• How licences are categorised

    Professional licences and General Aviation licences

    Licences can either be for professional flying or for general aviation. If you have a professional licence, you can be paid for flying and fly in commercial operations (such as an airline flight). General aviation licences are for recreational flying only and you aren't allowed to be paid for any flying you do using one, apart from some flight instructor work.

  • When considering undertaking training for a private pilot licence you need to consider what it is you actually want to fly - which type of licence you need depends on what type of aircraft you want to fly.

    Generally speaking, licences are available for the following different aircraft categories:

    • aeroplanes (including Microlights)
    • helicopters
    • airships
    • sailplanes and gliders
    • balloons
    • gyroplanes

    There are often several different types of licence for each category. The licences will differ in that each will have different privileges allowing the holder to do different things - some are more restrictive than others.

    Licences can be categorised by whether or they comply with international rules from ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Licences which do comply are known as ICAO licences and those which do not are known as non-ICAO licences.

    Non-ICAO licences are not fully recognised internationally, for example, the UK LAPL and Microlight licences are only valid for flights within the UK, unless specific permission has been given for their use by the Authority of another state.

  • Adding to your licence

    The privileges of your licence determine what aircraft you are able to fly and what sort of operations you are able to undertake. In many cases, once you have your licence you can extend its privileges by completing extra training. This may, for instance, allow you to fly different types or classes of aircraft.

    Adding a Night rating, for instance, will allow you to fly at night in a suitably equipped and approved aircraft.
    To add a rating to your licence you will need to complete an approved training course and, in most cases, pass a skill test. Ratings expire after a certain period of time and you must keep them up to date if you want to continue to use the privileges they allow.

    Ratings restrictions

    Not every licence can have every rating added to it. For instance, you can’t add an Instrument rating (IR) to a LAPL or an NPPL. You should discuss these details with your training provider before committing to your training.

    Where to start

    Your flying school can offer advice on training, licence types and ratings.

    Find a flying school

    For more detailed information about ratings and the privileges of different licences, see our introduction to licensing.