Becoming a pilot involves taking flying lessons to get practical experience and passing written theory exams.

Most people get their first taste of flying in a trial flight at their local aero club or flying school. They're a great source of information, and can help guide you through the process.

Somebody intending to fly only for recreation can opt for a microlight certificate, recreational pilot licence, or private pilot licence. If you intend to build a career in aviation, you can train towards a commercial pilot licence, or an airline transport pilot licence.

Flying lessons are just part of your training. You will also have to pass a medical examination, pass what’s known as a 'fit and proper person' test, demonstrate you're proficient in the English language, and pass some theory exams.

For guidance, have a look at the advisory circulars to Part 61 Pilot Licences and Ratings.

Every holder of a New Zealand aviation document must nominate a physical address in New Zealand as their ‘address for service’.

Read more about your address for service.

This is the process if your licence gets damaged or lost:

Checklist:

  • Include a copy of police report, if applicable.
  • Sign a specimen signature at top right-hand corner of application form (this is needed only for a Certificate of Maintenance Approval)
  • Include the fee or provide credit card details.

Send to licensing@caa.govt.nz or post to PO Box 3555, Wellington, 6011.

Fees, levies, and charges.

Anyone applying for a New Zealand private pilot licence, commercial pilot licence, or airline transport pilot licence has to provide evidence they’re acceptably proficient in the English language.

They need to demonstrate they’re competent to at least the Level 4 standard required by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

If you hold an overseas licence issued by an ICAO member state with English language proficiency (ELP) already endorsed to at least that standard, you don’t need to do a New Zealand demonstration of proficiency.

If you’re a New Zealand pilot travelling overseas to fly, you’ll probably be required by the overseas ICAO state to have ELP endorsed on your licence. If so, you’ll have to complete an ELP demonstration to at least Level 4 standard, then apply to us to have your licence ELP-endorsed.

For information on ELP examinations in New Zealand, visit ASPEQ(external link).

To apply for ELP endorsement, use form 24061/04 Application for Amendment to a Pilot Licence [PDF 35 KB].

See our fees, levies, and charges.

If you want the right to be part of New Zealand’s aviation system, you have to prove you’re sufficiently sensible, careful, and law-abiding to be allowed that right.

The Director of Civil Aviation has to be satisfied that every holder of an aviation document, like a pilot licence, who wants to ‘exercise the privileges’ of that document is a fit and proper person to do so. It’s a legal requirement.

If you’re an organisation applying for an air operator certificate, your nominated senior persons have to undergo the fit and proper person process, if they have not already done so.

Read more about the fit and proper person process.

You have to be fit to fly. That means getting a medical certificate by passing a physical examination carried out by a medical examiner, who we have especially authorised to do that job.

To begin, complete the form 24067/001 Application for medical certificate [PDF 432 KB] except page 4 which is completed during your medical examination.

After you’ve done that, make an appointment with a medical examiner.

Directory of New Zealand Medical Examiners.

Directory of Overseas Medical Examiners.

Read more on our medical page.

An alternative to the private pilot licence in New Zealand is the recreational pilot licence. Gaining an RPL allows you to fly single-engine, non-pressurised light aeroplanes or single-engine helicopters.

The knowledge, flight experience, and competency standards for the RPL are the same as those for the PPL.

The medical requirements are different, however. While a PPL requires a full CAA class 2 medical examination, an RPL requires a medical examination by a GP, preferably your regular doctor.

Whatever GP you choose to carry out the medical examination, they must be approved to conduct a NZ Transport Agency medical for a class 2, 3, 4, or 5 driver’s licence, endorsed to carry passengers.

There are limits as to what the holder of a recreational pilot licence can do. For instance, an RPL pilot cannot fly at night, or have more than one passenger. They cannot fly over a populated area (except for take-off and landing) and they cannot fly commercially.

See rule 61.351 for more information.

24061/01-RPL - Application for Issue of Recreational Pilot Licence - (RPL) Aeroplane or Helicopter [PDF 39 KB]

You can sit the exams through ASPEQ(external link) any time, but having some practical experience already under your belt will probably make passing them easier.

There are numerous other options for recreational flying, such as flying a microlight aircraft, gliding, ballooning, parachuting, hang gliding, paragliding and even drones and model aircraft.

The pilots of these aircraft (except drones and model aircraft) need a certificate issued by a Part 149 organisation, which we authorise to do this.

To be issued with a pilot certificate you must:

  • be at least 16 years of age (to hold a full certificate)
  • hold a medical declaration issued by your GP (except for balloon pilots, unless you intend to charge passengers)
  • pass written exams
  • pass a practical flight test.

Read the rules under Part 149 Aviation Recreation Organisations Certification.

Flight crew documents being issued or amended can take 10 working days to get back to you.

Your application may take longer if:

  • it is incomplete
  • it doesn’t meet the requirements of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 or Civil Aviation Rules
  • there are postal delays.

It’s critical you complete all sections of the application. Use the checklist on the application form to help you.

Include the flight experience summary completed by the flight examiner for the issue of a PPL, CPL, ATPL, or instrument rating.

Get all the documentation from your training organisation or flight examiner and send in the complete application package yourself. Unfortunately, incomplete applications can’t be processed and they will be returned to you.

Applications are assessed and processed in the order they’re received.

 Ask us about licensing

If you have any questions about this topic, use our contact form, or email licensing@caa.govt.nz