When the FAA issued its final Sport Pilot rule, it quietly removed a privilege that has existed for years. In the past, pilots could carry passengers in certain experimental aircraft regardless of whether they held the appropriate category and class ratings. For example, you could hold a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land category and class rating and go out and fly a passenger in an experimental helicopter with no training required. The FAA cited an increased number of accidents attributed to a lack of category and class ratings as the reason for the change.
The rule, which took effect on September 1, 2004, now requires any pilot who holds a recreational or higher level pilot certificate to also hold the appropriate aircraft category and class rating for any experiment aircraft in which they want to carry passengers.
However, the FAA is giving experienced pilots who have logged time in experimental aircraft for which they do not hold the appropriate category and class ratings until the end of this summer to apply to the FAA for a new experimental aircraft rating.
Details of the rule and instructions for receiving credit for flight experience are available on the FAA's Web site.
May 10, 2005