What is the first step I need to take to become a sport pilot?
You should first consider getting either an FAA medical certificate or plan on using your current and valid U.S. driver's license. Additionally, you will need to get a student pilot certificate. Please see the information below for more details on the option you can choose:
FAA medical and the student pilot certificate:
Driver's license and the student pilot certificate:
What are the sport pilot eligibility requirements?
What are the training requirements for becoming a sport pilot?
What are the sport pilot privileges and limitations?
A sport pilot may:
What types of airplanes can I fly?
There are many type certified airplanes in the standard airworthiness category from manufacturers that qualify as light-sport aircraft. Standard category airplanes you can fly include, but are not limited to:
Additionally, you may click here for a list of light-sport aircraft manufacturers.
What is a light-sport aircraft?
A light-sport aircraft is defined as:
I'm a certificated pilot without a medical. Can I fly as a sport pilot?
Yes. If you already hold at least a recreational pilot certificate and have allowed your medical to expire, you might be able to fly without an FAA medical certificate, even if your most recent medical was a special issuance. Here's what you need to qualify:
For additional medical FAQs, click here.
What type of certification, recurrent training, and/or proficiency do I need?
As a certified pilot who qualifies to fly with a driver's license, you will need to have:
Do I need to perform the flight review in a light-sport aircraft?
No. According to 14 CFR 61.56, a flight review must be performed in an aircraft for which the pilot is rated. Rated is interpreted as category and class.
I've already started my flight training toward the private pilot requirements. Can I transfer that flight training time over to the sport pilot certificate requirements?
Yes, you may do this. The FAA has clearly expressed that a student pilot certificate is a student pilot certificate, regardless of which certificate you are pursuing. Keep in mind, however, that a student pilot seeking a sport pilot certificate may not solo in an aircraft or perform the checkride in an aircraft other than a light-sport aircraft.
Do I need to perform a checkride to get an additional category and/or class rating?
No, a checkride is not required. Rather, you will need to follow the provisions of 14 CFR 61.321, which requires the following:
What kind of flying am I limited to as a certificated pilot flying under the sport pilot privilege?
A pilot who is exercising sport pilot privileges may share the operating expenses of a flight with a passenger, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenses, or aircraft rental fees. A sport pilot must pay at least half the operating expenses of the flight. Additionally, the privileges and limitations for the sport pilot certificate, spelled out in FAR 61.315, apply for pilots with higher levels of certificates when exercising solely sport pilot privileges.
What regulations cover the requirements for sport pilots?
14 CFR Part 61, Subpart J is entirely dedicated to sport pilot airman certification, privileges, and limitations.
What else can I do to prepare to fly as a sport pilot?
Take advantage of all the resources AOPA has to offer.
If you still have questions, AOPA has the answers. Call AOPA's Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672) to talk for free with one of AOPA's technical experts on staff.
Can I fly a special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) in IFR conditions or at night?
Only day/VFR conditions are specifically addressed in the ASTM consensus standards that govern the design, safety, and production of S-LSA. Being that sport pilots and those exercising sport pilot privileges are limited to flying only in day/VFR conditions, this seems appropriate.
On the other hand, if an appropriately rated pilot (example: private pilot with an instrument rating) wants to fly S-LSA under IFR or at night, the aircraft's operating limitations must allow it, and the aircraft must be equipped per 91.205 for VFR flight at night and/or IFR flight. Additionally, 91.327(d) requires all S-LSA to be operated in accordance with the aircraft's operating instructions. Operating instructions differ from operating limitations in that the engine, airframe, and accessory manufacturers issue them; the FAA issues operating limitations.
An example of operating instructions is a S-LSA equipped with a Rotax engine. Rotax's operating instructions prohibit the use of a Rotax engine at night or in IFR conditions unless it is the FAA type certificated engine (14 CFR part 33). Other engine, airframe, and accessory manufacturers might impose similar restrictions.
If you are appropriately rated and would like to operate a special light-sport aircraft at night or under IFR, contact the manufacturer to determine if any provisions can be made.
Do I need to obtain an STC (supplemental type certificate) if I want to install a different prop or add a new radio to my S-LSA?
No. An STC is not required because S-LSA do not have type certificate data sheets (TSDS). Any maintenance that leads to a modification of the original airplane equipment or avionics requires approval by the airplane manufacturer.
