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Home > Blog > The Different Types Of Light Aircraft Licenses And Their Requirements

The Different Types of Light Aircraft Licenses and Their Requirements

Posted 08 Apr 2024

Different Types of Light Aircraft Licenses

In this guide, we will look at some of the most common types of pilot licences for light aircraft and their requirements.

Flying aircraft share a lot of the same requirements as driving a car – the only difference is that flying aeroplanes mandates that pilots follow extremely strict regulations compared to regular vehicle drivers.

If you want to fly any type of aircraft, you will first require a pilot licence that deems you worthy both physically and in terms of training to fly aircraft. Flying aircraft requires pilots to obtain two types of licences: the first is the core pilot licence and the second is a relevant medical certificate.

However, the type of licence can vary depending on your needs. Most people erroneously believe that any pilot can fly any type of aircraft – but the truth is different aircraft require different licences. In this guide, we will look at some of the most common types of pilot licences for light aircraft and their requirements:


Before we dive into the various types of licences, let's take a quick look at what light aircraft are.

There are primary two types of aircraft in aviation:

  • Commercial aircraft – designed for passenger or cargo flights,
  • And light aircraft – designed for training and leisure flying.

Commercial aircraft are easy to spot since they are larger, more complex, and require a very capable and thoroughly trained pilot to operate. These aircraft are mainly designed for commercial activities like passenger flying or cargo transportation.

Commercial aircraft can carry hundreds of people at a time and are equipped with multiple engines that allow the aircraft to fly at tremendous speeds and altitudes compared to smaller aircraft. On the other hand, light aircraft are smaller, more compact, and designed for training or leisure flying. There are several subtypes of light aircraft like helicopters, flex-wings, fixed-wings, gliders, and more.

Light aircraft have been around for centuries and were the cornerstone of modern aviation. In fact, the first flight in history was taken in a light aircraft designed by the Wright brothers in 1903. Light aircraft provide a base for all pilots and are the primary aircraft for private pilots (more on this below). These planes are fantastic machines to learn how to fly and can also be used for leisure flying.


 To make a clear distinction between light aircraft and other types of larger aircraft, we need to understand the roles of commercial and private pilots.

Every pilot in the world can be categorised under these two roles. If you are a commercial pilot, you will be able to operate both light and commercial aircraft – however, in the case of private pilots, these pilots are only allowed to fly light aircraft due to a specific type of licence they possess.

Here are some of the most common types of licences and their requirements in the context of light aircraft:

National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL)

If you plan to fly only in the UK, then you will need to obtain a National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL). This is a United Kingdom-specific certificate that allows pilots to fly within the UK airspace. Not only is this licence an excellent choice for beginners, but it is also a great way for old-school pilots and hobbyists to experience flight in old vintage and experimental aircraft.

Of course, the type of aircraft that you choose to fly with this certification must be UK-registered, and as per regulations set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), NPPL pilots can’t fly in foreign airspace without express permission from the country that you are planning on entering.

An NPPL is fantastic for novices since, compared to a full-fledged Private Pilot Licence, it has less strict medical requirements.

With a valid NPPL, pilots only need to fulfil the minimum requirements for flying aircraft. For example, the requirement for flight hours is relatively lower than other types of aircraft licences. For an NPPL, the requirement is typically 25 hours.

Finally, an NPPL restricts pilots to only fly under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). VFR are a set of guidelines that highlight the ideal conditions required for light aircraft pilots to fly such as clear weather conditions, high visibility, clear skies, etc.


Private Pilot Licence (PPL)

As mentioned above, a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) is the most common and typical pilot license for pilots who want to take aviation as a hobby. A PPL is a full-fledged licence, meaning that it allows for more liberties than a regular NPPL.

For example, PPL holders can access a wider range of light aircraft, such as aerobatic aircraft, touring aircraft, or classics like a Piper PA-28 Warrior, Piper PA-28 Cadet, Cessna 150 (2-Seater), and more.

Please keep in mind that a PPL only allows pilots to take up aviation as a hobby. In other words, they cannot use their skills for commercial activities and will ideally need to be associated with a flying club, like Sherburn Aero Club, to have access to the facilities that will allow them to pursue their hobby.

An important thing to keep in mind is that, unlike an NPPL, a PPL is not specific to the UK. This is why a PPL is ideal for people who wish to obtain a general aviation licence.

To obtain a PPL, a pilot will need to log 45 hours of flight time, accompanied by a certified instructor.

Of these 45 hours, 10 hours must be of solo flight time, including at least one cross-country flight, with 25 hours being those spent training via dual flight instruction. The distance of the cross-country flight must be at least 270 km.

Both NPPL and PPL licences have age restrictions! Candidates must be 17 years old to obtain these licences.

