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Sport Pilot Certificate



The "sport pilot certificate" varies from existing private pilot certificates significantly including:

  1. Requires only 20 hours of total flight time as compared to 40 hours for private pilot.

  2. Limits sport pilots to flying low performance airplanes: maximum weight 1320 lbs, maximum stall speed 45 knots, maximum speed 120 knots, fixed landing gear, and a fixed pitch propeller.

The objective is to make the thrill, satisfaction, and excitement of aviation available to more people by reducing the complexity and cost.


A sport pilot may exercise flight privileges in one or more of the following aircraft categories:

  • Airplane (single-engine only)

  • Glider

  • Lighter-than-air (airship or balloon)

  • Rotorcraft (gyroplane only)

  • Powered Parachute

  • Weight-Shift control aircraft(e.g. Trikes)

The sport pilot rule:

  • Creates a new student sport pilot certificate
  • Creates a new sport pilot flight instructor certificate.
  • Requires FAA knowledge (written) and practical (flight) test.
  • Credits ultralight training and experience toward a sport pilot certificate providing the ultralight pilot transitions to a sport pilot certificate by 31 January 2007.
  • Credits sport pilot flight time toward more advanced pilot ratings.
  • Requires either a 3rd class FAA medical certificate or a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical eligibility (provided the individual's most recent application for an FAA medical certificate was not denied, revoked, suspended or withdrawn).
  • Does not allow carrying passengers for compensation or hire
  • Does not allow flights in furtherance of business
  • Allows sharing (“pro-rata”) operating expenses with another pilot.
  • Allows daytime flight only.
  • Allow sport pilots to fly vintage and production aircraft (standard airworthiness certificate) that meet the definition of a light-sport aircraft.
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A sport pilot certificate is much like an ordinary driver's license. It allows you to fly an airplane and carry one (1) passenger and baggage, although not for compensation or hire.  Another benefit is that a Sport Pilot is not required to have any Class of FAA Medical Certificate to operate under the Sport Pilot Privileges. One caveat to this is that an applicant cannot have ever been denied a medical certificate or had a medical certificate revoked.

Sport Pilots are also subject to specific operational limitations and aircraft requirements. For example one operational limitation is Sport Pilots are not allowed to operate at NIGHT. In regards to aircraft, LSA aircraft fall into a very defined performance category.

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.
  • Maximum stall speed—51 mph (45 knots) CAS
  • Maximum speed in level flight with maximum continuous power (Vh)—138 mph (120 knots) CAS
  • 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), Glider, 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.

Federal aviation regulations require a minimum of 20 hours of flight time to be eligible for the sport pilot certificate. This consists of dual and solo flight time. "Dual" implies that an instructor is on board the aircraft with the student, while "solo" implies that the student be the sole occupant of the plane.

The instructor teaches the student all necessary fundamentals and maneuvers prior to solo. During solo flight, the student practices what has been taught up to that point in training. After soloing in the local area for several flights, the instructor teaches cross-country flying techniques. The student then performs solo cross-country flights for a minimum of 5 hours. (Usually 3 different trips on 3 different days) 


The FAA written test consists of 40 multiple-choice questions selected from the FAA Sport Pilot Question Database. You must obtain a score of 70% or better on the written test.

The Written Test Prep Course, offered by GLEIM Aviation Books and various other aviation publication sources, provides the basic aeronautical knowledge essential to sport pilots. The course is designed to complement flight training and to assist the student in preparing for the FAA written exam. 


At the completion of training, the student is required to pass a flight test given by an FAA designated flight examiner. This test consists of a ground oral examination and a flight of approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours. There is an examiner’s fee of approximately $300.00 for the flight test that is paid directly to the examiner.


Although the FAA minimum requirement is 20 hours of flight instruction, an individual pilot may need a few more hours to be ready. The final cost to obtain for your Sport Pilot Certificate will vary according to the student's individual skill and the aircraft used in training. It is in the student's best interest to study diligently and to schedule lessons as frequently as possible to minimize costs.

The total process usually takes several months and a good deal of your time due to commuting, ground instruction, aircraft preflight, bad weather, airplane maintenance, etc.

To express your interest in Sport Pilot training

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