Regulatory Brief -- Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft Final Rule

Regulatory Brief

Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft Final Rule

Visit AOPA's Sport Pilot Web page for the latest information.

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey on Tuesday, July 20, 2004, officially unveiled the long-awaited Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft rule that allows many pilots to fly light sport aircraft with a valid driver's license in lieu of a medical certificate and creates new, less-expensive ways to become a pilot.

The importance to our members:

The Sport Pilot rule creates a new segment of the GA industry - sport pilots, light sport aircraft, and light sport aircraft repairmen. The rule has provisions for obtaining sport pilot student certificates, sport pilot certificates, flight instructor certificates with sport pilot rating, airworthiness criteria, and repairmen certificates with an inspector and/or maintenance rating.

A significant benefit for AOPA members in the Sport Pilot rule is the ability to utilize a driver's license in lieu of a medical certificate. This allows pilots, who are otherwise healthy but who choose to not renew their medical certificate, to continue flying in light sport aircraft. This rule DOES NOT allow pilots to fly aircraft heavier than 1,320 pounds, such as Bonanzas and Cherokees, without medicals.

Overview of significant provisions:

Medical Certification:

  • The FAA has made substantive revisions to the sport pilot medical provisions, which disallow the use of a driver's license as a medical standard for medically disqualified pilots.
  • 14 CFR 61.23 only permits using a current and valid U.S. driver's license as evidence of medical qualification based on the following conditions:
    1. If a person has applied for an airman medical certificate, that person must have been found eligible for the issuance of at least a third class airman medical certificate.
    2. If a person has held an airman medical certificate, that person's most recently issued airman medical certificate must not have been revoked or suspended.
    3. If a person has been granted an authorization (special issuance), that authorization must not have been withdrawn.
  • In addition, the rule explicitly states that a pilot may not use a current and valid U.S. driver's license in lieu of a valid airman medical certificate if the pilot knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light sport aircraft in a safe manner. This reiterates the requirement of §61.53. The determination as to whether a pilot has a medical condition that would make him or her unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner is the sole responsibility of the pilot. The ability to certify no known medical conditions that would prohibit the safe operation of an aircraft is a matter about which a pilot should consult his or her personal physician.

Pilot Certification:

  • Airmen who currently hold a recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate and a valid medical will be able to fly light sport aircraft and aircraft that meet the definition of light sport aircraft provided they have the appropriate category and class ratings.
  • Airmen who currently hold a recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate but do not hold a valid and effective FAA medical certificate may fly light sport aircraft and aircraft that meet the definition of light sport aircraft provided they have the appropriate category and class ratings, have a valid U.S. driver's license, and provided they meet the medical criteria listed above.
  • Training requirements for a sport pilot certificate with airplane category-
    • A minimum of 20 hours flight time including:
      • 15 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor.
      • 5 hours solo flight.
      • Flight training must include at least:
        • 2 hours cross-country flight training.
        • 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop.
        • One solo cross-country flight of at least 75 nautical miles total distance with a full-stop landing at a minimum of two points and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 25 nautical miles between takeoff and landing locations.
        • 3 hours flight training in preparation for the practical test.
      • Ground training from an instructor or home-study course.
      • FAA knowledge test on applicable aeronautical knowledge areas.
      • FAA practical test for the applicable light sport aircraft privilege.
  • Sport pilot certificates will be issued without category/class designation - Logbook endorsement will be provided for category, class, make and model.
    • Two new category and class ratings for sport pilots-
      • Weight-shift-control, land and sea.
      • Powered parachute, land and sea.
  • Operation limitations for sport pilots-
    • Sport pilots or recreational, private, commercial, or ATPs exercising the privileges of sport pilots may not operate a light sport aircraft:
      • That is carrying a passenger or property for compensation or hire.
      • For compensation or hire.
      • In furtherance of a business.
      • While carrying more than one passenger.
      • At night.
      • In Class A airspace.
      • In Class B, C, or D airspace, at an airport located in Class B, C, or D airspace, and to, from, through, or at an airport having an operational control tower unless you have received ground and flight training and a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor in accordance with 61.325 certifying you are authorized to exercise these privileges.
      • Outside the United States, unless you have prior authorization from the country in which you seek to operate. A sport pilot certificate carries the limitation "Holder does not meet ICAO requirements."
      • In a passenger-carrying airlift sponsored by a charitable organization.
      • At an altitude of more than 10,000 feet msl.
      • When the flight or surface visibility is less than 3 statute miles.
      • Without visual reference to the surface.
      • If the aircraft has a maximum forward speed in level flight that exceeds 87 knots CAS, unless having met the requirements of 61.327.
      • Contrary to any operating limitation placed on the airworthiness certificate of the aircraft being flown.
      • Contrary to any limitation or endorsement on your pilot certificate, airman medical certificate, U.S. driver's license, or any other limitation or logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor.
      • Contrary to any restriction or limitation on the sport pilot's U.S. driver's license or any restriction or limitation imposed by judicial or administrative order when using a driver's license to satisfy the requirements of Part 61.
      • While towing any object.
      • As a pilot flight crewmember on any aircraft for which more than one pilot is required by the type certificate of the aircraft or the regulations under which the flight is conducted.

