Pilots, Certificates and Ratings
By: Ralph Shultz
In the past ultralight types of aircraft and their pilots have operated without FAA certificates or much oversight. As a result, all too often, little aviation general knowledge and theory was included in their training.
Most “fat ultralight” pilots have kidded themselves and others, boldly telling anyone who asked (and many who didn't) that flying these aircraft did not require an FAA pilot's license or a flight medical.
To the credit of these pilots, and the aircraft designs, many have not only survived but have become talented flyers of their aircraft. At times many pilots have spoken some unflattering words about “GA” (general aviation) pilots and questioned their piloting abilities in ultralight types of planes.
I have, at times, wondered if those pilots understood what tools FAA certified aviation training endows a pilot with. It's true that most GA pilots do indeed need some “type” transition training in these ultralight types, just as any pilot does in an unfamiliar aircraft.
With the arrival of Sport Pilot, the day has come where the “fat ultralights” of the past have come of age and now require FAA pilot certificates to legally fly them and soon will operate under the watchful eye of the FAA. Many flyers see this change as the passing of an era and a negative thing. Many view it as a positive step forward as these pilots will now be joining the ranks of general aviation.
One thing is certain; it will eventually produce a better-trained and informed pilot, and undoubtedly some will want to advance to higher certificates and ratings.
This subject of certificates and ratings can be long, dry, complicated, confusing, exciting and yes boring all at the same time. But try remembering that it takes time to make fine wine; it's the same with the making of a pilot. This learning process requires much effort and lots of checks along the way.
Understanding what each certificate and rating brings to a pilot and what its training is trying to teach them will be in the best interests of all pilots and aviation in general.
Take a look at the following certificate. Do you know what all the information means?
Right here is probably a good place to try explaining the differences between a certificate, a rating, a category or a type designation.
Certificate: What is it? It is a document on which is printed the basic license level for which the certificate is issued along with other relevant information. This level will be specified on the front side of the document as Sport Pilot, Private Pilot, Repairman Experimental Aircraft Builder, etc.
Rating: These are located on the back of the certificate and refer to special areas of operational mastery obtained by the pilot. Areas like Multi-Engine, Instrument rated, Instrument Instructor, Jet Engine rated, etc.
Category: The category further defines the certificate by specifying what kind of craft (or airframe and engine in the case of a mechanics certificate) the certificate is issued for, for instance, Airplane, Helicopter, Glider, Balloon, Internal Combustion” or “Jet Engine, etc.
Type: The type data defines the category by adding information like Land based, High Performance, Tail Wheel, Single Pilot Qualified, and certain makes and models of aircraft, etc.
All this Rating, Category and Type information are found on the backside of the Certificate.
Most, if not all, Ratings can (and sometimes must) be “Joined” for a lack of a better way of saying it. That is to say a pilot may have a Private Pilot Certificate, ASEL (Airplane Single Engine Land) the ASEL are considered ratings.
Another example might be a Commercial Pilot Certificate; AMECLTL would be an airplane multi engine centerline thrust land rating.
Ratings are issued after demonstrating proficiency in a specific area of operations.
High Performance (200+ HP)
Multi- Engine centerline thrust operations
Multi - Engine
There are many more Ratings than just these I have listed.
But I really don't want to address all the nooks and crannies of the flight training which pilots work so hard at and spend so much time and money mastering. I don't want to point out all the knowledge, skill and sweat that go into transforming a non-flyer into a (fill in the blank) certificated pilot. Nor do I want to spell out all the requirements and levels of proficiency that a pilot is required to demonstrate in order to qualify for that certificate or rating.
What I do want to talk about is more in line with the why, the how come and what is the basic underlying skill(s) each certificate brings to the body of aviators.
All pilot certificates and ratings are issued only after the successful completion of training in a specific area of operations and having passed a written knowledge and an oral test on required applicable aviation and airplane knowledge and an actual in the air flight skills examination.
Any certificate issued also means that all requirements of any lower certificate have also been met. For instance a Commercial Pilot will only have one CERTIFICATE, and not one for each lower certificate he/she has obtained prior to qualifying for the commercial.
Below is a listing of different certificates. Each followed with a short description of skills and or training goals.