Commercial pilots must complete several important steps before becoming certified to transport air passengers. Typically, the commercial pilot training path begins with ground school and a private pilot's license. A significant amount of flight practice in visual and instrument conditions is also required, followed by an in-depth knowledge test. Both an oral and flight test must be administered by a qualified flight instructor, and commercial pilots must continue to maintain their certification with frequent practice.
All commercial pilots must first be certified as recreational private pilots. A medical examination is required before any flight training can begin. This exam ensures that a trainee is physically fit to operate an aircraft, and does not suffer any condition that would making flying unsafe. Ground school is the first major step for student pilots. The coursework covered in this stage includes basic aeronautical principles and flight rules, including air traffic operations and radio procedures.
After gaining a general understanding of flight principles, students begin to practice actual maneuvers under the direct guidance of an instructor. Pre-flight and airport taxi operations are first. Students next practice takeoffs and landings, and learn how to maneuver an aircraft safely in a variety of conditions. The proper methods of dealing with other air traffic and common emergencies are also practiced under the watchful eye of a flight trainer.
Student pilots maintain a detailed log of the time spent in a training aircraft. After gaining a significant number of flight hours and demonstrating their knowledge of flight principles, pilot trainees begin to fly solo. At this stage, an individual is able to practice air procedures alone, although they must still be in radio contact with the instructor and cannot transport passengers.
A private pilot's license is awarded after a student has been thoroughly tested on aircraft instruments, solo aircraft maneuvers, and aviation knowledge. This level of certification permits people to operate light aircraft for recreational purposes, but is only one part of the commercial pilot process. To advance to the next level of certification, recreational pilots must log many more hours of flight time in a variety of weather conditions. Again, a certified flight instructor must examine a pilot to verify their hours and proficiency. In the United States, commercial pilot training requires a minimum of 190 hours in the air before the advanced license is awarded.
The operation of multi-engine transport aircraft and commercial airliners requires further certification. Pilots must practice and complete testing for each variety of aircraft they wish to fly, since each model has different characteristics. Commercial pilot training in different types of airplanes typically involves further supervision by a flight instructor, and many hours of practice. To maintain their commercial certification, pilots must log flight time in either real airplanes or flight simulators that have been certified by the government.