These are frequently asked questions about Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA).
What is a light-sport aircraft (LSA)?
A light-sport aircraft (LSA) is a new category of aircraft that includes airplanes, weight-shift control (trikes), powered parachutes, gyroplanes, balloons, gliders, and airships (blimp). These are simple, light-weight and less expensive to own and operate than conventional aircraft. This can be any glider or single-engine piston powered aircraft under 1,320 pounds maximum gross weight that meets the FAA definition of a light-sport aircraft. The aircraft can hold a pilot may carry one passenger. The maximum speed is 138 mph (120 knots) full power level flight, have fixed landing gear and a fixed propeller.
The exact definition by the FAA of a light sport aircraft can be found here.
A minimum FAA sport pilot license (certificate) is required to fly a LSA.
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 with the most popular being fixed-wing airplanes, weight-shift control trikes, powered parachutes (PPC) and gyroplanes. A Sport Pilot license may be obtained with 20 hours minimum training (12 hours for PPC), compared to 40 hours minimum for a private pilot license.
Do I need a license to fly a LSA?
Yes. You must obtain a Sport Pilot airman certificate minimum 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 pilot license is not required.
What about existing private pilots flying LSA?
Pilots with an airplane private or higher pilot certificate may legally fly a LSA as long as they are current to fly airplanes. However, it is advisable to get a checkout in a LSA because they do fly very different. An existing pilot, private pilot for example, 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 about flying a different category of LSA?
If any FAA certificated sport, private or higher pilot wants to fly a different category at the sport pilot level, like and airplane pilot wants to fly a weight-shift control trike, they may be trained by one trike qualified “Certified Flight Instructor” (CFI) and take a proficiency check with another trike qualified CFI with no minimum hours required. This provides a log book endorsement for the pilot to fly the additional category at the sport pilot level. If any pilot wants for fly a new category at the Private pilot level, this is completly different. All the requirements and hours to be a private pilot for that category must be met. It is like starting from scratch to add a category at the private pilot level.
As a Sport Pilot, where and when can I fly?
At almost all airports in the U.S. with proper endorsements, during daytime only, at altitudes below 10,000 feet or 2000 feet above the ground which ever is higher, with visual reference to the ground. There’s no distance limitation for cross country flights (can be anywhere in the U.S.).
Is a Sport Pilot trained to lower standards than a Private Pilot?
No. The piloting and mastery of the aircraft is the same. The difference is in the additional private pilot experience at larger towered airports communicating with “air traffic control”, flying at night, old VOR navigation systems (GPS is the modern replacement) and flying above 10,000 feetMSL/or 2000 feet AGL.
What is the difference between the 20 hours minimum sport pilot flight training hours and 40 hours 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 (no new pilots use these anyway – it is all GPS). 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” Class B, C and D.
Can training for a sport pilot be used towards a private pilot certificate in the same category?
Yes, as long as the minimum dual training hours for the private pilot certificate are provided by a flight instructor qualified to teach private pilots.
What are the age requirements for a Sport Pilot?
Age requirements are the same as 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 a LSA as a sport pilot.
A third class FAA medical is required for private pilots to fly aircraft that do not qualify as LSA. 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 simply let their third-class medical expire and use their driver’s license as a 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 both in place of a using a single current drivers license.
Can I maintain my own light-sport aircraft (LSA)?
No matter where you buy your light-sport aircraft you must consider service after the sale. Mechanical devices will have parts that can, and do, fail. There is also the reality that as part of your learning curve you may damage something. This is not uncommon. Where the parts will come from, how much they cost, and how long it will take to get them may play a big role in your purchase decision. So will the actual work of replacing them.
S-LSA (Special-LSA) must be maintained by FAA certified mechanics, with the exception of some preventative maintenance such as adding oil, cooling fluid, air to tires, and minor maintenance. For a S-LSA, owner/operator preventative maintenance is determined by the manfacturer in the specific operations handbooks for the aircraft.
E-LSA (Experimental-LSA) is completely different. Any one can do maintenance on an E-LSA. This may be a reason to get an E-LSA if you want to do your own maintenance. If you are sufficiently mechanically adept that you can, with training, do many of the maintenance and repairs yourself. You may also have all the tools necessary to do the job. If you are not comfortable with this type of work you will need to consider how you will get this service and maintenance accomplished if needed.
When you buy a new light-sport aircraft you can usually have this work performed by the dealer. When you buy a used light-sport aircraft you may be on your own as warranties are seldom transferable and the original dealer usually has no obligation to support you.
All light-sport aircraft (LSA) require an Annual Condition Inspection every year by FAA certified repairman. For E-LSA, you can do this yourself if you take a 16 hour class for your category of aircraft (airplane, weight-shift control trike, or powered parachute). If you elect NOT to take the class, then you’ll need to find someone qualified to do this annual inspection, such as:
- An appropriately rated A&P mechanic
- An appropriately rated repair station
- A Light Sport Aircraft repairman with a maintenance rating
The two new FAA LSA Repairman Certificate ratings are Inspection and Maintenance.
- Inspection (16 hours) rating allows you to conduct the annual condition inspection on your own PPC E-LSA. It requires the successful completion of an FAA accepted 16-hour course for the specific class of LSA.
- Maintenance (120 hour) rating is a commercial rating allowing the annual condition inspection on the owner’s or others PPC S-LSA and E-LSA. It requires successful completion of a 120 hour course on maintenance for LSA.