A PPL also requires stricter ground training. For example, in addition to the flight hours, the candidate must also prove their proficiency in at least nine subjects which include complex topics such as navigation, meteorology, aerodynamics, air law, and more.

To be eligible for the licence, the applicant must score at least 75% marks on theoretical multiple-choice exams on these nine subjects.

Compared to an NPPL, a PPL is a bit more expensive since it requires more thorough ground and flight training.

Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL)

Don’t want to invest the time or resources in a rigid training schedule, then we recommend checking out the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL).

 A LAPL is a trimmed-down version of a PPL. In other words, this licence is designed to cater to people who want to fly specific light aircraft and have a relatively relaxed training regimen. Just like with PPL holders, LAPL pilots have the same restrictions and cannot earn compensation for their skills.

A LAPL offers customisation options and can cater to the needs of various people. For example, this licence is divided into four different categories:  

  • LAPL (A) for aeroplane operation,
  • LAPL (B) for flying balloons,
  • LAPL (H) for helicopters,
  • LAPL (S) for sailplanes.

Please keep in mind that for LAPL holders, the aircraft being operated must have a take-off mass of 2000 kgs or less and can carry no more than three passengers. Candidates must log a total flight time of 12 hours, as well as have at least 12 take-offs and landings.

A LAPL is non-ICAO which means that you can’t use this licence to fly outside of the UK airspace. If you wish to fly outside of the UK using this licence, then pilots must register themselves accordingly with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).


Whether you go for an NPPL, LAPL, or PPL, the good news is that the training that you get for each licence can be carried forward in your aviation journey. For example, an NPPL can start in aviation, get a taste of what the world of aviation has to offer, and then decide to carry forward their training for a LAPL or a PPL.

That’s right, your training hours can be counted towards any type of licence. This way, you don’t have to start from zero every time and potentially also save up money in training. This “add-on” facility is extremely important because it allows one type of pilot to transition into another.

This is the primary way light aircraft pilots (or private pilots) transition into commercial activities by using their private pilot training toward their commercial pilot licence.

Ratings are a great example of how you can use various certifications to add to your primary pilot training. Ratings are special sub-qualifications that can help pilots advance their pilot training and gain more privileges in operating aircraft.

Take aircraft rating an as example. This rating can allow pilots to operate different classes of light aircraft, apart from the ones allowed for their primary licence. Class-based ratings have a wider range of aircraft included.

So, if you want to fly a more complex light aircraft, like the beloved Cessna 152 Aerobat (2-seater), then you can train for aircraft rating to progress your flight training and learn how to fly this swift aircraft!

Similarly, there are several other types of ratings as well. For example, a Night Rating can be used to allow pilots to fly outside of VFR. As mentioned above, VFR conditions dictate the ideal conditions for private pilots to fly light aircraft. If you wish to fly at low visibility or night, then you can choose to go for a night rating.

A night rating may also require you to obtain an Instrument Rating. This rating is specifically for pilots who wish to fly outside of VFR conditions like night or extremely low visibility like during a weather event. An instrument rating can help pilots learn to fly without visual aids. This rating specifically trains pilots to fly only using the onboard navigation instruments.

At the end of the day, a pilot should be ever-evolving. Even if you wish to stay a private pilot, you must keep learning new things and gain as many flight hours as you can. This way, if you ever decide to transition down the road, you can easily switch and even perhaps make a career in aviation.



 The short answer to this question is: no.

However, the long answer is that licences exist to make the skies a safer place for everyone – but there are some ways that you may be able to step inside the cockpit of an aircraft in a few scenarios.

The easiest way to do this would be to go for an experience or trial flight. These flights are designed for regular folks as they put them in the cockpit with an experienced pilot or flight instructor. These flights are designed to provide the thrills of aviation without any of the associated costs of training and licensing.

Experience flights are typically offered at comprehensive aero clubs like Sherburn Aero Club and are a fantastic way for people to get a taste of the world of aviation – albeit for a short while.

Experience flights are conducted in ideal weather conditions to ensure a smooth flying experience. Furthermore, you don’t need any qualifications to book an experience flight.

Once you book a flight, you can expect to pick an experience of your liking and show up on the day of your flight. In some cases, at the discretion of the flight instructor or aero club, you may also be allowed to bring along a few guests.

Please keep in mind that experience flights can be costly, and if you get addicted to it, you can quickly rack up a lot of costs just from flying vicariously. In this case, we recommend that you rather go for a light aircraft pilot licence to save money in the long term and fully indulge in your passion for aviation.



Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation with a PPL or CPL or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

Sherburn offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran. The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us at 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on light aircraft, training requirements, fee structure, licencing procedures, as well as experience flights and pilot training at Sherburn.



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