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, gliders, and airships (blimp). These are simple, light-weight and less expensive to own and operate than conventional aircraft. This can be any glider or single-engine piston-powered aircraft under 1,320 pounds maximum gross 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 Federal regulations 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 license (certificate) is required to fly an 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 fixed-wing airplanes, 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 airman certificate 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 higher pilot 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 medical certificate 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 ‘Certified Flight 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 level.
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 flight training, 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 ‘control towered airports’ Class B, C and D.
Can training for a sport pilot be used towards a private pilot certificate in the same category?
Yes, 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 an 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.
E-LSA (Experimental-LSA) is completely different. Anyone 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 and maintenance 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 seldom transferable 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 (airplane, 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 of LSA. 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.