Sport Aircraft Opens Flying to More Persons
Some 20 or so years ago the ultralight movement
in aviation was blossoming, attracting increasing numbers of persons and a
plethora of vehicles. At the same time, new aircraft in the general aviation
fleet were becoming more sophisticated, more expensive, and more demanding of
pilot skills. The Federal Aviation Administration decided it was time to put
more structure into the regulations, both to stabilize the growing ultralight
activity and perhaps open more affordable flight to additional persons. The
FAA's Aviation Rule Making Advisory Committee undertook the task of looking at
The committee went to work and came up with a
new level of flight between the ultralight sport and the more complex standard
general aviation personal and business flying. Tom Poberezny, president of the
Experimental Aircraft Association and a member of the committee, was one who saw
the great potential in new regulations that would get more persons into flying.
From the beginning, EAA has been a strong supporter of the development of the
Sport Pilot licensing and Light Sport Aircraft.
The whole project ground through the federal
labyrinth and the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft category was born, becoming
effective September 1, 2004 with a series of dates for phasing in different
aspects. Simply put, the category enables persons to operate small, simple,
low-performance, low-energy aircraft in certain airspace while holding a current
driver's license 'or a valid third-class medical certificate. But there are many
By taking and passing a test, any currently
FAA-certificated pilot can exercise privileges of a sport pilot using only a
driver's license unless that pilot failed the most recent medical examination or
if the certificate has been suspended, revoked, or denied. A certificated pilot
operating with only a driver's license is limited to the rules of sport
piloting. A sport pilot certificate holder does not need the medical
certificate, only a valid driver's license.
To obtain a sport pilot certificate a student
needs 20 hours of flight time, including at least 15 hours of flight instruction
with an authorized instructor and at least 5 hours of solo time. This must
include at least 2 hours cross-country flight training, 10 takeoffs and landings
to a full stop with each landing involving a traffic pattern at an airport. One
solo cross country flight must be at least 75 nautical miles distance, with a
full-stop landing at a minimum of two stops, and one segment of the flight must
consist of a straight-line distance of at least 25 miles between takeoff and
landing locations; and 3 hours of flight training in such areas of operation as
preflight preparation, preflight procedures, performance maneuvers, navigation,
slow flight, stalls, and other related subjects.
Additional ratings may be secured'after proper
instruction and testing'for glider, rotorcraft, gyroplane, lighter-than-air,
powered parachute, and weight-shift control aircraft. Certificates may be issued
for land or seaplane.
A sport pilot license permits the carrying of
one passenger. That passenger may share the expenses but may not pay the pilot
for services. The holder of the certificate must pay at least half of the
expenses of the trip.
A sport pilot has many restrictions besides the
kind and weight of the vehicle. The holder of a sport pilot certificate may not
act as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft:
1. That is carrying a passenger or property
for compensation or hire.
2. For compensation or hire.
3. In furtherance of a business.
4. While carrying more than one passenger.
5. At night.
6. In Class A airspace
7. In class B, C. and D. airspace, at an
airport located in Class B, C, or D airspace, and to, through, or at an
airport having an operational control tower unless the certificate holder
has met certain qualifications, among them being additional training in
operation of radios, communications, navigation systems, control tower
operations, and made at least three takeoffs and landings to a full stop at
an airport with a control tower, plus knowing the applicable rules for Class
B, C, and D airspace and air traffic control clearances.
8. Outside the United States unless the
holder has prior authorization from the country in which the holder wants to
9. To demonstrate the aircraft in flight to
a prospective buyer if the holder is an aircraft salesperson.
10. In a passenger-carrying airlift
sponsored by a charitable organization.
11. At an altitude of more than 10,000 feet
12. When flight and surface visibility is
less than 3 statute miles.
13. Without visual reference to the surface.
14. If the aircraft has a VH that exceeds 87
knots calibrated air speed, unless the holder has received additional
15 Contrary to any operating limitation
placed on the airworthiness certificate of the aircraft being flown.
16 Contrary to any limit or endorsement on
the pilot certificate, medical certificate or other limit or endorsement
from an authorized instructor.
17. Contrary to any restriction or
limitation on the holder's driver's license.
18. While towing any object.
19. As a pilot flight crewmember on any
aircraft for which more than one pilot is required.
Sport pilot instructors are available at many
locations and additional individuals are obtaining these ratings.
With a sport pilot license, the holder is
limited to aircraft that meet the light-sport aircraft criteria. This means the
1. A maximum takeoff weight of not
(i) 660 pounds for
lighter than air aircraft
(ii) 1,320 pounds for
aircraft not intended for operation on water, or
(iii) 1.430 pounds for
an aircraft intended to operate on water.
2. A maximum airspeed in level
flight with maximum continuous power (VH) of not more than 120
knots CAS under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.
3. A maximum never-exceed speed (VNE)
of not more than 120 knots for a glider.
4. A maximum stalling speed or
minimum steady flight speed without use of lift-enhancing devices
(VS1) of not more than 45 knots.
5. A maximum seating capacity of no
more than two persons, including the pilot.
6. A single, reciprocating engine,
7. A fixed or ground-adjustable
propeller if a powered aircraft other than a powered glide.
8. A fixed of auto-feathering
propeller system if a powered glider.
9. A fixed-pitch, semi-rigid,
teetering, two-blade rotor system, if a gyroplane.
10. A non-pressurized cabin.
11. Fixed landing gear, except for
aircraft intended for use on the water.
12. Fixed or repositionable landing
gear, or a hull, for an aircraft intended for operation on water,
13. Fixed or retractable landing
gear for a glider.
Model choice expanding
A few aircraft'Piper J-3 Cub, Taylorcraft,
Luscomb, and Aeronca, for instance'meet the requirements for sport category and
a number of aircraft made specifically for this market are beginning to be
available after FAA certification. Many home-built models also meet the sport
specifications. The first two aircraft to get certification from the FAA are the
Czech-built Evektor Sportstar and the German-made Flight Design CT. These
European-made aircraft are first because the FAA Sport-Pilot program is based
largely on the European rule for sport aircraft. The Czech plane is a low-wing
model with a bubble canopy that covers side-by-side seating, while the German
entry into the U.S field is a high-wing model. Others coming soon include Just
Aircraft's Highlander, Fantasy Air's Allegro 2000, and a model that looks like
an update of the Piper Cub with a wider cabin and repositioned fuel tanks that
change the position of the center of gravity permitting the pilot to sit in the
front seat. A number of kits are available for the home-builder.
The aircraft have the basic instruments and can
be outfitted with additional ones for navigation and communication. Prices of
the basic new aircraft are around $60,000 and up, permitting group ownership at
relatively minimal costs.
Pilot and aircraft insurance are available from
The industry and the pilot community are moving
fast, now that the Sport Pilot program is at last a reality. The availability of
aircraft less expensive to buy and operate and the ability to get a certificate
with only 20 hours of training is opening the pleasures of flight to many
persons heretofore left out because of cost and time. Many industry observers
believe this new category of flight will reinvigorate the market and attract
persons who, once they taste the pleasures of flight, will advance to bigger,
more efficient aircraft to carry additional passengers and reach new and farther