Sport Pilot

This page contains most of the information you need to know about the Sport Pilot License. At the bottom of this page are common questions and answers.

Please notice that at this time, we can only provide Sport Pilot training in your Sport-certified two-seat aircraft only, and we can provide Sport Pilot Ground Training.

Quick Comparison of Pilot Certificates (Please consult the current regulations for specific details on regulatory compliance).

Type of Operations or Privileges Private Pilot Recreational Pilot Sport Pilot
Requires FAA medical Certificate Yes Yes Medical or U.S. driver's license and self-certification
Aircraft Size Limitations Unlimited (certain aircraft will require specific type ratings) 180 hp max. four seat max.  1,320 lb. max certificated gross weight, two seats max.
 Aircraft with retractable landing gear Yes No  No
More than one passenger may be carried Yes No No
Minimum flight training time required under FAR Par 61 40 hours (based on reported averages, it typically takes 70 hours) 30 hours (based on reported averages, it typically takes 44 hours) 20 hours (using the averages for private and recreational pilot; the typical average could be 33 hours)
Flight in Class B, C, or D airspace Yes Yes, no passengers and under CFI supervision to obtain additional certificates/ratings No
Flight outside United States airspace Yes No No
Less than 3 miles visibility Yes, in uncontrolled airspace No No
Sightseeing flights benefiting a charity or community Yes No No

The Sport Pilot Rule

Creates a new student sport pilot certificate for operating any aircraft that meets the definition of a light sport aircraft.
- Creates a new sport pilot certificate for operating any aircraft that meets the definition of a light sport-aircraft (LSA).
- Creates a new sport pilot instructor certificate.
- Requires FAA knowledge and practical (flight) tests.
- Credits ultralight training and experience toward a sport pilot certificate.
- Credits sport pilot flight time toward advanced pilot ratings
- Requires an FAA third-class medical certificate or a current and valid U.S. driver's license (provided the individual doesn't have an official medical denial or revocation on file with FAA).
- Does not allow carrying passengers for compensation or hire.
- Allows sharing ("pro-rata") operating expenses with another pilot.
- Allows day VFR flight only.
- Allow sport pilots to fly production aircraft (standard airworthiness certificate) that meet the definitions of a light sport aircraft.
- A Sport Pilot may not operate in Class B, C, and D airspace, at an airport located in Class B, C, or D airspace, and to, from, through, or on an airport having an operational control tower without having received the ground and flight training specified in FAR §61.94 and an endorsement from an authorized instructor.

Light Sport Aircraft

- Maximum gross takeoff weight: 1,320 pounds or 1,430 pounds if float equipped.
- Lighter-than-air LSA maximum gross weight: 660 pounds
- Maximum stall speed: 45 knots
- Maximum speed in level flight with maximum continuous power: 120 knots (138 mph).
- Two-place 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 private pilot certificate.
- Single, reciprocating engine only.
- Fixed or ground adjustable propeller
- Unpressurized cabin
- Fixed landing gear
- Movable landing gear for seaplanes to allow amphibious operation
- Can be manufactured and sold ready-to-fly under special-LSA certification without FAR Part 23 compliance. Aircraft must meet ASTM International consensus standards.. Aircraft under this certification may be used for sport and recreation, flight training, and aircraft rental.
- Kit and plans-built aircraft can be registered as experimental-LSA. These aircraft may be used only for recreation and flight instruction for the owner.
- Kit of plans-built craft operating as an ultralight trainer can be registered as an experimental-LSA until August 31, 2007.
- Will have FAA registration, N-number
- LSA category and class include: Airplane (Land/Sea), Powered Parachute, Weight-Shift-Control (Trike Land/Sea), Glider, Gyroplane, and Light-Than-Air (Airship and Balloon).
- U.S. or foreign manufacture of light sport aircraft is authorized.

General Requirements

1. Be at least 17 years of age (16 for glider or balloon)
2. Hold a current FAA third-class medical certificate or state driver's license
3. Successfully pass a FAA sport pilot knowledge test
4. Successfully pass a FAA sport pilot practical (flight) test.
5. The minimum training time for the different light sport aircraft categories are:

Airplane: 20 hours
Powered Parachute: 12 hours
Weight-Shift-Controlled (Trikes): 20 hours
Glider: 10 hours
Rotorcraft (gyroplane only): 20 hours
Lighter-Than-Air: 20 hours (airship) or 7 hours (balloon)

FAR §61.309 Aeronautical Knowledge
Except as specified in §61.329, 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:
(a) Applicable regulations of this chapter that relate to sport pilot privileges, limits, and flight operations.
(b) Accident reporting requirements of the National Transportation Safety Board.
(c) Use of the applicable portions of the aeronautical information manual and FAA advisory circulars.
(d) Use of aeronautical charts for VFR navigation using pilotage, dead reckoning, and navigation systems, as appropriate.
(e) Recognition of critical weather situations from the ground and in flight, windshear avoidance, and the procurement and use of aeronautical weather reports and forecasts.

