Part 61 vs Part 141: What’s the Difference?

By Pilot Institute
Posted on August 13, 2019 - 5 minute read
Part 61 Part 141
Flexible schedule Rigid timetable
Customized training program Structured training curriculum
Minimum of 40 hours to PPL Minimum of 35 hours to PPL
Minimum of 250 hours to CPL Minimum of 190 hours to CPL
Often more expensive Cost-effective for full-time students

As a future pilot, you’re bound to come across the “Part 61 vs Part 141” quandary when you start researching pilot schools.

Both sound a lot like Area 51, right?

While that’d be exciting, those two aren’t highly classified US Air Force facilities.

Actually, they designate different types of flight schools.

The FAA permits flight school to operate under either part.

What does that mean? What’s the difference between them? Which one is better?

Let’s find out.

What Do Part 61 and Part 141 Even Mean?

To get a better picture, let’s start with the Code of Federal Regulations, or CFR.

The CFR is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

Of the 50 titles that make up the CFR, Title 14 has the federal regulation governing aeronautics and space.

Title 14 contains the Federal Aviation Regulations, or FARs, which regulate all aviation activities in the United States.

The FARs comprises parts, or sections, each regulating a certain aspect of aviation. These include aircraft design, maintenance procedures, and of course, pilot training.

Part 61 deals with the certification of pilots, and both flight and ground instructors. It establishes eligibility, aeronautical knowledge, and minimum flight time requirements to obtain various pilot licenses.

Part 141 regulates pilot school certificates, along with pilot certification requirements for schools operating under this part.

The FAA allows pilot schools to operate either under Part 61 or Part 141. Although offering the same quality of training, the two parts differ significantly in their style of flight instruction among other aspects.

What’s the Difference between Part 61 and Part 141?

On the surface, the minimum hours to obtain pilot licenses seem like the significant distinction between Part 61 and Part 141. However, that’s only one of many differences between the two.

What distinguishes Part 61 from Part 141?


Without a fixed syllabus, Part 61 provides more flexibility to students as they can adjust the training program to fit their needs and goals.

Conversely, Part 141 flight schools feature structured courses with predetermined schedules. Therefore, student pilots haven’t got much of a leeway.


Pilot schools require an FAA-approved curriculum to operate under Part 141, which entails classroom facilities, certified instructors, and lesson plans. On the other hand, the FAA demands none of that from Part 61 flight schools.

In Part 141 schools, you must also pass stage checks, which measure students’ proficiency at each stage of training. The FAA doesn’t require stage checks for pilot schools operating under Part 61.

Time Frame

With the flexibility of Part 61 schools, obtaining your pilot license largely depends on your availability and progress. Your flight instructor will use his or her judgment to deem you ready for a checkride, or practical test. Therefore, the duration of training varies greatly from one person to another.

In Part 141, however, you need to pass stage checks and course tests before getting your license. As students who enroll in Part 141 schools almost always start training as a group, most tend to complete it around the same time.

Minimum Flight Hours

The rigorous approval process and regular audits by the FAA allow Part 141 schools to have lower flight time minimums than Part 61 for the issuance of pilot licenses.

In Part 141, you’ll need a minimum of 35 flight hours to apply for a private pilot license, or PPL, while Part 61’s minimum is 40 hours. The difference is negligible, especially given that the national average for becoming a private pilot is around twice of either part’s minimums.

The difference is hardly trivial when it comes to your commercial pilot license, or CPL, though.

Part 141 requires at least 190 flight hours for the CPL, while that minimum goes up to 250 hours in Part 61. Be careful though, Part 141 schools tend to charge more per flight hour so you might still end up with the same cost with fewer hours in your logbook. 


With lower flight time requirements, Part 141 schools tend to cost less on paper when you pursue a commercial license. Do the math and be realistic. If a Part 61 school costs less for 250 hours than a Part 141 school for 190 hours, go with the route that gives you more experience and flight time. 

Servicemembers, veterans, and their families can also benefit from the GI Bill, which covers the costs associated with getting an education or training. You can receive tuition assistance only if you enroll in a Part 141 flight school, though.

However, you can often negotiate aircraft rental and your instructor’s rate at a Part 61 school. Moreover, unlike Part 141, you don’t have to pay for the ground school.

The training cost in either type of pilot school also depends on the school’s reputation, state of aircraft, and even location.

What One to Choose, Part 61 or Part 141?

It depends.

The number one factor is your goal, do you want to become an airline pilot or do you want to fly for fun?

Your availability also plays a key role in deciding between the two.

Part 141 pilot schools offer structured training, which suits full-time students with an aviation career in mind. In contrast, Part 61 schools give you the flexibility to train at your own pace with a personalized program.

Before choosing a flight school, it’s a good idea to consider the following:

  • Reputation – Check the school’s reviews online, ask for recommendations, and even go check the facilities yourself.
  • Instructors – Know your potential flight instructor’s experience, credentials, and track record.
  • Aircraft – Find out the school’s aircraft types, age, and state.
  • Location – Pick a place with good weather all year round, if possible.
  • Cost – Compare different schools, ask about hidden fees, and see whether the school offers training packages.

Whichever type of school you choose, you should consider enrolling in a quality online ground school., for example, gives you lifetime access to instructors, videos, and resources at a fraction of the cost of a regular ground school.

Your choice of pilot school and instructor determine the quality of your flight training. Choose wisely.

One more thing to consider

There is a possibility that you might start your training at one flight school and later transfer to another. In this case, be aware of the difficulty to transfer to and from a Part 141 school.

The FAA only allows Part 141 schools to give up to 25% credit (aka flight hours) to students coming from Part 61 schools. The FAA also only allows up to 50% credit to be transferred between Part 141 school.

This is primarily due to the strict training curriculum that is approved for each school by the FAA.
Moving from a Part 141 school to Part 61 is a lot easier, no credit limit!

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