Frequently Asked Questions About Sport Pilot & Light Sport Aircraft

These are frequently asked questions about Sport Pilot certification, regulations and flying light-sport aircraft (LSA) – sport airplane and weight-shift control trike.

Who can fly a light sport aircraft?

A light-sport aircraft, whether it be a sport airplane, weight-shift control trike, powered parachute, glider, gyrocopter or balloon may be operated by a holder of a Sport Pilot FAA Airman Certificate, also known as a Sport Pilot license.

Pilots with a private or higher pilot certificate may also legally operate an LSA as long as they are current as a pilot with a flight review every 2 years and three takeoffs and landings within 90 days to carry a passenger. However, Private pilots should be checked out in an LSA because they fly differently. An existing private pilot or higher can fly as a sport pilot even if their medical certificate has expired, so long as they have a valid driver’s license for medical eligibility.

What is a Sport Pilot license?

It’s a new FAA pilot certificate that is less expensive, requires less time and is easier to obtain than the Private Pilot certificate.

Sport Pilots can fly aircraft that are in the new Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) category such as fixed-wing airplanes, as well as weight-shift control trikes and powered parachutes.

Do I need a license to fly an LSA?

You must obtain a Sport Pilot Airman Certificate or a Private Pilot airman certificate if you wish to fly a two-seat LSA. Single-seat ultralight vehicles are less regulated and more clearly defined under the Federal Aviation Regulations Part 103, where a license is not required.

As a Sport Pilot, where and when can I fly?

At almost all airports in the U.S. with proper endorsements, during daytime only (and during civil twilight with aircraft position lighting), at altitudes below 10,000 feet MSL (and above 10,000 feet MSL at 2,000 feet above ground level), with visual reference to the ground. Specifics for sport pilots are listed in FAR Part 61.315.

There’s no distance limitation (can be anywhere in the U.S.). As long as a private pilot is current and has a medical, the private pilot can fly an LSA at night or in Instruments if pilot-rated and the airplane is properly equipped.

Is a Sport Pilot trained to lower standards than a Private Pilot?

No. The piloting and mastery of the aircraft, stick and rudder skills are the same.

The difference is in the additional private pilot experience at larger towered airports communicating with “air traffic control”, flying at night, radio navigation (which few pilot use now with modern GPS’s) and flying above 10,000 feet with oxygen.

What is the difference between the 20-hour minimum sport pilot flight training hours and the 40-hour minimum private pilot training hours?

Less training is required because there is no night flight training, high altitude procedures above 10,000 feet, control tower operations and radio navigation/VOR requirements.

However, Sport Pilots can receive additional training (beyond the 20 hours minimum required training for Sport Pilots) and be endorsed to operate at larger control towered airports.

What are the age requirements for a Sport Pilot?

Age requirements are the same as a private pilot, solo at age 16 and obtain a license at age 17. No upper age limit for sport or private pilots.

What are the medical requirements for a Sport Pilot?

First and foremost, same as all pilots flying any aircraft, you must personally determine before each flight you are medically fit to operate the aircraft in a safe manner.

Second, a valid U.S. driver’s license can be used for medical eligibility in which the same restrictions on a driver’s license, such as wearing glasses, are applicable when flying an airplane LSA as a sport pilot.

It should be noted that if an FAA third-class medical was suspended, denied, or revoked, this must be cleared before using a driver’s license as medical eligibility to fly as a sport pilot. Private pilots should simply let their third-class medical expire and use their driver’s license as medical eligibility rather than failing an FAA medical exam and having to go back to clear it.

A third-class medical can also be used as medical eligibility for a Sport Pilot in place of a driver’s license for medical eligibility along with a government-issued photo ID in place of a using a single current driver’s license.

Overall, for many reasons, a medical should be avoided. However, if you want to know more about the FAA medical, see FAA Medical

MORE Frequently Asked Questions About Sport Pilot & Light-Sport Aircraft

Frequently Asked Questions About Sport Pilot & Light Sport Aircraft is continually updated, so do check back from time to time. If you don’t see an answer to your question, email me with your question and I’ll add it to this list.