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Sport pilot license and approximate cost


Sport pilot license is a newly introduced license in 2005 and allows aviation enthusiasts to fulfill their passion of flying at half the cost. Unfortunately, information related to that is harder to come by and is not very clear. Let me make an attempt to clarify this.

Definition of Sport Aircrafts (or Light Sport Aircraft - LSA)

A plane that meet the following requirement:

  1. A maximum takeoff weight of not more than
    • 660 pounds (300 kilograms) for lighter-than-air aircraft;
    • 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms) for aircraft not intended for operation on water; or
    • 1,430 pounds (650 kilograms) for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
  2. A maximum airspeed in level flight of not more than 120 knots in standard conditions.
  3. A maximum never-exceed speed of not more than 120 knots CAS for a glider.
  4. A maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices of not more than 45 knots CAS at the aircraft's maximum certificated takeoff weight and most critical center of gravity.
  5. A maximum seating capacity of no more than two persons, including the pilot.
  6. A single, reciprocating engine, if powered.
  7. A fixed or ground-adjustable propeller if a powered aircraft other than a powered glider.
  8. A fixed or autofeathering propeller system if a powered glider.
  9. A fixed-pitch, semi-rigid, teetering, two-blade rotor system, if a gyroplane.
  10. A nonpressurized cabin, if equipped with a cabin.
  11. Fixed landing gear, except for an aircraft intended for operation on water or a glider.
  12. Fixed or repositionable landing gear, or a hull, for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
  13. Fixed or retractable landing gear for a glider.

Requirements for getting sport pilot license

Medical - US driver's license is enough. No need to go for 3rd class medical certificate.

Age, language, and pilot certificate requirements -

  1. Be at least 17 years old (or 16 years old if you are applying to operate a glider or balloon).
  2. Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English. If you cannot read, speak, write, and understand English because of medical reasons, the FAA may place limits on your certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of light-sport aircraft.

Tests -

  1. Knowledge test
  2. Practical test

Aeronautical knowledge - Receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course on the following aeronautical knowledge areas:

  1. Applicable regulations of this chapter that relate to sport pilot privileges, limits, and flight operations.
  2. Accident reporting requirements of the National Transportation Safety Board.
  3. Use of the applicable portions of the aeronautical information manual and FAA advisory circulars.
  4. Use of aeronautical charts for VFR navigation using pilotage, dead reckoning, and navigation systems, as appropriate.
  5. Recognition of critical weather situations from the ground and in flight, windshear avoidance, and the procurement and use of aeronautical weather
    reports and forecasts.
  6. Safe and efficient operation of aircraft, including collision avoidance, and recognition and avoidance of wake turbulence.
  7. Effects of density altitude on takeoff and climb performance.
  8. Weight and balance computations.
  9. Principles of aerodynamics, powerplants, and aircraft systems.
  10. Stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin recovery techniques, as applicable.
  11. Aeronautical decision making and risk management.
  12. Preflight actions that include—
    • How to get information on runway lengths at airports of intended use, data on takeoff and landing distances, weather reports and forecasts, and fuel requirements; and
    • How to plan for alternatives if the planned flight cannot be completed or if you encounter delays.

Flight proficiency requirements - Receive and log ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on the following areas of operation, as appropriate, for airplane single-engine land or sea, glider, gyroplane, airship, balloon, powered parachute land or sea, and weight-shift-control aircraft land or sea privileges:

  1. Preflight preparation.
  2. Preflight procedures.
  3. Airport, seaplane base, and gliderport operations, as applicable.
  4. Takeoffs (or launches), landings, and go-arounds.
  5. Performance maneuvers, and for gliders, performance speeds.
  6. Ground reference maneuvers (not applicable to gliders and balloons).
  7. Soaring techniques (applicable only to gliders).
  8. Navigation.
  9. Slow flight (not applicable to lighter-than-air aircraft and powered parachutes).
  10. Stalls (not applicable to lighter-than-air aircraft, gyroplanes, and powered parachutes).
  11. Emergency operations.
  12. Post-flight procedures.

Aeronautical experience -

For Airplanes,

Total - 20 hours
Flight training - 15 hours
Solo - 5 hours
Dual cross country - 2 hours
Solo cross country - 1 hours
rep - 3 hours

What Are The Sport Pilot Privileges And Limitations?

Privileges -

  1. You can only fly when visibility is 3 miles or greater
  2. You can carry a passenger
  3. You can fly in class E and G airspace
  4. You can fly aircraft that meet the definition of light-sport aircraft (LSA)

Limitations -

  1. You cannot fly for compensation or hire
  2. You can not fly above 10,000 ft
  3. You can not fly at night
  4. You cannot tow any object

How much does it cost and why?

Approximate costs = $3,500

Reason -

  1. Training requirement is 50% of private pilot e.g. total hours for LSA is 20 hr vs 40 hrs for private pilot.
  2. Cost of operating the plane is much less than regular planes like Cessna 172 or Piper etc. However, I have seen that flying clubs charge almost equal to what Cessna will cost for flying. Not to discredit them completely, we have to realize that all thes eplanes are relatively new and thus their is higher investment in buying them compared to 1967 Cessna 152 that I fly (costs < $20,000).

Few schools for getting your Sport Pilot license-

1. Northwest Sport Planes
2. Aviator Air

Given that this license category was created only in 2005, there are very few instructors and schools. Contact us if you know of a good school and we will add them here.

Note: Please refer to FAA FAR/AIM requirements for exact specifications as any change in them may not be reflected here. Also, above document is not reflective to exact rules and regulations as it has been modified to make it easier to consume.

Related Books on Sport Pilot

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