So, the big, wingy, smart, talking, fire-breathin', scaly fella from this question managed (somehow) to become a legal permanent resident of the USA (green card or citizenship). Now, he wishes to get his private pilot's license so he can use those wings without having to worry about the FAA yelling at him for it.

How much of the Private Pilot's License exam would he have to study for, and how much of the exam would he find intuitive as someone who's been on the wing for his whole life? (Assume his examiner is using the new, shiny Airman Certification Standards instead of the old, crusty Practical Test Standards, and that no part of the test is being waived.)

(Also assume that he can get a waiver from FAR part 91.109 or equivalent, aka the dual controls requirement, for his practical test, with the examiner either observing from the ground or riding dragonback if he's intrepid enough to do so ;)

  • $\begingroup$ This reads like it's more about civil aviation laws than world building. $\endgroup$
    – user867
    Dec 16, 2015 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ He wouldn't. A dragon doesn't need an airport to land. It doesn't need to file a flight-path every time it takes off. So why would it give a damn what the safety regulations are for humans flying in metal boxes with engines strapped to them? If an FAA official decided to speak up this thing would just run its tongue over his/her pearly whites and that official would shut up in a hurry. Pilots would learn to avoid dragons, and vice-versa (for the health of all involved) $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 16, 2015 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ @user867 -- Aviation.SE doesn't deal with mythical flying creatures! $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Dec 16, 2015 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ In the UK the answer would be to treat the Dragon as a military aircraft with appropriate radar capability - like a Nimrod. This would give it responsibility for its own navigation and separation. It would have to agree to a fine schedule if it lost separation or strayed into the FIR around an airport. It would need to demonstrate a capability to read and understand NOTAMs and might well need to carryva radio to monitor frequencies. $\endgroup$
    – user23614
    Dec 16, 2015 at 12:02
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    $\begingroup$ Is a dragon a powered aircraft or a glider? If we can persuade the competent authorities in either the UK or the US to treat it as a glider (possibly a self launching glider?) then much of the above becomes moot.... $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2015 at 21:13

1 Answer 1


Can't answer for FAA, only the Australian system through CASA. But the US and Australia are both ICAO members, and so pretty similar.

Air Law would be a requirement. Not knowing the law will not work as an excuse when the dragon gets Airforce One diverted due to an airspace incursion.

Meteorology would only really apply because if the dragon decided to fly into a hurricane, the FAA would be liable to litigation due to not exercising proper duty of care. By making the dragon pass a meteorology exam, they would have satisfied that duty of care, and the rest is up to the dragon.

Human Performance and Limitations: What can I say? they'd have to reword that.

Aerodynamics: The dragon would probably get away without it, although might need to explain wake turbulence and proper separation behind departing aircraft (if airport takeoffs and landings applied).

Aircraft Systems: Probably a medical examination by a designated aviation medical examiner would be good enough.

Navigation: A must have. Your dragon needs to know where it is going, especially without using navaids or GPS. Limited to VFR, so must stay under 10,000 feet (I'm assuming that the dragon does not carry supplemental oxygen on board to fly above 10,000 feet. Oxygen + fire breath = bad news).

All in all, it's not so much about the dragon's ability to fly, it's more about the dragon's ability to fly in crowded airspace where it could get messy if/when the dragon flew into the path of a 747/C172/F-22/skydiver/sailplane.

Ground operation of fire breath: Along the lines of Australian Civil Aviation Orders CAO 20.9 (See part 6).

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't a plane full of skydivers be a bit like a bag of popcorn to a dragon? :-P $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 16, 2015 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ A very good start! (I was simply using the FAA in my question because the FARs are what I'm most familiar with -- if you wish to flesh this out more for a dragon down under, feel free to do so.) $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Dec 16, 2015 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Shalvenay The meteorology answer pretty much sums it up. It's all about duty of care to the dragon and other airspace users. They'd have to make sure the dragon passed an exam (and a flight test for that matter). Also they'd need to add amendments to the regulations, as they have for UAVs, model rockets etc. to cover all bases (and a+ses). The big difference between the U.S. and Australia is that we spell "a+s" covering differently. That and we have fewer navaids, more dependence on dead reckoning. $\endgroup$
    – Smoj
    Dec 17, 2015 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM Ha ha...True... still, I'm sure it wouldn't be in a dragon's best interests to get snarled up in canopies and paracord. $\endgroup$
    – Smoj
    Dec 17, 2015 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Shalvenay Another thing for the FAA to consider would be along the lines of ground operation of radar equipment, but for the dragon's fire breath. I'll add a reference in an edit to my post... $\endgroup$
    – Smoj
    Dec 17, 2015 at 2:15

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