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Light Sport Aircraft – Definition, Regulations, Pilot Requirements

Curious about the Light Sport Aircraft definition, regulations, pilot requirements? In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveiled the Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft rule that allowed many pilots to fly light sport aircraft (LSA) with a valid driver’s license in lieu of a medical certificate.

DEFINITION OF A LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT (LSA)

A light-sport aircraft is defined as:

  • 1,320 pounds maximum takeoff weight for aircraft not intended for operation on water; or
  • 1,430 pounds maximum takeoff weight for aircraft intended for operation on water.
  • A maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (V H) of not more than 120 knots CAS under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.
  • A maximum seating capacity of no more than two persons, including the pilot.
  • A single, reciprocating engine.
  • A fixed or ground-adjustable propeller if a powered aircraft other than a powered glider.
  • A non-pressurized cabin, if equipped with a cabin.
  • Maximum airspeed of 120 knots.
  • Fixed landing gear, except for an aircraft intended for operation on water or a glider.
  • Fixed or repositionable landing gear, or a hull, for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
  • A maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices (V S1) of not more than 45 knots CAS at the aircraft’s maximum certificated takeoff weight and most critical center of gravity.

LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT (LSA) PILOT REQUIREMENTS

If you currently holds a recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate and a valid medical, you’re able to fly light sport aircraft and aircraft that meet the definition of light sport aircraft provided you have the appropriate category and class ratings.

If you currently hold a recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate but do not hold a valid and effective FAA medical certificate, you may fly light sport aircraft and aircraft that meet the definition of light sport aircraft provided you have the appropriate category and class ratings, have a valid U.S. driver’s license, and provided you meet the medical criteria listed above.

PILOT TRAINING REQUIREMENTS

If you don’t hold a current pilot certificate, the training requirements for a sport pilot certificate with airplane category are a minimum of 20 hours flight time including:

  • 15 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor.
  • 5 hours solo flight.
  • Flight training must include at least:
    • 2 hours cross-country flight training.
    • 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop.
    • One solo cross-country flight of at least 75 nautical miles total distance with a full-stop landing at a minimum of two points and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 25 nautical miles between takeoff and landing locations.
    • 3 hours flight training in preparation for the practical test.
  • Ground training from an instructor or home-study course.
  • FAA knowledge test on applicable aeronautical knowledge areas.
  • FAA practical test for the applicable light sport aircraft privilege.

Sport pilot certificates will be issued without category/class designation – Logbook endorsement will be provided for category, class, make and model.

Two other category and class ratings for sport pilots:

  • Weight-shift-control, land and sea.
  • Powered parachute, land and sea.

OPERATION LIMITATIONS FOR SPORT PILOTS

Sport pilots or recreational, private, commercial, or ATPs exercising the privileges of sport pilots may not operate a light sport aircraft:

  • That is carrying a passenger or property for compensation or hire.
  • For compensation or hire.
  • In furtherance of a business.
  • While carrying more than one passenger.
  • At night.
  • In Class A airspace.
  • In Class B, C, or D airspace, at an airport located in Class B, C, or D airspace, and to, from, through, or at an airport having an operational control tower unless you have received ground and flight training and a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor in accordance with 61.325 certifying you are authorized to exercise these privileges.
  • Outside the United States, unless you have prior authorization from the country in which you seek to operate. A sport pilot certificate carries the limitation “Holder does not meet ICAO requirements.”
  • In a passenger-carrying airlift sponsored by a charitable organization.
  • At an altitude of more than 10,000 feet msl.
  • When the flight or surface visibility is less than 3 statute miles.
  • Without visual reference to the surface.
  • If the aircraft has a maximum forward speed in level flight that exceeds 87 knots CAS, unless having met the requirements of 61.327.
  • Contrary to any operating limitation placed on the airworthiness certificate of the aircraft being flown.
  • Contrary to any limitation or endorsement on your pilot certificate, airman medical certificate, U.S. driver’s license, or any other limitation or logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor.
  • Contrary to any restriction or limitation on the sport pilot’s U.S. driver’s license or any restriction or limitation imposed by judicial or administrative order when using a driver’s license to satisfy the requirements of Part 61.
  • While towing any object.
  • As a pilot flight crew member on any aircraft for which more than one pilot is required by the type certificate of the aircraft or the regulations under which the flight is conducted.

FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR CERTIFICATION

Pilots already holding a flight instructor certificate may provide flight instruction in light sport aircraft for which they hold the appropriate category and class ratings.

Pilots currently not holding a flight instructor certificate but would like to become a sport pilot instructor will have to:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English.
  • Hold at least a current and valid sport pilot certificate with category and class ratings or privileges as applicable.
  • Receive a logbook endorsement and pass a knowledge test on the fundamentals of instruction listed in 61.407.
  • Meet the aeronautical experience requirements listed in 61.411 for the applicable aircraft sought.
  • Receive a logbook endorsement and pass a knowledge test on the aeronautical areas applicable to the aircraft category sought.
  • Receive a logbook endorsement and pass a practical test on the areas of operation listed in 61.409.
  • Sport pilot instructors must have 5 hours of PIC in each make and model set before they can teach in that aircraft.

LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT REPAIRMAN OR INSPECTION CERTIFICATE REQUIREMENTS

If you’re an owner of aircraft having a special light sport aircraft (S-LSA) airworthiness certificate and do not currently hold an A&P (Airframe and/or Powerplant) or IA (Inspection Authorization) repairmen certificate, the FAA has developed procedures to accept training for a light sport aircraft repairmen certificate with inspector and/or maintenance rating that would allow you as owner of the light sport aircraft to perform maintenance or required inspections.

Requirements to do maintenance and/or inspections on light sport aircraft as an owner-

  • For inspection privileges:
    • You must complete a 16-hour training course on the inspections requirements of the particular make and model of light sport aircraft.
  • For maintenance privileges:
    • You must complete a 120-hour training course for airplane category on the maintenance requirements of the particular category of light sport aircraft.
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