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