A private pilot certificate is much like a driver's license. The options for flight in the United States are almost limitless. Most foreign countries also accept the license as long as you comply with that countries regulations. You are allowed to carry any number of passengers, and you can share certain operating expense with your passengers. The private pilot certificate contains fewer limitations than the recreational and sport pilot certificate. Once you earn your private pilot license, you are free to explore the skies below 18,000 feet. Taking the family on a trip, visiting distant relatives, or shortening the time on a business trip are now within your grasp.
In 2004 the sport pilot certificate was created as an attempt to make getting your certificate less expensive and simpler. The certificate does require as few as twenty hours of
training. There are however, more limitations that come with it. The Sport Pilot may only fly smaller, slower one to two seat aircraft that have been classified as light sport aircraft. The flight must also be conducted during good weather and daylight operations (no night flights).
The Recreational Pilot certificate allows pilots to fly a wide range of aircraft, but it limits the distance you can travel from your home base without more training. Recreational Pilots receive fewer hours of cross-country navigation training since they will be remaining within fifty nautical miles of home base. This can be waived if the pilot has obtained additional endorsements. The certificate also does not require you to fly in airspace that requires communications with air traffic control. Night time operations and instrument training are not required as well.