Sport Pilot Certificate

For decades, thousands of pilots across the United States have participated in the fun and exciting activity of flying. On any given day at any local General Aviation airport, one can observe hobbyists flying experimental and even home-built aircraft. Some aircraft may have resembled their larger, popular single engine counterparts, while others may have looked like something out of a 1950's sci-fi movie. Many pilots even fly their own creations. This type of aircraft gives pilots opportunities to embrace flying in its most basic form. The benefits these pilots experience include inexpensive operating and maintenance costs, freedom to fly in great weather in low traffic areas, and the opportunity to become involved in numerous aviation clubs and organizations.

While the enthusiasm for flying these machines existed, a viable alternative to the private pilot certificate did not. The FAA attempted to solve the problem with a Recreation Pilot Certificate. While the FAA's intentions meant well, often recreation pilots found regulations to be limiting. One of the biggest downsides recreation pilots faced was being required to obtain a 3rd class medical certificate. Pilots in training were held to standards far exceeding what was deemed necessary to safely and competently pilot a recreation aircraft. Most recreation pilots found themselves close enough to Private Pilot Standards, so they simply upgraded their certificate. Due to its unpopularity, less than 1% of pilots hold a recreation certificate.

The FAA determined there needed to be a change. In 2005, the Sport Pilot Certificate was created. This new certification finally gave pilots a clear alternative to obtaining a Private Pilot Certificate. A new class of aircraft was also created for these pilots called Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). Training became simplified and pilots no longer were required to obtain a medical.

Thanks to the efforts of the FAA and numerous sport aircraft advocacy groups and associations, you now have the opportunity to join this incredible and ever expanding world of Light Sport Aircraft. Challenging yourself to learn how to fly could be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of your life. If you want to fly on a budget, have no plans to obtain a medical certificate, or simply have interest in flying light sport aircraft, the sport pilot certificate may be the perfect opportunity for you.

What Can I Do With A Sport Pilot License?

The Sport Pilot Certificate allows for you to fly Light Sport Aircraft. LSA's can be bought in completed form, from a kit, or even built from home. There are many dedicated companies that sell ready-to-fly models and kits.

Although seemingly similar to the Private Pilot License, Sport Pilots are limited in regards to time of day flying, class of aircraft, and amount of passengers carried.

A Sport Pilot may only fly solo or carry no more than one passenger. When flying with a passenger, the pilot flying must pay for no less than 50% of the expenses. A Sport Pilot is never allowed to fly for compensation or hire.

As a sport pilot you are also limited to what type of airspace you may fly into. Approved airspace includes:

  • Class E (usually starting at 1,200' AGL [Above Ground Level], sometimes lower over selected airports, no control tower at airports, some control from ATC exists)
  • Class G (Airspace usually below 1,200' AGL to the ground, uncontrolled airspace)
  • Airspace up to 10,000 MSL [mean sea level]

The ability to fly into more congested areas may be accomplished with the proper training and endorsement from a certified flight instructor. This airspace includes:

  • Class B (Large airports with complex radar services and high volumes of high speed traffic and the area surrounding. An Example of such airport is Chicago O'Hare)
  • Class C (Medium to Large Regional airports and surrounding area with Radar Capabilities)
  • Class D (Small to medium sized airports with an operating control tower)

Sport Pilots may only fly during Daytime hours following VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Sport pilots must always fly with 3 miles of visibility while maintaining visual contact with the ground.

While this may seem limiting, there are around 16,000 airports in the United States. Only a very small percentage of these airports actually fall within Class B, C, and D airspace. Current sport pilots enjoy flying in areas of low congestion. Most sport aircraft are designed for recreation in mind, and mainly you'll be flying in areas you wish to explore.


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