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Sport Pilot Frequently Asked Questions

answered by AvSport's Chief Flight Instructor

Q: I've heard of a new rating, called "sport pilot." What's that about?
A: If you are a licensed pilot (recreational or higher rating), you can qualify to operate simple aircraft under sport pilot rules. For rated pilots, this is not so much a new rating as it is a set of privileges which you can choose to exercise. If you choose to operate under sport pilot rules, you will be restricted to daylight VFR flying in uncongested airspace, in what's called a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). These are light-weight, low-power, low-speed aircraft with a maximum of two seats.
Q: But I am a rated pilot. Is there any disadvantage to operating under sport pilot rules?
A: If you go this route, you will be restricted to flying an LSA in daytime VFR conditions, within sight of the ground (i.e., no 'VFR on top'), at an altitude at or below 10,000 feet, for strictly non-commercial purposes.
Q: Could I still fly in controlled (Class B, C, or D) airspace?
A: Sport pilots require appropriate training and a logbook endorsement to do so. If you are a rated pilot and previously flew in such airspace, your controlled airspace privileges may be grandfathered.
Q: What are the advantages of becoming a sport pilot?
A: The most important one is that you need not obtain an FAA medical certificate to exercise sport pilot privileges. Of course, you still need to be in good enough health to safely operate the aircraft, but holding a driver's license is considered an acceptable demonstration of medical suitability (as long as you have never been denied an FAA medical certificate). Then too, since the LSA is a fairly simple machine, they are inexepensive to maintain, and easier to operate, requiring fewer hours of instruction.
Q: You're talking about licensed pilots exercising sport pilot privileges. Isn't there a separate, stand-alone sport pilot license?
A: Yes, there is. It requires only 20 hours (minimum) of flight instruction, of which all solo hours (plus the flight test) must be taken in an LSA.
Q: How come the Sport Pilot rating requires only 20 hours of instruction, as opposed to 30 hours for the Recreational Pilot, or 40 hours for the Private?
A: There's less to teach a Sport Pilot. Since you'd not be allowed to fly at night, night training is not required. Since you wouldn't be flying by reference to flight instruments, no instrument training is in the curriculum. Since an LSA can't go as far, cross-country flights need be only 25 miles (as opposed to 50 for the higher ratings). And, since you'd be restricted from flying in heavily regulated airspace, no training is given in procedures used within such airspace.
Q: So, why shouldn't I just get a Sport Pilot certificate?
A: You can, of course, and many pilots start out this way. Recognize that as a sport pilot, you will be restricted to flying only an LSA, in daylight hours, in good weather, at altitudes at or below 10,000 feet, carrying no more than one passenger, and that you will be prohibited from entering the most heavily used airspace. If you are comfortable operating within these restrictions, then please read on.
Q: What makes an aircraft a Light Sport Aircraft?
A: Light Sport Aircraft have to conform to certain parameters outlined in the FAA Sport Pilot Rule. These are:

Q: Are Light Sport Aircraft certified or experimental?
A: Light Sport Aircraft can fall into either category. Those designated as S-LSA are factory produced Light Sport Aircraft. Anything with the E-LSA Aircraft nomenclature is experimental and can be assembled by an individual from a kit.
Q: I understand that some antique aircraft qualify as LSAs.
A: Well, sort of. Certain models of the Aeronca 7AC Champ, Piper J3 Cub, Ercoupe 415C, Luscomb 8A, and several other FAR Part 23 certified aircraft from a bygone era are called "Sport Pilot Eligible Aircraft." Those standard category, certificated aircraft that meet the LSA restrictions listed above can be flown by Sport Pilots, as well as pilots with higher ratings choosing to exercise Sport Pilot privileges. Of course, when flying a Sport Pilot Eligible Aircraft and exercising Sport Pilot privileges, all of the Sport Pilot and LSA restrictions apply.
Q: What license is required to fly a Light Sport Aircraft?
A: Any current Recreational Pilot can fly a Light Sport Aircraft in day VFR (Visual Flight Rules) conditions only. Any current Private Pilot can fly a Light Sport Aircraft day or night VFR. Those with only a Sport Pilot certificate must get a check-out with a qualified instructor on each new LSA they choose to fly, and are authorized to fly in day VFR conditions only.
Q: What medical qualifications do I need to become a Sport pilot?
A: Sport Pilots are only required to have a valid driver's license as proof of medical fitness (providing that there is no FAA Medical rejection or revocation on file). Recreational Pilots or higher are required to hold a minimum Class III FAA Medical, which must be renewed every two to three years depending on age. If you want to fly at night, you need a valid Private Pilot License or higher, and a minimum of a Class III Medical Certificate.
Q: So, what class of pilot's license should I pursue?
A: That all depends upon what you want to get out of your aviation experience. There is a variety of pilot licenses, each with different privileges and restrictions:
Q: If I become a Sport Pilot, does my experience as a Sport Pilot count towards other licenses and ratings?
A: Probably. Sport Pilot is an excellent introduction into the world of flying. It is quick, and cost effective, and allows you to get a taste for aviation. The beauty of Sport Pilot is that, as long as you train with a Certified Flight Instructor, all of the training and experience you accumulate as a Sport Pilot counts towards more advanced licenses and ratings.
Q: Are you a Certified Flight Instructor?
A: Absolutely!
Q: Can I train for more advanced ratings in an LSA?
A: Yes, as long as it is properly equipped for the intended training, and your instructor is appropriately rated. For example, if your LSA is equipped for flight solely by reference to instruments, and your instructor is a current Instrument Instructor (CFII), you can use them (the plane and the instructor) to train for your Instrument Rating. (However, you can't actually take an LSA into the clouds).
Q: Is AvSport's LSA equipped for instrument training?
A: Absolutely!
Q: Are you a current Instrument Instructor?
A: Absolutely!
Q: OK, so if I fly with you, what is all this going to cost me?
A: For the sport pilot license, a bunch. For the recreational pilot license, a lot. For the private pilot rating, a lot more.
OK, straight answer: At the bare minimum of required hours, you should expect to spend about $4000 for a sport pilot license, $6000 obtaining your recreational pilot license, or $8000 for the private ticket. (Your mileage may vary.) This expense is typically spread out over a period of several months. And, because the skill levels are cumulative, you can start out with the sport certificate, and then continue on to the recreational or private pilot license as your time and budget permit.
Q: I've allowed my medical certificate to lapse. How can I become a Sport Pilot?
A: You may already be one! If you're already a licensed pilot (even with an inactive Class I, II or III medical), a valid driver's license is all you need to reopen the door to the general aviation lifestyle that may have been closed for a while for whatever reason. You've already invested the time and energy to become a pilot at some point in your life, Light Sport can be the ticket to re-energizing your general aviation experience.
Q: Really? Even if my medical certificate has expired?
A: Yes! Even if your medical has expired, you can exercise the rights and privileges of a Sport Pilot without the need to secure a Class III medical. As long as you have never been denied a medical or had your privileges revoked, a valid driver's license is all you need. Get off the couch and get back in the air – it's time to renew you zest for life by getting back in the cockpit. AvSport of Lock Haven can help you to do so.
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This page last updated 25 April 2011
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