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Comparison Chart: Airplane Single-Engine

When learning to fly, you may choose to earn a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. Compare some of the basic requirements for the three certificates in this convenient chart.

Flight Experience
(Part 61)
Sport Pilot Certificate minimum hours Recreational Certificate
minimum hours
Private Certificate
minimum hours

 Total Hours

20 30 40


15 15 20

 Dual Cross Country

2 2 (25 nautical miles or more) 3 (50 nautical miles or more)


5 3 10

 Solo Cross Country

One solo cross-country flight of at least 75 nautical miles total distance, with a full-stop landing at a minimum of two points and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 25 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations 0 5

 Night Flight

0 0 3

Flight by Reference to Instruments

0 0 3

Practical Test Prep

2 3 3




Sport Recreational Private


1 1 No Limit


Light sport aircraft Restrictions based on operating privilege Restrictions based on operating privilege


1 1 1*


2 4 No Limit


Not specified (but max speed 120 knots) 180 200*

 Retractable Gear

No No No*


10,000 10,000 18,000*


Class G&E only* Class G&E only* No Class A*

 Night Flying

No No Yes

 Business Related

No No Yes

 Flight w/o Ref. To Ground

No No Yes

 Outside U.S.

No No Yes


No No Yes


No No Yes

*Indicates a limitation may be removed with additional training, endorsements and/or ratings.