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Sport vs. Private

1/17/2011
Posted in Flight Training

Tags: sport certificate, private pilot certificate

Sport vs. Private

There has been a number of discussions in the industry on the benefits and legitimacy of the Sport Pilot Certificate. I thought taking the time to spell out the differences between the Sport Pilot Certificate and the Private Pilot Certificate would help you in your training. With this information in a clear and concise place, it will help you choose which type of training is right for you to receive. Let’s first discuss what a Light Sport Aircraft is and then the established limitations of a Sport Pilot Certificate and how those limitations differ from the Private Pilot Certificate. We will then discuss the differences in training requirements and some additional information that you should be aware of.



Sport vs. Private

            
Written by Jacob Kasprzyk (Gold Seal CFI, CFII, MEI, ATP)



There has been a number of discussions in the industry on the benefits and legitimacy of the Sport Pilot Certificate. I thought taking the time to spell out the differences between the Sport Pilot Certificate and the Private Pilot Certificate would help you in your training. With this information in a clear and concise place, it will help you choose which type of training is right for you to receive. Let’s first discuss what a Light Sport Aircraft is and then the established limitations of a Sport Pilot Certificate and how those limitations differ from the Private Pilot Certificate. We will then discuss the differences in training requirements and some additional information that you should be aware of.

What is a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA)?

A Light Sport Aircraft is defined by the FAA as an aircraft that:
  • Is limited to 1,320lbs maximum takeoff weight for land based operations, or 1430lbs for operations on water. (The typical 4 seat Cessna 172s has a maximum takeoff weight of 2550lbs.)
  • Is limited to a V(cruise speed) of not more than 120 knots CAS (Calibrated Airspeed) under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.
  • Is limited to carrying no more than 2 passengers, including the pilot.
  • Has a single, reciprocating engine.
  • Has a fixed position landing gear, except for aircraft operated on water or as a glider.
  • Has a fixed or ground-adjustable propeller.
  • Has a maximum stalling speed (Vs1) of not more than 45 knots CAS at maximum weight and most critical center of gravity.

Sport Pilot Certificate Limitations (FAR 61.315):

You may not act as Pilot In Command (PIC):
  • For compensation or hire. (same as Private Pilot)
  • In furtherance of a business.
  • While carrying more than one passenger.
  • At night.
  • In Class A airspace. (Above 18,000 ft MSL across the contiguous 48 states)
  • In Class B, C, D airspace or at any airport with an operational control tower unless you have met the requirements of FAR 61.325 which are:
    •    Receive a logbook endorsement for both ground and flight training which must include:
      •  The use of radios, communications, navigation systems/facilities, and radar services.
      •   3 full stop takeoffs and landings at a controlled airport that must include flight in the traffic pattern.
      •  All applicable flight rules under FAR Part 91 for operations in Class B, C, and D airspace and air traffic control clearances.
  • Outside the United States without prior permission from that nation. Your Sport Pilot certificate will have a limitation stating, “Holder does not meet ICAO requirements.” ICAO is the International Civil Aviation Organization. Essentially the Sport Pilot certificate is not recognized outside the United States as a pilot certificate.
  • To demonstrate the aircraft in flight to a prospective buyer if you are an aircraft salesperson.
  • For passenger-carrying airlift sponsored by a charitable organization.
  • At an altitude of more than 10,000 ft. MSL. (Don’t worry your Light Sport Aircraft likely won’t be able to climb that high anyways.)
  • When flight visibility is less than 3 statute miles.  This means no Instrument Meteorological Conditions or Special Visual Flight Rules flying.   A Private Certificate will allow you to fly Special VFR and obtain an Instrument Rating, which allows you to fly in IMC.
  • If the aircraft has a Vh of more than 87 knots CAS unless the holder meets the requirements of FAR 61.327, which states that the holder of the Sport Pilot Certificate must log both flight and ground training from an authorized instructor in an aircraft that has a Vh of greater than 87 knots CAS. The holder then must receive a logbook endorsement from that authorized instructor stating that you are proficient in aircraft with a Vh of greater than 87 knots CAS.
  • While towing any object.
  • Or as any required flight crewmember on an aircraft requiring more than one pilot.
  • In contradiction to any limitation placed on the airworthiness certificate on the aircraft being flown, any limitation on the pilot certificate, airman medical certificate, or any other limit or endorsement from an authorized instructor.
  • In contradiction to any restriction or limitation placed on your U.S. driver’s license.

Ok, that probably seemed like a lot of limitations. That’s because that is a lot of limitations. Let’s briefly go over the limitations placed on the Private Pilot Certificate.



