Can You Fly An Airplane Without A Pilot Certificate? (New FAA Regs.)

Photo of the 1911 Curtiss Biplane
First Airplane to cross the Continental Divide.

Aviation changes rapidly, as well as regulations, and it is a genuine problem if you cross the FAA, (Federal Aviation Administration). They are relentless in extracting their pint of blood. As a young man, I was set on flying for the airlines, so the question, (can you fly an airplane without a pilot certificate?) was far removed from my mind. Let’s look at our big brother, the (FAA), and pilot certification.

Can You Fly A Plane Without A Pilot Certificate?

Yes, you can fly an airplane without a pilot certificate. The FAA does not regulate ultralight aircraft so you can buy one and fly away, and no age limit to fly them. Some rules must be followed so let’s discuss those here.

Can You Fly A Plane Without A Pilot Certificate?

1. What is an ultralight aircraft?

By determination of the FAA an ultralight:

A. Does not have or require an airworthiness certificate.

B. Has only one occupant so no joyriding with anyone.

C. Weighs less than 155 lbs. Without power or 255 lbs empty if powered. (Has an engine).

D. It cannot have a fuel tank bigger than 5.0 US Gallons

E. Speed cannot exceed 55 knots at full power in level flight.

F. Stall speed will not exceed 24 knots. (power off).

So it all boils down to slow flying, alone and only for recreation.

There is an option that requires a bit of work that allows you to fly with a passenger.

If an aircraft meets the above criteria it qualifies as a Light Sport Aircraft.

Please get flight instruction from those qualified to do so before you fly.

If you have a young Son or Daughter yearning to fly, this is the cheapest way, especially with no age restriction.  

I have never flown any of these.

Rather than say they scared the s*** out of me, I just said I already flew daily and had no desire to fly more.

I was happy to launch myself through space at 500-plus knots in an aluminum cigar tube with wings thinking it was somehow safer.

2. What Types Of Airplanes Can We Fly?

I always wanted to fly a helicopter. I could not afford lessons so I never pursued them due to cost.

Today I can fly one without a license and even own one.

There are a lot of aircraft you can fly without a certificate so let’s look!

1. Helicopter

2. Fixed Wing Aircraft

3. Gyroplanes

4. Hang Glider

5. Para Glider

There is good reason to fly ultralight aircraft as this is just plain flying for the freedom and fun.

You will need to adhere to the rules so read through the USUA, (United States Ultralight Association), website where you can find the rules. See them here.

A plus to the fact that the FAA does not regulate ultralight aircraft is that there is no set age limit for flying one. If you have a kid who has a whim to become an aviator encourage them to begin with ultralights.

Please check out the video here about the top 5 ultralights.

You can check out the helicopter here.

It’s a cheaper way to satisfy the ride into the wild blue skies.

3. New FAA Regulations (MOSAIC)

The newest proposal on ultralight aircraft may come into effect soon, Mosaic. (Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification), which amends the rules for certifying and operating Light-Sport Aircraft, (LSA).

This change is a major step forward in many areas of aviation especially in fostering new pilot’s interest and opening new doors for existing pilots.

Mosaic will increase stall speed to 54 knots which increases the weight of aircraft flown without a license to nearly 3000 lbs.

It increases speed to 250 knots CAS. (Calibrated airspeed).

It will allow variable-pitch propellers.

Retractable landing gear will be allowed.

These last 2 items are Commercial Pilot requisites.

I will be interested in seeing how Mosaic will change the certification and licensing factors for Private and Commercial candidates.

This new rule is a 318-page document, so it encompasses much more than the 4 items above.

MOSAIC would also amend rules for the manufacture, certification, operation, maintenance, and alteration of LSA. (Light Sport Aircraft).


One additional positive about the aircraft including the Light Sport is the ability to do your own maintenance. 

This offers substantial savings for an owner that would have to go to a maintenance shop.

I had to defray maintenance costs by leasing my aircraft to the local FBO (Fixed Base Operation). This helped, but I had the chance of not having my airplane to use since the FBO could be using it.

While piloting an airplane is a privilege that typically requires a pilot’s license, there are several aircraft options available for individuals who want to experience the joy of flying with no extensive training. From Light Sport Aircraft and powered para-gliders to ultralights and gyro-planes, these aircraft provide unique opportunities to explore the skies and enjoy the freedom of flight. However, it’s important to remember that even when flying without a license, responsible operation, adherence to local regulations, and proper training are crucial for ensuring safety in the air.

2. The Sport Pilot Certificate.

The next step up the ladder is the Fed’s newest pilot certificate which takes a bit more work but is not as intense or costly as the Private Certificate

I am curious to see what happens with this certificate since if Mosaic passes you may fly the same aircraft without any more than a driver’s license to prove your health.

We will know by summer 2024 hopefully.

14 CFR Part 103, also known as FAR Part 103, governs the operation of ultralight vehicles in the United States.

Related. Why Is It Scary To Take Your First Flight Lesson? (4 Items To Consider)

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