Flight Instructor Certification:

Pilots already holding a flight instructor certificate may provide flight instruction in light sport aircraft for which they hold the appropriate category and class ratings.

  • Pilots currently not holding a flight instructor certificate but would like to become a sport pilot instructor will have to:
    • Be at least 18 years old.
    • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English.
    • Hold at least a current and valid sport pilot certificate with category and class ratings or privileges as applicable.
    • Receive a logbook endorsement and pass a knowledge test on the fundamentals of instruction listed in 61.407.
    • Meet the aeronautical experience requirements listed in 61.411 for the applicable aircraft sought.
    • Receive a logbook endorsement and pass a knowledge test on the aeronautical areas applicable to the aircraft category sought.
    • Receive a logbook endorsement and pass a practical test on the areas of operation listed in 61.409.
  • Sport pilot instructors must have 5 hours of PIC in each make and model set before they can teach in that aircraft.

Light Sport Aircraft:

  • Light sport aircraft are defined as simple, low-performance, low-energy aircraft that are limited to-
    • 1,320 pounds maximum takeoff weight for aircraft not intended for operation on water; or
    • 1,430 pounds maximum takeoff weight for aircraft intended for operation on water.
    • A maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (V H ) of not more than 120 knots CAS under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.
    • A maximum seating capacity of no more than two persons, including the pilot.
    • A single, reciprocating engine.
    • A fixed or ground-adjustable propeller if a powered aircraft other than a powered glider.
    • A nonpressurized cabin, if equipped with a cabin.
    • Maximum airspeed of 120 knots.
    • Fixed landing gear, except for an aircraft intended for operation on water or a glider.
    • Fixed or repositionable landing gear, or a hull, for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
    • A maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices (V S1 ) of not more than 45 knots CAS at the aircraft's maximum certificated takeoff weight and most critical center of gravity.
  • Aircraft meeting the above specifications, such as a Piper J-2 or J-3, Aeronca Champ, or early model Taylorcraft, may be flown by sport pilots. Click here for a list of eligible standard category aircraft that meet the definition of light sport aircraft.

Repairman or Inspection Certificate for Light Sport Aircraft-

  • For owners of aircraft having a special light sport aircraft (SLSA) airworthiness certificate who do not currently hold an A&P or IA repairmen certificate, the FAA has developed procedures to accept training for a light sport aircraft repairmen certificate with inspector and/or maintenance rating that would allow the owner of a light sport aircraft to perform maintenance or required inspections.
  • Allows for maintenance and/or inspections on light sport aircraft by the owner-
    • For inspection privileges:
      • Must complete a 16-hour training course on the inspections requirements of the particular make and model of light sport aircraft.
    • For maintenance privileges:
      • Must complete a 120-hour training course for airplane category on the maintenance requirements of the particular category of light sport aircraft.

AOPA position:

From the beginning of this nine-year process, AOPA pushed hard for a driver's license medical standard that would allow already-certificated pilots to fly light sport aircraft immediately - and many of the provisions that AOPA sought have been included in the final rule.

In its comments to the rule docket, AOPA told the FAA that the Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft proposed rule is a needed step forward to provide a lower cost alternative to the current private pilot certificate. AOPA also persuaded the FAA to accelerate issuing and implementing a final rule on the airman portion of rule, to allow sport pilots to fly some seven existing certificated aircraft (like a Piper Cub) that meet the light sport aircraft definition, using a driver's license for a medical certificate.

AOPA believes this rule will help many lapsed pilots return to flying and could have a positive effect on the cost of learning to fly, bringing new people into flying. AOPA said the agency should go even further and extend sport pilot privileges to recreational pilots. That would mean that recreational pilots could use a current driver's license to meet the medical requirements and that they could fly in Class B, C, and D airspace with the proper flight instructor endorsement. If adopted, AOPA's recommendations would effectively extend the benefits proposed in the sport pilot certificate to a much larger group of aircraft such as a Cessna 172 or a Piper Warrior.

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Updated Wednesday, June 08, 2005 12:42:09 PM