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Sport Pilot TrainingThree Reasons To Consider A Sport Pilot Certificate
By Kyle Garrett
Sport pilot training is one of the most exciting areas of flight training in the US. It is relatively new, but it is a great place to start an adventure in aviation. In the past, flying anything heavier than 254 pounds (the weight limit for ultralights) required at least a recreational pilot certificate. The training difference for a recreational and private pilot certificates is so minuscule, that most pilots opted to hold out for the less restrictive private pilot certificate. That's where sport pilot comes in.
Sport pilot training offers a quicker path to certification
Sport pilot training is much more flexible than the recreational certificate and doesn't require as much training as a private pilot certificate. In fact, the required flight hours are half that of the private pilot certificate. There are some restrictions, like no night flying, but sport pilots also have a lot of flexibility. The sport pilot certificate is designed to be a low-cost way for pleasure fliers to get in the cockpit, but it is also a great way to start a pilot career.
Sport pilot training doesn't require a medical exam
Something unique to the sport pilots is the ability to self-certify medical fitness with a drivers license. You don't need a medical certificate to fly sport pilot. There is one big potential exception to this rule, you can't have been denied a medical. That means, if you go to an aviation medical examiner who says you are unfit for flight, you can't turn around and self-certify your medical fitness. From that point, the FAA says you've got to get a medical examiner to approve you for flight just like everyone else.
Sport pilot training puts you in the cockpit of great aircraft
One of the areas where the sport pilot certificate is obviously more restricted than a private pilot certificate is aircraft. Sport pilots are only allowed to fly light sport aircraft, or LSA, which are aircraft that meet a certain standard. Generally, the standard is an aircraft less than 1320 pounds gross weight, with only two seats, and a maximum speed of less than 120 knots. There are several other restrictions, but generally it isn't a mystery whether a plane is an LSA or not.
There are two major categories of LSA: purpose-built LSA, like the Remos GX or Icon A5, and legacy LSA, like the Piper Cub or Aeronca Champ. These two categories of LSA are very different, but offer interesting perks. The purpose-built LSA tend to be sleek and modern looking and they sport cockpits stuffed with the latest technology. They don't carry quite the cost of traditional aircraft, like the Cessna 182, but they aren't cheap either. The appeal is that you can gain proficiency with glass panel avionics, GPS and autopilots more affordably than a private pilot. If expense is your primary concern, the legacy LSA will be helpful. With legacy LSA, which are certified aircraft that meet LSA regulations, there aren't as many bells and whistles. Many of these aircraft are the old tube-and-fabric, stick-and-rudder standards of yesteryear. The benefit is, they are cheap and simple to operate.
No matter your goal, whether it is to become a professional pilot, Sunday flier, or something in between, sport pilot training is a great way to get started.
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