What is the difference between an experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) and a special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA)?
Does a light-sport aircraft have a type certificate?
No. S-LSA and E-LSA are not type certificated. Rather, they are issued a statement of compliance with industry standards.
Why did the FAA choose to use ASTM standards instead of type certification?
ASTM standards are much easier to augment or amend as opposed to the FAA's rulemaking process and provide a high level of quality control and safety into light-sport aircraft manufacturing. A light-sport aircraft committee, namely F37, was set up to address issues related to design, performance, quality acceptance tests, and safety monitoring for light-sport aircraft (LSA). For more information on the F37 light-sport Aircraft Committee, please visit the ASTM Web site.
Will airworthiness directives (ADs) be issued for light-sport aircraft?
ADs will not be issued for LSA. However, mandatory service bulletins (SBs) will be issued for light-sport aircraft. For S-LSA, compliance with these bulletins is required. For E-LSA, compliance is only recommended.
Can I use an experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) for flight training and rental?
You may receive and/or conduct flight training in an E-LSA that you own. If you're an instructor, you can only provide an E-LSA for flight training up until January 31, 2010, after which you must provide at least an S-LSA. Rental of the aircraft is not allowed.
Can I use a special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) for flight training and rental?
According to 14 CFR 91.327, you may, for compensation or hire, operate an S-LSA to conduct flight training. You may also rent an S-LSA.
Who may perform maintenance on special light-sport aircraft?
Who may perform inspections on special light-sport aircraft?
Who may perform maintenance on experimental light-sport aircraft?
According to 14 CFR 65.107, the holder of a repairman certificate (light-sport aircraft) with a maintenance rating may perform maintenance, preventive maintenance, and an alteration on a light-sport aircraft that is in the same class of light-sport aircraft for which the holder has completed the training required by 61.107(a)(3)(ii).
Who may perform the annual condition inspection on experimental light-sport aircraft?
Who may perform the 100-hour inspection on E-LSA if the aircraft is being used to conduct flight training for compensation or hire or for towing a glider that is an LSA or unpowered ultralight vehicle?
What regulations cover the privileges and limitations for repairman certificate holders for light-sport aircraft?
You may find this information in 14 CFR Part 65.
Can I fly an experimental amateur-built (homebuilt) aircraft as a sport pilot?
Yes, as long as the aircraft meets the performance definition of a light-sport aircraft as defined in 14 CFR 1.1.
I have built or plan on building an experimental amateur-built aircraft that meets the definition of light-sport aircraft (LSA). How does the sport pilot rule affect me?
I built the aircraft that I'm currently flying. Can I certificate it as experimental amateur-built or does it have to be an experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA)?
If you built 51 percent of your aircraft, the aircraft meets the requirements to apply for certification as an experimental amateur-built aircraft. Keep in mind, however, that once the aircraft is certificated as an experimental amateur built it cannot be certificated later as an experimental (E-LSA) or special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA). The aircraft remains an experimental amateur-built aircraft. Additionally, in order for an aircraft to be registered as a light-sport aircraft, it must meet the LSA criteria (i.e., two seats, one engine, 1,320 pounds maximum gross weight, etc.). An experimental amateur-built is not subject to these limitations.
Does the 51-percent homebuilt rule apply to me if I buy an E-LSA kit?
There are two situations to discuss here:
I'm building an aircraft (experimental amateur-built) that is just outside the definition of an LSA. Can I, as the builder, modify the aircraft so that it meets the performance definition of an LSA and fly it as a sport pilot?
Yes. For a homebuilt aircraft, you may modify the aircraft so that it meets the definition of an LSA from initial certification on and fly it as a sport pilot. Exercise caution against making any modifications to the structure of the aircraft without the approval of the designer.
Can I change the weight of an experimental amateur-built that I have built so it meets the 1,320-pound limit for light-sport aircraft?
As the builder of a home-built airplane that has yet to receive its experimental airworthiness certificate, you may decrease or increase the weight as necessary to have the airplane meet the definition of light-sport aircraft, which is defined as having a maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds. However, once a weight limit has been set as part of the airplane's experimental amateur-built certification process, the original builder, future owners, and repairmen are prohibited from making any modifications to the weight for the purpose of meeting the definition of light-sport aircraft.
Updated November 7, 2014
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