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,
airships (blimp). These are simple, light-weight and less expensive to own and operate than
aircraft. This can be any glider or single-engine piston powered aircraft under 1,320 pounds
weight that meets the FAA definition of a light-sport aircraft. The full description and
list of the 13 criteria
that define what exactly a light sport aircraft is can be found in part 1.1 of the Code of
title 14 FAR 's . Our student's we be trained to be fully fluent with this information. For
now just know this:
The aircraft can hold a pilot and may carry one passenger. The maximum speed is 138 mph (120
knots) full power
level flight, have fixed landing gear and a fixed pitch propeller. A minimum FAA sport pilot
(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 may operate
aircraft that are in
the new Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) category . The most popular of these aircraft being
weight-shift control trikes, powered parachutes (PPC) and gyroplanes. A Sport Pilot license
may be obtained with
20 hours minimum training (12 hours for powered parachutes), compared to 40 hours minimum
for a private pilot
license.However, we caution you to understand that achieving your certificate with only
those minimum hours is
both extremely rare and in our opinion an unreasonable concept.
Do I need a Pilot certificate to fly a LSA?
Yes. You must obtain a Sport Pilot
minimum or a Private Pilot airman certificate if you wish to operate an LSA aircraft .
Single seat ultralight
vehicles are less regulated and more clearly defined under the Federal Aviation Regulations
Part 103, where a
pilot license may not be required.
What about existing private pilots flying LSA?
Pilots with an airplane private or
certificate may legally fly an LSA airplane as long as they are current to fly airplanes.
However, it is
advisable to get a checkout by a qualified instructor before attempting to pilot the LSA
that you intend to
operate. These aircraft may exhibit characteristics quite different than other aircraft that
you may be familiar
with. An existing pilot, private pilot for example, may fly as a sport pilot even if their
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,
recreational, private or
higher pilot wants to fly an additional category of aircraft at the sport pilot level, for
example: an airplane
pilot wants to fly a weight-shift control trike, they may be trained by one trike qualified
Instructor' (CFI) and then take a proficiency check with another trike qualified CFI. No
minimum hours required.
This provides a log book endorsement for the pilot to fly the additional category of
aircraft at the sport pilot
The pro-check option is a powerful tool unique to the sport pilot. This
flexibility is not
available at Private pilot level.
As a Sport Pilot, where and when can I fly?
At almost all airports in the U.S. with
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 are 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
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
airports' Class B, C and D.
Can training for a sport pilot be used towards a private pilot certificate in the same
your time as a sport pilot does count towards your total flight time hours. Only the hours
(5 minimum) of solo
time that take place prior to becoming a certificated sport pilot will not count towards
higher ratings, unless
you have been solo endorsed by a sub part H CFI. However, this restriction is lifted once
you become a
certificated sport pilot. If building flight hours is a goal for you it often makes sense to
buy an inexpensive
ELSA aircraft and use it to build your log book flight time as a sport pilot. Imagine the
savings while building
say a thousand hours towards your first commercial pilot position . Operating your own
aircraft that cost around
$20,000 to purchase and has minimal expense to maintain and that only burns 4-6 gallons per
hour of automotive
grade pump gasoline. Those thousand hours could cost you as little as $40 per hour to
acquire as opposed to the
$150- $250 per hour in a rental airplane or larger certificated airplane that you may own.
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.
Glider candidates may
Solo a glider at age 14 and receive their glider pilot certificate at age 16.
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 that 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. Accept in the case of
glider pilots, glider
pilots may legally operate their aircraft even if their medical has been revoked, provided
they still qualify
for their state issued 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.
(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
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
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
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
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.