How To Get A Sport Pilot License
Are you looking to get into the sky, but do not have the time or money to pursue a full-on private pilot certificate? The sport pilot certificate may be the thing you are looking for then.
This newer option of pilot certification allows pilots to solo and get into the air with certain limitations but with far less cost. Many aspiring pilots have elected to go with this option due to the simplicity and leniency.
In this article, we will dive in and explain the ins and outs of the sport pilot certificate. Our goal is to share with our readers the information they need to know to make an informed decision for their aviation desires!
Disclaimer, in this article we will use the certificate and license interchangeably. Officially it is known as a certificate, but it is common practice to call certificates licenses.
Secondly, sport pilots may operate light-sport aircraft that include powered parachutes, weight-shift control aircraft, balloons, airships, gliders, and gyroplanes, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the fixed-wing, single-engine, land and sea Light sport aircraft.
What Is A Sport Pilot License?
A Sport License or officially what is known as a sport pilot certificate allows pilots to fly light sport aircraft without having a private pilot certificate. Pilots with this certificate are limited to day VFR flying only but can carry up to one more passenger.
A Sport Pilot Certificate requires a medical, a valid U.S. driver’s license, or the pilot to comply with basic med. What stands out is the fact that it does not require medical certification, and pilots can fly with just a driver’s license. This was groundbreaking and encouraged many to start going for this certificate.
After much debate and discussion, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the governing body for aviation in the United States decided that the medical requirements needed to operate an automobile are at a high enough level to be used for s sport pilot certificate as well.
This does not mean you cannot have a medical certificate. It is still highly encouraged, especially if you plan on seeking higher certifications, but a sport pilot certification only requires a valid U.S. Driver’s license.
The exception to this rule is the flying of Any light-sport glider or balloon for which you hold the endorsements required for its category and class. These vehicles do not require a medical certificate or driver’s license.
Are There Requirements To Use A Driver's License?
The short answer is yes. Below are the stipulations for the use of your driver’s license instead of the medical.
- You must comply with each restriction and limitation imposed on your driver’s license.
- You must comply with any judicial or administrative order applying to the operation of a motor vehicle.
- If you applied for a medical certificate, you cannot have been denied your most recent application for a medical certificate.
- If you have had one issued you cannot have your most recently issued medical certificate suspended or revoked
- You cannot have had your most recent authorization for special issuance of a medical certificate withdrawn (a special issuance is not a denial)
Eligibility For Sport Pilot License
In order to be eligible for a sport pilot certificate you must:
- Be at least 17 years old (or 16 years old if you are applying to operate a glider or balloon).
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English. If you cannot read, speak, write, and understand English because of medical reasons, the FAA may place limits on your certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of light-sport aircraft.
Items Required To Obtain A Sport Pilot License
The first thing you will need is a student pilot certificate. It is very important to get started on the process for this as soon as possible. The process of getting a sport pilot certificate is a lot faster than getting a PPL, so it is imperative to get the ball rolling.
Learn everything that you need to know about this certificate here. The article goes into the process of getting one, what it does, and common questions.
Before getting your student pilot certificate you will receive a temporary student pilot certificate while you wait for your actual one. Find out about the temporary certificate here. It aims to answer common questions associated with it.
Secondly, as mentioned before, you will need either a medical certificate or a valid U.S. driver’s license
Cost Of Getting A Sport Pilot License
On average, it will cost around $5,000 to get a sport pilot certificate. This is the average and the range varies between 3.5 – 7K for the certificate.
This number would make sense considering the biggest cost of any license/certificate would be the flying portion. A private pilot license costs roughly $10,000, and a sport pilot certificate requires half of the hours as the PPL depending on the school type.
It is important to note that the minimum number of hours isn’t necessarily the time that a student pilot would receive their certificate. Everyone works at their own pace, but if it takes more hours to achieve it, it will end up costing more.
What are other factors that go into this number?
- Flight Instruction: Flight instruction cost is dependent on your area and the experience of the instructor. A flight school in Richmond, VA will have different rates than Miami, FL. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30-$60 per hour for the instructor.
- Airplane Rental: Similar to the instruction, it varies on location and aircraft type. You also have to consider fuel. Since you will be flying a light-sport aircraft, the rental should be cheaper than a normal training flight for a PPL, but that is not guaranteed. You can expect around $100 per hour.
- Supplies and Gear: Most flying schools will offer student headsets and supplies for flying, but the caveat to using the school’s gear is that it probably will not be the best or the cleanest. Especially during covid times, consider getting your own gear and supplies.
- Training Materials & Exam Fees: You will have to take courses and get books to pass the knowledge exam. This could be in the ballpark of $300-$600 depending on what courses you go for. Make sure to check them all out and review them before making the choice. The most expensive isn’t necessarily the best and vice versa
- Here is a list of 7 awesome resources for student pilots that are free! Check it out below
Top 7 Free Reading Material For Any Pilot
What Are The Training Requirements to Receive A Sport Pilot Certificate?
