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What Really Happened to a Transitioning “Ultralight Pilot” on January 31, 2007?

By Larry W. Clymer
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News Magazine

As with any major change there are bound to be more questions than answers. The world of the new sport pilot is no different. The issue that now faces us is what happened on January 31, 2007, and what this means to you. Are you confused about what happens if you are an ultralight pilot and if you wanted to make the transition to a sport pilot, but you did not do it before the January 31, 2007, deadline? Have you been told that your letter from your ultralight organization is no longer valid? Well, you are not alone! There has been a lot of confusion on what really happened if an ultralight pilot did not obtain a sport pilot certificate on or before the January 31, 2007, cutoff date referenced in Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) §61.329(a)(1). In basic terms, an ultralight pilot who has not already obtained a sport pilot certificate will no longer be able to use his/her letter documenting previous ultralight experience to obtain a sport pilot certificate under the more relaxed standards. This deadline only applied to ultralight pilots who were registered with one of the four FAA recognized organizations on or before September 1, 2004. If you are not one of these pilots, this date does not apply to you.

If you are flying an ultralight that meets 14 CFR §103 requirements, then no sport pilot certificate is necessary.

To understand this rule you need to break 14 CFR §61.329(a) into two parts. First, part §61.329(a) (1) describes the January 31, 2007, dead­line and how it only applies to ultralight pilots who were part of a recognized organization on or prior to September 1, 2004. Next, part §61.329(a) (2) ap­plies to anyone who has registered as an ultralight pilot after September 1, 2004. The January 31, 2007, dead­line never applied to you.

In reality the special provisions provided for in §61.329(a) (1) expired on January 31, 2007. Effective Febru­ary 1, 2007:

1. You must have the aeronautical knowledge requirements specified in §61.309. This means you must now receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course on the applicable aeronautical knowledge areas for a sport pilot.

2. You must have the flight proficiency requirements specified in §61.311. At which time, you must receive and log ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on the appropriate areas of operation for the category of light-sport aircraft being sought.

3. You must have the aeronautical experience requirements specified in §61.313. At which time, you must log the flight experience required for the applicable category of light-sport aircraft for which you seek to obtain a sport pilot certificate.

4. You will no longer be able to use the knowledge test for a flight instructor certificate to obtain a sport pilot certificate. If you have only taken the flight instructor knowledge test, you will also be required to take the sport pilot knowledge test for your category of light-sport aircraft.

5. You will no longer be able to obtain an endorsement for each category, class, and make and model of aircraft listed on your ultralight pilot records. You will have to take and pass a proficiency check for each additional category and class of light-sport aircraft being sought.

Does this mean you will no longer be able to use the logged aeronautical experience you have obtained as an ultralight pilot? The answer to this question is no. Title 14 CFR §61.52 authorizes you to use your ultralight flight experience. One misinterpretation of §61.52 is that the ultralight flight experience obtained while a member of an FAA recognized ultralight organization is ONLY valid until January, 31 2007, for pilots or January 31, 2008, for flight instructors. This is not the case, your aeronautical experience obtained under §61.52 are good forever! Your organizational membership letter and your logbook will qualify as proof of your experience. Therefore, you will need to keep these documents until you have obtained the certificates and/or ratings being sought.

The aeronautical experience obtained in an ultralight vehicle, however, can ONLY be used to meet the requirements for a sport pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate with a sport pilot rating, and/or a private pilot certificate with a weight-shift-control or powered parachute category rating. This experience CANNOT be used for any other FAA certificates or ratings. This time must have been logged in accordance with the provisions for logging aeronautical experience specified by an FAA recognized ultralight organization and in accordance with provisions for logging pilot time in an aircraft as specified in §61.51.

You must have obtained this experience as a registered ultralight pilot with one of the FAA recognized ultralight organizations. The four FAA recognized ultralight organizations are:

ASC – Aero Sports Connection
EAA – Experimental Aircraft Association
USHPA – United States Hang Gliding and Para Gliding Association
USUA – United States Ultralight Association.

While there has been some confusion about the transition for both ultralight pilots and vehicles, it is important that you understand the process and how it will affect you, especially if you are a transitioning pilot. The Light-Sport Aviation Branch, AFS-610, is here to support you in answering questions about light sport aviation topics. Please give us a call at (405) 954-6400.