Sport pilot in 20 hours
I'm a big fan of the sport pilot certificate. I'm not, however, so sure a student with no previous flight experience will be able to pass the practical test in the minimum 20 hours allotted by the regulations.
Consider this. In the presolo stage of training, sport pilot (airplane) students will most likely learn everything that a private pilot student needs to learn. There's very little difference in educational requirements there. Given that it's rare to find a private pilot student soloing in fewer than 18 to 20 hours nowadays, it seems unlikely that a sport pilot student will do so in fewer than 15 hours (the minimum dual instruction required by the sport regulations). Sport airplanes aren't necessarily easier to fly than non-sport machines; this is especially true if the sport airplane is a taildragger.
I suspect that anyone training for the sport pilot certificate should plan on a commitment of 35 to 40 hours of total flight time.
On the other hand, if a sport pilot student decides to take training at a nontowered airport in an Ercoupe, the time and monetary investment could be a lot less. Why? Rudderless Ercoupes are some of the easiest and most enjoyable airplanes to fly. I once soloed a private pilot student in an Ercoupe in under five hours at a busy tower-controlled airport. Since certain Ercoupe models fall into the sport pilot category, they'd make ideal trainers for the sport pilot certificate. As an additional benefit, they're cheap to purchase.
It's my guess that anyone taking sport pilot training in an Ercoupe is a lot more likely to get their ticket in the 20-hour minimum.
By Rod Machado