Sport Pilot Certificate and Transition Training Considerations

Sport Pilot Certificate

In addition to the LSA rules, the FAA created a new Sport Pilot certificate in 2004 that lowered the minimum training time requirements, in comparison to other pilot certificates, for newly certificated pilots wishing to exercise privileges only in LSA aircraft. A pilot that already holds a recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate and a current medical certificate is permitted to pilot LSA airplanes provided that he or she has the appropriate category and class ratings. For example, a commercial pilot with exclusively a rotorcraft rating cannot pilot an LSA airplane.

Pilots who hold a recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate with the appropriate category and class ratings but do not hold a current medical certificate may fly LSAs as long as the pilot holds a valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical eligibility; however, if the pilot’s most recent medical certificate was denied, revoked, suspended, or withdrawn, a U.S. driver’s license is not sufficient for medical eligibility. In this case, the pilot would be prohibited from flying an LSA until the pilot could be issued a third class medical.


Transition Training Considerations

Flight School

The LSA category has created new business opportunities for flight school operators. Many owners and operators of flight schools have embraced the concept of LSA aircraft and have LSAs available on their flight line for flight instruction and rental. An S-LSA may be rented to students for flight training and rented to rated pilots for pleasure flying. While S-LSAs cannot be used for compensation or hire (such as charter—however, there are some exceptions), their low cost of operation, frugal fuel usage, reliability, and low maintenance costs have made them a favorite of many students, pilots, and flight school owners. E-LSAs are not eligible for flight training and rental except when flight instruction is given to the owner of the E-LSA airplane.

When considering a transition to LSA, a potential pilot should exercise due diligence in searching for a quality flight school. Considerations should be given as in any flight training selection. First, locate a flight school that has a verifiable experience in LSA instruction and can provide the LSA academic framework. Consider if the flight school can match your needs. Some questions to be asked are the following: how many pilots the flight school has transitioned into LSAs; how many LSAs are available for instruction and rental; what are the flight school’s rental and insurance policies; how is maintenance accomplished and by whom; how is scheduling accomplished; how are records maintained; what are the school’s safety policies; and, take the time to personally tour the school before starting flight training. Finally, if possible, solicit feedback from other pilots that have transition into LSAs.


Flight Instructors

The flight school provides the organization for the transitioning pilot; however, it is the flight instructor that is the critical link in a successful LSA transition. Flight instructors are at first teachers of flight, so it should be considered vital that a pilot wishing to transition into LSA locate a flight instructor that has verifiable experience in LSA instruction. Considerations for selecting a flight instructor are similar to any other flight training; however, some clarity around selecting a flight instructor is needed. The Sport Pilot rule allows for a new flight instructor certificate, the CFI-S. The CFRs limit a CFI-S to instruction only in LSAs—a CFI-S cannot give instruction in a non-LSA airplane (i.e., a Cessna 150). However, a flight instructor certificated as a CFI-A can give instruction in LSA, as well as instruction in non-LSA airplanes for which the flight instructor is rated. It is important to note that a CFI-S or a CFI-A should not be the criteria for selecting an LSA flight instructor. A CFI-S with teaching experience in LSA is the correct choice compared to a CFI-A, which has minimal teaching experience in LSA airplanes.

A transitioning LSA pilot should ask the flight instructor to make available for review their LSA curriculum, syllabus, lesson plans, as well the process for tracking a pilot’s progress though the transition training program. Depending on the transitioning pilot’s experience, currency, and type of airplane typically flown, the flight instructor should make adjustments, as appropriate, to the LSA training curriculum. A suggested LSA transition training outline is presented:

  • CFR review as pertaining to LSAs and Sport Pilots
  • Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) review
  • LSA maintenance
  • LSA weather considerations
  • Wake turbulence avoidance
  • Performance and limitations
  • Operation of systems
  • Ground operations
  • Preflight inspection
  • Before takeoff check
  • Normal and crosswind takeoff/climb
  • Normal and crosswind approach/landing
  • Soft-field takeoff and climb
  • Soft-field approach and landing
  • Short-field takeoff
  • Go-around/rejected landing
  • Steep turns
  • Power-off stalls
  • Power-on stalls
  • Spin awareness
  • Emergency approach and landing
  • Systems and equipment malfunctions
  • After landing, parking, and securing