A sport pilot certificate is a newer pilot certificate, and is the fastest, most economical way to become a certified pilot. It is the path for anyone who wants to fly small airplanes certified as Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). LSAs are restricted to a maximum takeoff weight of 1320 pounds, maximum seating capacity of 2 persons (including the pilot) and a maximum cruise speed of 120 knots. Sport pilots may fly anywhere in the United States, but may not fly at night or at altitudes above 10,000’. Sport pilots may be eligible to fly with an FAA 3rd class medical or higher, or in some cases even just a state driver’s license.
Sport pilots may fly LSA certificated aircraft during daylight hours. They may carry 1 passenger and may share flying expenses such as fuel with their passenger. Most sport pilots are interested in flying for fun and don’t mind the restrictions on flying small LSAs. Pilots who are interested in flying larger, non-LSA aircraft, flying at night, flying into other countries, pursuing advanced ratings, or are interested in flying as a career, usually start with the private pilot certificate rather than the sport pilot certificate.
A certified sport pilot may rent an LSA from Desert Flying Club to fly anywhere in the United States. We currently have two Remos GX LSA available for rent in the club. Most people love flying them, and though they are small, the cabin is surprisingly spacious. Other common airplanes that are certified as LSAs include Piper J-2 and J-3 Cub, Aeronca Champ, and Ercoupe 415C/D.
There are two main components to sport pilot training: ground school and flight training. Most students choose to complete an online ground school course to specifically prepare for the Sport Pilot Knowledge Exam. Most students complete ground school before or while completing flight lessons. Topics introduced in ground school include aerodynamics, aircraft systems, regulations, meteorology, navigation, and airspace.
For flight training, students will learn one-on-one under the direction of a Desert Flying Club Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), who will teach the student how to fly the airplane, navigate, communicate on the radio, and prepare the student to pass the FAA practical exam, consisting of an oral exam and a practical flight test. Lessons will typically be in 3-hour blocks, in which students will log 1-2 hours of flight time and some ground instruction time with their CFI.
Under Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, sport pilot applicants must have at least 20 hours of total flight time, including 15 hours of instruction from a flight instructor, two hours of cross-country training, and at least two hours spent preparing for the practical test. Applicants must also complete a minimum of five hours of solo flight, including a cross-country flight of at least 75 nm, and at least ten takeoffs and landings at an airport with a control tower. Most students take more than the required 20 hours to reach the level of mastery required to pass the practical exam. The national average for hours required is approximately 25-35 hours.
Desert Flying Club currently has 2 Remos GX light sport aircraft.
The time it takes to complete training depends on the student. Students who fly about 2-3 times per week will be usually be able to complete the sport pilot training in as little as 2-3 months.
Cost depends a lot on the individual student. The FAA requires a minimum of 20 hours of flight time, but the average student probably requires closer to 25-40 hours to prepare to pass the exam. Here is a breakdown of expected expenses based on the minimum 20, and more typical 40 hours.
Estimated Cost for Sport Pilot Training
|Based on 6 months||20 hours||40 hours|
|Flying club dues||$85 x 3 months:||$255||$255|
|Aircraft Rental – Remos GX||$115/hr||$2300||$4600|
|Instructor flight & ground training||$65/hr||$2600||$3900|
|Online Ground School||$110|
|Written Exam Fee||$150|
|Headset (David Clark H10-30)||$300|
|Supplies: Logbook, plotter, E6B computer, charts, Foreflight subscription, books||$300|
|Check ride examiner fee||$800|