US Sport Planes Home
Search this site:

Sport Pilot Rules and Limitations

There has been a significant amount of confusion on what exactly a Sport Pilot can and cannot do. Here we will discuss the privileges and limitations of a Sport Pilot, as well as the requirements for becoming one.

What if I’m already a pilot (with or without a medical certificate)?

Let’s start our discussion with the case of current pilots (Private, Commercial, ATP). As a rated pilot you are legal to climb into any LSA of the same category and class for which you are already rated. As a Private Pilot (or higher) with a Single Engine Land rating you are legal to fly any LSA of the same category. Likewise, with a Single Engine Sea rating, you are legal to fly the seaplane LSAs.

As long as you keep your medical current, you are NOT limited by the Sport Pilot limitations. In fact, as long as the aircraft is properly equipped and certified, an Instrument rated pilot may legally fly an LSA into IMC. Again, with the proper equipment, an LSA may be flown at night by a Private Pilot (or higher).

With an expired medical, a Private Pilot (or higher) may legally fly any appropriate LSA under the Sport Pilot rules and limitations without any additional training requirements.

In all cases, it is advisable to acquire the appropriate level of transition training any time you fly an unfamiliar aircraft. Although Sport Planes are designed to be easy to fly, they each have their unique flight characteristics and proper training is imperative.

How do I become a Sport Pilot?

The Sport Pilot certificate is the easiest and quickest path to becoming a licensed pilot. The limitations, as compared with a Private Pilot, are minimal. Should you decide at a later date to move up to a Private Pilot certificate, the transition is quick and painless and all existing training and experience directly applies.

Here is what you need before getting started:
Be at least 16 years old to become a Student Sport Pilot (14 for gliders), which allows solo flight but not the carrying of passengers.
Be at least 17 years old to become a certificated Sport Pilot (16 for gliders), which allows you to act as Pilot in Command (PIC) while carrying passengers.
Be able to read, write and understand English.
Hold a current and valid U.S. Driver’s License as evidence of medical eligibility (provided the FAA didn’t deny, revoke or suspend your last medical certificate application).
Alternatively you may use a Third Class Medical to establish medical fitness.

The training requirements for Airplane category:
20 hours of flight time
Of that 20 hours, 15 must be with an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane
The other 5 hours of the 20 total hours must be spent in solo flight training
During the 15 hours with an instructor, 2 hours will be spent in cross-country training
During the 5 hours of solo flight, you will complete a cross-country flight of at least 75 nautical miles to two different airports

The following areas of operation will be covered in ground and/or flight training:
Preflight preparation
Preflight procedures
Airport operations
Takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds
Performance maneuvers
Ground reference maneuvers
Slow flight
Emergency operations
Post-flight procedures
Much more!

Now that I am legal to fly, what can I do or not do?

As a licensed Sport Pilot, you are legal to act as Pilot in Command (PIC) of a Light Sport Aircraft. You may share the operating expenses of a flight with a passenger, but you are required to pay at least half of those expenses. You can fly anywhere in the United States during daylight hours. You can carry one passenger if you choose, and fly up to 10,000 feet above sea level as long as the clouds don’t obstruct your view of the ground.

If you choose to train with US Sport Planes, you will receive the appropriate endorsements to fly in controlled airspace, such as Class B, C, and D; and will have the endorsement required to fly aircraft capable of sustaining more than 100 MPH (87 Knots).

In general, the Sport Pilot rule allows you all of the freedom and privileges that most Private Pilots enjoy. One of the most obvious restrictions of a Sport Pilot is flying at night. But the reality is that most Private Pilots do not fly at night even though they are legal to do so.

Here are the restrictions for Sport pilots:
You cannot get paid to fly, except for sharing the expenses as explained earlier.
You cannot operate a flying-related business such as charging to transport people or cargo, banner towing, aerial photography, pipeline patrol, etc.
You cannot fly at night
You cannot carry more than one passenger
Demo flights as an aircraft salesperson are not allowed
No flights allowed higher than 10,000 feet above sea level
You cannot tow any objects
There is no time like the present! If you have been dreaming of learning to fly, let us help you turn that dream into a reality. Call us at 866-383-2400 ext. 6404, or stop by the office today.