AI Products 

What is the Difference Between a Private Pilot and a Recreational Pilot?

Kevin Lashley
What is the Difference Between a Private Pilot and a Recreational Pilot?

Dreaming of what it would be like to sit in the cockpit of a plane? Curious how it feels to be the one in control of an aircraft? Well, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that obtaining a pilot’s licence is not nearly as difficult as you expect. 

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority — or CASA — offers several different licence classes, with different pathways to suit pilots with different flying goals.

If you don’t intend to pursue flying as a full-time career, either the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) or Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) may be the right fit for you. But what’s the difference between these two, and what qualification should you aim for? Read on to find out!

Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) explained

A Recreational Pilot Licence is the first step in any pilot’s journey. You will learn the basics of piloting a light aircraft, first with an instructor and then solo. The RPL syllabus contains both theory and practical aircraft learning. Prior to taking the RPL flight test, you must have completed at least 25 hours of flight time and have passed the RPL theory exam. 

As the name suggests, completing recreational pilot training and obtaining an RPL is perfect for those who are looking to fly for fun. RPL holders are able to fly up to 25nm from their departure airport, and carry passengers.

To obtain your RPL, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 16 years old (you can start training earlier but must be 16 to get the licence)
  • Be able to speak and understand a certain level of English (English is the official worldwide aviation language)
  • Hold a valid aviation medical certificate

Private Pilot Licence (PPL) explained

A Private Pilot Licence is the next step after completing the RPL. The syllabus expands on the pilot skills learnt during RPL, and introduces advanced navigation training.

To start PPL training you will need to have first obtained your RPL. And whilst you can start training while you are 16, you will need to be at least 17 years of age to get the actual licence. As is the case with the RPL, you will need to complete a certain number of training hours and pass both a theory and practical exam to obtain the licence.

PPL holders are able to carry passengers and fly anywhere in Australia, making it the perfect licence for pilots that want to fly for fun but explore further than what the RPL allows. Once you have your PPL you can then add a range of ratings and endorsements to further increase your opportunities to fly.

It’s worth noting that what is called a Private Pilot Licence in a number of other countries is actually a combination of the RPL and PPL syllabus in Australia.


Finding the right flight school

Ideally, look for a flight school that offers both recreational pilot training and private pilot training. While completing your RPL, you may find you really take to flying and would like to extend and build upon your skills. You may also find that you really want to fly further than what the RPL allows. Being able to attend the same flight school to obtain your PPL (and maybe even continue flying the same aircraft) is a great advantage.

In addition, look for a flight school with extensive facilities and a fleet of well-maintained aircraft. The last thing you want is to have to delay your training because of a lack of available equipment.

Finally, find a flight school that can work with you to identify and achieve your flight dreams. If you’re still not sure whether an RPL or PPL is right for you, that’s fine! The best flight school is one that can help answer this question and set you on the best path for your aviation goals. Good luck!

Kevin Lashley
Zupyak is the world’s largest content marketing community, with over 400 000 members and 3 million articles. Explore and get your content discovered.
Read more