If you are looking to get your FAA drone pilot license, there are two routes you can take to get there depending on which of the two categories you call into: either you’re a first time pilot, or you’re an existing Part 61 Certificate holder (that means you already have your Private Pilot License). But what happens if you fall into a third category that few people talk about: you have a Part 141 certificate?
What is a Part 141 certificate?
Pilots who know how to operate manned aircraft typically will have gone through one of two types of flight training: either Part 61 instruction or a Part 141 flight school.
The FAA’s Part 141 requires pilot schools to use a structured training program and syllabus. Part 141 certificates are typically more commonly issued if your education came from colleges or universities that offer aviation degrees. They generally require you to take structured courses (ie. enrolling in classes each semester).
That’s in contrast to a Part 61 certificate, which is typically obtained outside of a college/university environment on your own time, whether in addition to a different degree or as a side activity.
Here are some major differences between a Part 141 and Part 61:
|Part 141||Part 61|
|Hours required to apply for a Private Pilot License||35||40|
|Hours required to apply for a commercial pilot license||190||250|
|Style of training||Structured, targeted at full-time students with an aviation career in mind||Flexible, allowing you to train at your own pace with a personalized program|
How do I get my Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate?
You need a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA in order to fly drones commercially. There are two ways you can get your Remote Pilot Certificate. They are:
- You already hold a Part 61 certificate and take an online training course
- You don’t have a Part 61 certificate, in which case you need to pass a written exam in-person.
If you already hold a Part 61 certificate:
If you hold a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61 and have completed a flight review within the previous 24 months, you can become a drone pilot through a fairly simple process.
Login to your account on the FAA FAASTeam website and complete the online training course called “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems ALC-451,” which is a fairly simple course that takes less than two hours to complete. It goes over aspects of drone flight that manned pilots might not necessarily know, like rating privileges and limitations, effects of weather on drones, etc.
Once complete, login to IACRA and complete Form 8710-13, which you’ll have to bring to an appointment (along with photo ID, your course completeion certificate and proof of your current flight review) with one of the below entities to validate your identity:
- At an FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)
- With an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE)
- An airman certification representative (ACR)
- An FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI)
From there, you’ll receive a temporary certificate, and your permanent certificate will arrive in the mail shortly after that. That certificate is valid for 2 years (you’ll have to pass a recurrent knowledge test every two years after that).
If you have a Part 141 pilot school rating:
Because Part 141 is the certification of flight schools, pilots who receive training at Part 141 schools are also certified under Part 61, a spokesperson for the FAA told The Drone Girl. Therefore, if you have a Part 141 pilot school rating, you should follow Part 61 to obtain a Part 107 remote pilot certificate.
It’s largely the same process as the steps above walking you through what to do if you already hold a Part 61 certificate.
When you go to the IACRA website and click Start New Application, then select ‘Pilot’ from the Application Type dropdown list. That should show the different types of pilot certificates IACRA has available, and Remote Pilot should be one of them.
You should expect to see a button where IACRA asks if you have a current Flight Review, and when the flight review took place.
If you don’t see that or have trouble getting through to the next step. The reason you may be having trouble getting through could be if you don’t have a Flight Review (or if it’s greater than 2 years old).
If that’s the case, then you must complete the Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (more on that down below).
If you’re not currently flying manned aircraft, it might be a better use of your time and effort to take the written, Remote Pilot Knowledge test rather than go through the process of getting your Flight Review current.
The good news? You’ll be ultra-prepared for the written test the way other aviation novices won’t be. Most people getting their Remote Pilot Certificate for the first time have no idea how to read a sectional chart, or what a cumulonimbus cloud is. They have to resort to drone pilot training courses to learn that info. Luckily for you, you already know that stuff, so passing the test will be a piece of cake.
If you don’t already hold any sort of FAA rating, or you don’t have a current Flight Review:
You’d know if you hold one. If you don’t, then you need to take an in-person written exam — often referred to as “the Part 107 test,” which you can take as long as you’re at least 16 years old.
The Part 107 test consists of 60 multiple choice questions, and it can be taken at one of about 700 testing centers in the U.S. Most test centers require you to schedule your appointment in advance, bring a photo ID, and pay your testing fee (which is usually $150).
See my blog post and video explaining what my test experience was like.