The Basics Of Pilot Certification: Aircraft Category And Class

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Category and class can refer to certification of AIRMEN (pilots) and AIRCRAFT. 

pilot-certificate

When we are talking about the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of AIRMEN, a CATEGORY is a broad classification of aircraft:

  • Airplane
  • Rotorcraft
  • Glider
  • Lighter than air
  • Powered lift
  • Powered parachute
  • Weight-shift control.

When we are talking about the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of AIRMEN, a CLASS means a classification of aircraft within a category having similar operating characteristics:

  • The Airplane category is divided into single-engine land (ASEL), multi-engine land (AMEL), single-engine sea (ASES), and multi-engine sea (AMES) classes
  • The Rotorcraft category is divided into helicopter and gyroplane classes
  • The Lighter-than-air category is divided into airship and balloon classes
  • The Powered parachute category is divided into powered parachute land and powered parachute sea
  • The Weight-shift-control category is divided into weight-shift-control land and weight-shift-control sea. 

A student pilot certificate does not list category or class ratings but is instead endorsed by a flight instructor to confer privileges in specific makes and models of aircraft.

If you are training in a single-engine plane, such as a Cessna 172, when you are issued your private pilot certificate, it will be for the ‘airplane’ category and ‘single-engine land’ class. 

Further reading:  FAR/AIM 14 CFR § 1.1 – General definitions

PRIVATE PILOT KNOWLEDGE TEST QUESTIONS 

(Regulations under 14 CFR Part 1 – Definitions And Abbreviations) 

1. With respect to the certification of airmen, which is a class of aircraft? 

a. Single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land and sea. 

b. Lighter-than-air, airship, hot air balloon, gas balloon. 

c. Airplane, rotorcraft, glider, lighter-than-air. 

Answer: __________ 

2. As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, examples of a “category” of aircraft would be:

a. Cessna 150 or F16.

b. Airplane, rotorcraft, glider, and lighter-than-air. 

c. Single-engine or multi-engine. 

Answer: __________ 

3. With respect to the certification of airmen, which is a category of aircraft?

a. Single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land and sea. 

b. Airplane, rotorcraft, glider, lighter-than-air. 

c. Gyroplane, helicopter, airship, free balloon. 

Answer: __________ 

Answers 

1. a. 

2. b.

3. b.