 LAPL – Minimum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011

To apply for an Aeroplane LAPL the Minimum Age is 17 Years Old
To apply for a Helicopter LAPL the Minimum Age is 17 Years Old
To apply for a Sailplane LAPL the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old
To apply for a Balloon LAPL the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold a Light Aircraft Pilot License


Private Pilot License – PPL
Balloon Pilot License – BPL
Sailplane Pilot License – SPL

SUBPART C
FCL.200 – Minimum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011

To apply for a Private Pilot License the Minimum Age is 17 Years Old
To apply for a Balloon Pilot License the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old
To apply for a Sailplane Pilot License the Minimum Age is 16 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold a Private, Balloon or Sailplane Pilot License


Commercial Pilot License – CPL

SUBPART D
FCL.300 – Minimum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011

To apply for a Commerical Pilot License the Minimum Age is 18 Years Old

FCL.065 – Maximum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011
Maximum Age For Commerical Operations:

Single Pilot Commerical Aeroplane Operations the Maximum Age is the 60th Birthday
Dual Pilot Commerical Aeroplane Operations the Maximum Age is the 65th Birthday

Single Pilot Commerical Helicopter Operations the Maximum Age is the 60th Birthday
Dual Pilot Commerical Helicopter Operations the Maximum Age is the 65th Birthday

Single Pilot Commercial Balloon Operations the Maximum Age is the 70th Birthday
Single Pilot Commercial Sailplane Operations the Maximum Age is the 70th Birthday


Multi-Crew Pilot License – MPL

SUBPART E
FCL.400.A – Minimum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011

To apply for a Mulit-Crew Pilot License the Minimum Age is 18 Years Old

FCL.065 – Maximum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011
Maximum Age For Commerical Operations:

Dual Pilot Commerical Aeroplane Operations the Maximum Age is the 65th Birthday
Dual Pilot Commerical Helicopter Operations the Maximum Age is the 65th Birthday


Airline Transport Pilot License – ATPL

SUBPART F
FCL.500 – Minimum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011

To apply for a Airline Transport Pilot License the Minimum Age is 21 Years Old

FCL.065 – Maximum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011
Maximum Age For Commerical Operations:

Single Pilot Commerical Aeroplane Operations the Maximum Age is the 60th Birthday
Dual Pilot Commerical Aeroplane Operations the Maximum Age is the 65th Birthday

Single Pilot Commerical Helicopter Operations the Maximum Age is the 60th Birthday
Dual Pilot Commerical Helicopter Operations the Maximum Age is the 65th Birthday


Flight Instructors

SUBPART J
FCL.915 – Minimum Age
Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011

To apply for an Instructor Certificate the Minimum Age is 18 Years Old

There is no Maximum Age to hold an Instructor Certificate


Get A Really Handy EASA Guide To All The Requirements For Every License Type.


To Finish

Age should never be a barrier for someone learnging to fly or even continuing to fly! Providing you meet the requirements for the license you wish to fly under then you can be flying for many many years.

Some of the wisest pilots and instructors are well into their 60’s, 70’s & 80’s and still fly so let them be an inspiration and get that trail lesson booked! You will not regret it!

Further Reading

Below is a link to a presentation given by Dr. Anthony Evans regarding flying age limits:

Upper age limit for pilots Upper age limit for pilots – Presentation
Dr. Anthony Evans
Chief, Aviation Medicine Section
International Civil Aviation Organization, Montreal

Rick James

I am an aviation nut! I'm an ATP-rated helicopter pilot & former flight instructor with over 3500 hours spanning 3 countries and many different flying jobs. I love aviation and everything about it. I use these articles to pass on cool facts and information to you whether you are a pilot or just love aviation too! If you want to know more about me, just click on my picture!

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