The training requirements for a sport pilot certificate with airplane category and single-engine land or sea class privileges are as follows:
- 15 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane
- 5 hours of solo time
- 2 hours of cross-country flight training,
- 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport
- One solo cross-country flight of at least 75 nautical miles total distance, with a full-stop landing at a minimum of two points and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 25 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations
- 2 hours of flight training with an authorized instructor in preparation for the practical test within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.
You must pass a knowledge test on the applicable aeronautical knowledge (more later on in the article)
You must pass a practical test on the applicable areas of operation
Tests For A Sport Pilot License
Sport Pilot Certificate Knowledge Test
Before you can take the knowledge test required to receive your sport pilot certificate, you must obtain a logbook endorsement from the instructor you trained with. It can also be an instructor who reviewed and evaluated your home-study course on the outlined aeronautical knowledge.
To apply for a sport pilot certificate, you must receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course on the following aeronautical knowledge areas:
- To apply for a sport pilot certificate, you must receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course on the following aeronautical knowledge areas:
- Applicable regulations relate to sport pilot privileges, limits, and flight operations.
- Accident reporting requirements of the National Transportation Safety Board.
- Use of the applicable portions of the aeronautical information manual and FAA advisory circulars.
- Use of aeronautical charts for VFR navigation using pilotage, dead reckoning, and navigation systems, as appropriate.
- Recognition of critical weather situations from the ground and in flight, windshear avoidance, and the procurement and use of aeronautical weather reports and forecasts.
- Safe and efficient operation of aircraft, including collision avoidance, and recognition and avoidance of wake turbulence.
- Effects of density altitude on takeoff and climb performance.
- Weight and balance computations.
- Principles of aerodynamics, powerplants, and aircraft systems.
- Stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin recovery techniques, as applicable.
- Aeronautical decision making and risk management.
- Knowledge on how to get information on runway lengths at airports of intended use, data on takeoff and landing distances, weather reports and forecasts, and fuel requirements; and
- Knowledge on how to plan for alternatives if the planned flight cannot be completed or if you encounter delays
Sport Pilot Certificate Practical Test
Before you can take the practical test required to receive your sport pilot certificate, you must obtain a logbook endorsement from the instructor you trained with. This endorsement certifies that you meet the applicable aeronautical knowledge and experience requirements and are prepared for the practical test.
To apply for a sport pilot certificate, you must receive and log ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on the following areas of operation, as appropriate, for airplane single-engine land or sea, glider, gyroplane, airship, balloon, powered parachute land or sea, and weight-shift-control aircraft land or sea privileges:
- Preflight preparation (Mission Planning).
- Preflight procedures.
- Airport, seaplane base, and glider port operations, as applicable.
- Takeoffs (or launches), landings, and go-arounds.
- Performance maneuvers, and for gliders, performance speeds.
- Ground reference maneuvers (not applicable to gliders and balloons).
- Soaring techniques (applicable only to gliders).
- Slow flight (not applicable to lighter-than-air aircraft and powered parachutes).
- Stalls (not applicable to lighter-than-air aircraft, gyroplanes, and powered parachutes).
- Emergency operations.
- Post-flight procedures.
The biggest thing they are looking for on practical tests or check rides is that you operate the aircraft safely and effectively. The evaluator does not expect perfection. They will look for mistakes and if you recognize the mistakes and how you react to them.
What Can You Fly With A Sport Pilot Certificate?
As a sport pilot, you are certified to fly Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA). This means that Any aircraft that meets the definition of a light-sport aircraft as called out in 14 CFR Part 1.1 would be considered eligible.
The biggest things that constitute a LSA include:
- gross takeoff weight: 1,320 lbs (600 kg) or 1,430 lbs for seaplanes (650 kg)
- speed in level flight 120 knots (220 km/h; 140 mph) CAS
- Max: 2 Seats
- 1 Engine
- Cabin: unpressurized
- Landing gear: fixed (except for seaplanes and gliders)
These aircraft can be certificated in any category, such as standard, experimental amateur-built, experimental exhibition, experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA), or special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA).
What are Examples of Light-Sport Aircraft?
Some common examples would include many of the Taylorcraft aircraft such as L-2, BC-65, DC-65
A full list that gets updated regularly is found on the FAA website
What Can You Do With A Sport Pilot License?
When operating as a sport pilot, you as the pilot must operate within the following guidelines of the sport pilot certificate:
Privileges For Sport Pilots
Limitations For Sport Pilots
Should I Get A Sport Pilot License?
A sport pilot license would be good for anyone that wants to be a certified pilot but does not plan on using it to go very far. This certificate is great if you want to just stay in the local area and check out the ground from a bird’s eye view whenever you want.
You will be saving money by not going for the private pilot license since it is half of the flying training in terms of hours. This also comes with stipulations, which were mentioned in the limitations section above.
It allows you to carry a passenger so that you will not be lonely. As long as you are happy with staying in smaller aircraft, not going super-fast, and the limitations did not deter you then this could be a great option for you.
At the end of the day, if you decide you’d like to have more privileges added on or seek a higher certification, you have this option.
We hope this helps!