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The Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft Regulations

The Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) Regulation became effective September 1, 2004, and ushered in a new pilot certification, a new category of aircraft (light-sport aircraft) certification, and a new repairman certification. The new Sport Pilot and LSA certifications provide for regulations governing recreational flying and the manufacturer, certification, operation, inspection and maintenance of LSAs. These regulations also make recreational flying more affordable by allowing lower pilot flight training requirements than those required for private and recreational pilots, and a “repairman certificate” which will require less training for mechanics and will lower aircraft maintenance costs. KATHERINE STATON

What is a Sport Pilot? The new Sport Pilot Rule provides for pilot certification requiring the following:

  • 1.

    You must be at least 17 years old (16 years old for a glider or balloon pilot);

  • 2.

    Hold an FAA Third Class Medical Certificate or a U.S. driver’s license;

  • 3.

    Successfully pass an FAA sport pilot knowledge test;

  • 4.

    Successfully pass a sport pilot practical (flight) test; and

  • 5.

    Have the following minimum required training:

    • a.

      Airplane – 20 hours

    • b.

      Powered Parachute – 12 hours

    • c.

      Weight-shifted-controlled (Trikes) aircraft – 20 hours

    • d.

      Glider – 10 hours

    • e.

      Rotor craft (Gyroplane only) – 20 hours

    • f.

      Lighter-than-air – 20 hours (airship) or 7 hours (balloon).

Sport pilots are limited from flying in Class A airspace (sport pilots cannot fly above 10,000 feet MSL) and a sport pilot cannot fly into Class B, C or D airspace unless that pilot has received training to fly into such airspace and a log book endorsement. Sport pilots are not allowed to carry passengers for compensation or hire.

The new Sport Pilot Regulation will dramatically affect the ultralight community in providing regulations and certifications for ultralight pilots and aircraft owners who were operating under 14 CFR Part 103 exemptions which allowed two-place ultralights to be used for training only. An ultralight pilot, pursuant to 14 CFR Part 103, can operate an ultralight (defined as single-place aircraft in Part 103) without a pilot’s license. However, as recreational flying has grown, “fat” (ultralights which exceed the weight limits of Part 103) and two-place ultralights have also grown in popularity, but the FAA has required these pilots to have at least a recreational pilot’s certificate pursuant to 14 CFR Part 91 to operate these ultralights. Because of the market demand for the operation of two-place ultralights and fat ultralights with less than a recreational pilot certificate, the FAA responded with the Sport Pilot certification.

One concern voiced pertaining to the Sport Pilot Rule pertains to pilots being allowed to fly with only a driver’s license instead of requiring an airman certificate. The Sport Pilot regulation provides that if a pilot’s most recent FAA issued medical certificate has been denied, suspended or revoked, that person may not use a driver’s

license as a basis for pilot fitness to fly under the Sport Pilot Rule until the denial is cleared from that pilot’s records. Additionally, if a pilot is relying on a driver’s license for flight fitness under the Sport Pilot Rule, and the pilot’s driver’s license was revoked for any offense, that pilot could not exercise the privileges of a sport pilot certificate until his or her driver’s license was reinstated. Any restrictions on a U.S. driver’s license (particularly vision restrictions) would apply when exercising the privileges of a sport pilot certificate. The FAA’s proposal to require a pilot to hold and possess a U.S. driver’s license as an alternative to obtaining a third class medical certificate is based on the assumption that a driver’s license provides a general baseline of accepted basic health. Additionally, the FAA thought that if an individual could operate an automobile in close proximity to other automobiles at high speeds, then such a person could operate a light-sport aircraft. There has also been some debate as to the differences in applying for driver’s licenses around the country and requirements for basic levels of health; however, the FAA determined that a driver’s license or a third class medical certificate provided the basic baseline for certification to be fit to receive a sport pilot license.

What is a Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA)? For an aircraft to be classified as a light-sport aircraft (LSA), the following are required:



3. 4.

5. 6.

7. 8. 9. 10

Maximum gross take-off weight – 1,320 pounds (1,430 pounds if float equipped for water operations); Lighter-than-air LSA maximum gross weight – 660 pounds; Maximum stall speed - 45 knots (51 mph); Maximum speed in level flight with maximum continuous power (VH) – 120 knots (138 mph); Two-place seat maximum (pilot and one passenger); Day VFR operation only (unless the aircraft is equipped per FAR §91.209 for night flight and the pilot holds at least a pilot certificate); Single, reciprocating (non-turbine) engine only; Fixed or ground adjustable propeller; Unpressurized cabin; . Fixed landing gear (movable or repositionable landing gear

for seaplanes for water operation);

  • 11.

    LSA aircraft will have an FAA registration, N number; and

  • 12.

    LSA aircraft can be operated as recreational aircraft or rented aircraft for instruction.

  • 13.

    Aircraft can be manufactured or sold ready-to-fly under new “special light-sport” aircraft certification – no FAR Part 23 compliance required. The LSA must be manufactured pursuant to consensus standards approved by the FAA.

  • 14.

    Aircraft can be kit, plans-built or kit/plans-built and operated as an ultralight under new “experimental light- sport aircraft” certification.

The new Sport Pilot regulations provide for the manufacture of safe and economically certified aircraft that are dramatically reduced in price from what aviation aircraft currently sell for on the market today. These new light-sport aircraft that will be certified under


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