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Sport Pilot & Light Sport Aircraft
What You Need To Know To Get Started

Light Sport Aircraft

What is a Light-Sport Aircraft?

The FAA defines a light-sport aircraft as an aircraft, other than a helicopter or powered-lift that, since its original certification, has continued to meet the following:

  • Maximum gross takeoff weight'1,320 lbs, or 1,430 lbs for seaplanes.
  • Lighter-than-air maximum gross weight'660 lbs (300 kg.)
  • Maximum stall speed'51 mph (45 knots)
  • Maximum speed in level flight with maximum continuous power (Vh)'138 mph (120 knots)
  • Single or two-seat aircraft only
  • Single, reciprocating engine (if powered), including rotary or diesel engines
  • Fixed or ground-adjustable propeller
  • Unpressurized cabin
  • Fixed landing gear, except for an aircraft intended for operation on water or a glider
  • Can be manufactured and sold ready-to-fly under a new Special Light-Sport aircraft certification category. Aircraft must meet industry consensus standards. Aircraft under this certification may be used for sport and recreation, flight training, and aircraft rental.
  • Can be licensed Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (E-LSA) if kit- or plans-built. Aircraft under this certification may be used only for sport and recreation and flight instruction for the owner of the aircraft.
  • Can be licensed Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (E-LSA) if the aircraft has previously been operated as an ultralight but does not meet the FAR Part 103 definition of an ultralight vehicle. These aircraft must be transitioned to E-LSA category no later than January 31, 2008.
  • Will have FAA registration'N-number.
  • Aircraft category and class includes: Airplane (Land/Sea), Gyroplane, Airship, Balloon, Weight-Shift-Control ("Trike" Land/Sea), and Powered Parachute.
  • U.S. or foreign manufacture of light-sport aircraft is authorized.
  • Aircraft with a standard airworthiness certificate that meet above specifications may be flown by sport pilots. However, the aircraft must remain in standard category and cannot be changed to light-sport aircraft category. Holders of a sport pilot certificate may fly an aircraft with a standard airworthiness certificate if it meets the definition of a light-sport aircraft.
  • May be operated at night if the aircraft is equipped per FAR 91.205, if such operations are allowed by the aircraft's operating limitations and the pilot holds at least a Private Pilot certificate and a minimum of a third-class medical.

What is required to obtain a Sport Pilots License?

If you are an aviation enthusiast seeking your first pilot certificate, the sport pilot certificate provides the easiest and least costly way to fly for fun and recreation.

The minimum required training time for the different light sport aircraft categories are:

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

To earn a sport pilot certificate, one must:

  • Be at least 16 to become a student sport pilot (14 for glider).
  • Be at least 17 to test for a sport pilot certificate (16 for gliders).
  • Be able to read, write, and understand English.
  • Hold a current and valid U.S. driver's license as evidence of medical eligibility (provided the FAA didn't deny, revoke, or suspend your last medical certificate application). Alternatively, you can also use a third class airman's medical to establish medical fitness.
  • Pass an FAA sport pilot knowledge test.
  • Pass a FAA sport pilot practical (flight) test.

Light Sport AircraftWhat if I currently have a Pilots license?
An individual holding a recreational pilot certificate or higher (e.g. private) may exercise the privileges of a sport pilot certificate, provided the holder complies with the privileges and limitations of a sport pilot certificate. The main benefit for existing pilots is that sport pilot requires only a valid state driver's license to establish medical fitness. No more need for a third-class medical! Unfortunately, the rule includes one major exception: Existing pilots, including previous student pilots who have had their most recent FAA medical certificate application denied, suspended, or revoked by the FAA are not allowed to operate using their driver's license.

Here's all an existing pilot needs:

  • A valid pilot certificate.
  • Compliance with the medical requirements of a sport pilot.
  • A current flight review (recorded in logbook).
  • Fly a sport pilot-eligible aircraft.
  • Operate within the privileges and limitations of the sport pilot certificate.
  • Operate within the category/class ratings on the pilot certificate.

An individual with a private, commercial, or ATP certificate may perform the flight review in any aircraft authorized by the person's pilot certificate, assuming the CFI is pilot in command.

A private pilot choosing to operate at the sport pilot level need not do anything more than comply with the rules. No change of certificates is necessary. If ramp checked, a private pilot may simply present the private pilot certificate and valid state driver's license and inform the FAA inspector 'I am operating as a sport pilot.'

How can I obtain Insurance for my owned or rented Light-Sport Aircraft?

The IFA Aircraft Insurance Plan! Insurance is now available from most of the markets for both Special Light-Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) and Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (E-LSA) through IFA's Aircraft Insurance Plan.

New student sport pilots and new sport pilots as well as private, commercial and airline transport pilots who wish to fly as a sport pilot can obtain insurance for an LSA from IFA's Aircraft Insurance Plan. Non-owner insurance is available, too.

For more information and a no obligation quote for Owners and Non-Owners aircraft insurance call IFA's Aircraft Insurance Plan toll free at 877-247-7762 or request an online quote. Just click on the appropriate link below:

Source: IFA's Aircraft Insurance Provider, Aviation Insurance Resources, Inc.

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