Private Pilot Limitations (FAR 61.113):

You may not act as PIC:
  • For compensation or hire unless:   
    • The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and the aircraft does not carry any passengers or property for hire.
  • In IMC unless the holder has an Instrument Rating on their Private Pilot Certificate.
  • When accepting more than the pro rata share for operating expenses of the flight from passengers. (Fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees.)
    • May accept full reimbursement from a local, state, federal agency, or organization that conducts search and location operations.
  • While demonstrating an aircraft in flight to a prospective buyer if you have logged less than 200 hours of flight time.
  • On any aircraft requiring more than one crewmember, or as Second In Command.

As you can see there are substantially less limitations to a Private Pilot Certificate than there are to a Sport Pilot Certificate. However, as you probably imagine the Private Pilot Certificate will likely be harder to obtain and will likely require a larger commitment to both time and money. Let’s discuss the differences in training requirements.


To obtain a Sport Pilot Certificate a pilot must:

  • Be 17 years of age.
  • Be able to speak, read, write, and understand English.
  • Log 20 hours of flight training, which must include:          
    • 15 hours of instruction from an authorized instructor, which must include:
      • 2 hours of cross-country training
      • 10 takeoffs and landings in a traffic pattern
      • 3 hours of training within 60 days of the flight test.
    • 5 hours of solo flight training.
      • One solo cross-country 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 must consist of a straight-line distance of at least 25 nautical miles.
  • Pass a knowledge exam on the areas listed in FAR 61.30
  • Pass a Practical test in areas listed in both FAR 61.309 and 61.311

To obtain a Private Pilot Certificate a pilot must: (we’ll discuss FAR Part 61 requirements. Visit our article section on www.pilotplanet.com for the differences of FAR Part 141 training.)
  • Be 17 years of age.
  • Be able to speak, read, write, and understand English.
  • Hold at least a 3rd Class Medical Certificate issued by an Airman Medical Examiner.
  • Log 40 hours of flight training, which must include:
    • 20 hours of instruction from an authorized instructor, which must include:
      •  3 hours of cross-country flight training;
      •  3 hours of night training which must include;
        • One cross-country of over 100 nautical miles total distance.
        • 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport involving flight in the traffic pattern.
      • 3 hours of training with sole reference to the flight instruments; (simulated IMC)
      • 3 hours of training in preparation for the practical test 60 days before the date of the exam;
    • 10 hours of solo flight training which must include:
      • 5 hours of solo cross-country time;
      • One solo cross-country flight of at least 150 nautical miles with a full stop at a minimum of three points, and one segment with at least a straight-line distance of 50 nautical miles;
    • 3 takeoffs and 3 landings at an airport with a control tower;
  • Pass a knowledge exam on the areas listed in FAR 61.105;
  • Pass a practical test on the areas of operation listed in FAR 61.107.


Now that we have the Light Sport Aircraft defined, and the differences between the Sport Pilot and Private Pilot Certificates discussed, lets talk about what we can do practically with the certificates.

An LSA and a Sport Pilot Certificate will allow you to enjoy the freedom of flying. You will be able to experience what the majority of the world only dreams of. You will be able to fly with a friend or family member during daylight hours in good weather over the vast majority of the United States and see the world like you never have before. LSA aircraft are typically substantially cheaper to both rent and own than aircraft that do not meet the LSA requirements. This is a great place to start if you are unsure of your commitment to becoming a pilot.

A Private Pilot Certificate will allow you to fly with as many friends or family members as your aircraft can fit within it’s limitations and within the limitations of your certificate (will need an instrument rating, and type rating for any aircraft this is larger than 12,500lbs or has a turbo-jet engine). You will be able to fly both day and night in good or bad weather (with an instrument rating). You will be trained and qualified to enter all airspace (except Class A in which you’ll need an instrument rating) as long as clearance is given prior to entry. You can fly internationally to most countries in the world. You will be able to travel for business or for pleasure and can split the cost of the flight equally amongst your passengers. You can still use LSA aircraft as a private pilot.

What I recommend you doing is asking yourself a very important question; What do you want to get out of flying? What is your mission and what type of certificate would best match that description?


Here’s some additional information that you should know

All training that you receive for your Sport Pilot Certificate can be counted towards your Private Pilot Certificate. Essentially you can upgrade from a Sport Pilot to a Private Pilot without having to start over for your training. Say you took 30 hours of flight training to receive your Sport Certificate; you would only need 10 additional hours of flight training to be eligible for your Private Certificate (granted you meet the other additional requirements).

If you have ever failed an Aviation Medical Exam, you are not eligible for either a sport of private certificate. Ironically, you are better off not ever attempting to receive an aviation medical certificate if you know you only ever want to obtain a sport certificate. The limitations that are on your driver’s license will be the medical limitations that apply to your pilot certificate.

Use our website to find flight schools that operate LSA aircraft and that provide Sport Pilot Certificate training in your area. I’d also recommend talking with other pilot’s who have gone through the same process, or who are thinking of attempting to accomplish their dreams, just like you.

References

U.S. Department of Transportation: Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61







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