(f) Safe and efficient operation of aircraft, including collision avoidance, and recognition and avoidance of wake turbulence.

(g) Effects of density altitude on takeoff and climb performance.

(h) Weight and balance computations

(i) Principles of aerodynamics, powerplants, and aircraft systems.

(j) Stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin recovery techniques, as applicable.

(k) Aeronautical decision making and risk management.

(l) Preflight actions that include: (1) 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 (2) How to plan for alternatives if the planned flight cannot be completed or if you encounter delays.

FAR §61.311 Flight Proficiency Requirements:

Except as specified in §61.329, 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, sea, glider, gyroplane, airship, balloon, powered parachute land or sea, and weight-shift-controlled aircraft land or sea privileges:

(a) Preflight preparation

(b) Preflight procedures

(c) Airport, seaplane base, and gliderport operations, as appropriate

(d) Takeoffs (or launches), landings, and go-arounds.

(e) Performance maneuvers, and for gliders, performance speeds.

(f) Ground reference maneuvers (not applicable to glider and balloons)

(g) Soaring techniques (applicable only to gliders)

(h) Navigation

(i) Slow flight (not applicable to lighter-than-air aircraft and powered parachutes).

(j) Stalls (not applicable to lighter-than-air aircraft, gyroplanes, and powered parachutes.

(k) Emergency Operations

(l) Post-flight procedures

FAR §61.313 Aeronautical Experience:

Only the Airplane category and single-engine land or sea class privileges are listed below. Different requirements exist for Glider, Rotorcraft, Lighter-than-air, Powered parachute, and Weight-shift-control categories.

(1) 20 hours of flight time, including at least 15 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane and at least 5 hours of solo flight training in the areas of operation listed in §61.311.

(i) 2 hours of cross-country flight training

(ii) 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.

(iii) 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, and

(iv) 3 hours of flight training on those areas of operation specified in §61.311 preparing for the practical test within 60 days before the date of the test.

Questions & Answers from the EAA

I want to earn my sport pilot certificate; what are the medical requirements?
To operate as a sport pilot, you must have either a valid state drivers license or a valid FAA third-class medical certificate. In addition, Federal Aviation Regulation 61.53 requires every pilot, from sport pilot to airline transport pilot, to conclude before each flight that he or she is medically fit to operate the aircraft in a safe manner. As pilots, it is our responsibility to ensure that our current medical health in no way jeopardizes the safety of a flight. If your most recent medical has been denied, suspended, or revoked, see What if Your Medical Has Been Denied?

I'm a private pilot. What are the medical requirements if I only exercise the privileges of a sport pilot?
To operate as a sport pilot, you must have either a valid state drivers license or a valid FAA third-class medical certificate. If your most recent medical has been denied, suspended, or revoked, see What if Your Medical Hass Been Denied?

What is meant by "valid" state driver's license?
Your state driver's license is valid as long as you comply with the laws of your state. Most states require you to stop driving and notify the state department of motor vehicles if you have a significant change in your health. The more common medical issues that require suspension of driving privileges are: Vision changes; Loss of consciousness; Impairment of judgment; Loss of motor function; seizures or blackouts.

If you have experienced any one of the above, even temporarily, you need to verify with your state department of motor vehicles that your driver's license is still valid. In addition, you should consult with your family doctor about the advisability of piloting an aircraft.

If your license is suspended or revoked due to traffic violations or alcohol/drug related convictions you cannot use your state drivers license to establish medical fitness and would have to possess a third-class medical certificate.

I just started on a new medication and the label says "May cause drowsiness" and "Use care when operating a car or dangerous machinery." Am I able to fly when taking his medicine?

You must determine your medical fitness before flying, so consult with the doctor who prescribed the medication to ensure that it will not interfere wit your piloting of an aircraft. Once you are established on a medicine, you and your doctor may determine that is has no adverse effects on you and there flying can be resumed. If in any doubt, don't fly.

Common Sense

Common sense is the rule that Sport Pilots must follow. The FAA has granted Sport Pilots the opportunity to avoid the cost and inconvenience of obtaining and maintaining a FAA 3rd class medical. If we, as Sport Pilots, use common sense and listen to advice of our family, friends, and personal physicians, we can ensure that medical issues do not compromise pilot and passenger safety and guarantee that this privilege is available for current and future sport pilots.

What if Your Medical Has Been Denied?

The sport pilot rule states that if an individual's most recent application for an FAA medical certificate has been denied, suspended, or revoked, that person may not use a driver's license as a medical certificate until the denial is cleared from the record. It is important that people understand the correct status of their FAA medical certificate. The provision affects only those who have received a denial, suspension, or revocation letter from the FAA.

Individuals who have a denial or suspension on record can become eligible to use the driver's license medical by one of two means:

- Pursue a one-time third-class medical certificate. Many conditions causing denial in the past are no longer cause for denial.

- FAA is developing an alternative medical review procedure to streamline re-evaluation of candidates.

For the latest information, monitor and for more details and changes