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Light Sport Training/Pilot Qualifications

*This discussion is, by no means all there is to know. It is a brief overview designed to answer FAQ's. For complete information, the FAA, AOPA and EAA have comprehensive details.

Pilots can obtain a Sports Pilot Certificate specifically designed to address the desire of people wishing to fly aircraft primarily for recreational purposes and to enjoy the thrill of flight. A sport pilot can be certified with a few as 20 hours of flight instruction and fly a one or two-seat aircraft capable of speeds up to 138 mph. No FAA medical examination is required, only a valid auto driver's license.

Private pilots, with an expired medical certification can fly light sport aircraft as can current private, commercial and ATP pilots with a simple check ride roughly equivalent
to a BFR. It's that simple.

What is a light sport airplane?

All light sport aircraft are designed under a "consensus" standard established under A.S.T.M. 2245.09. Manufacturers conduct flight tests and submit a "Statement of Conformity" to the F.A.A. attesting to the fact that they comply with A.S.T.M. 2245.09. Interestingly, the FAA is not obligated to review the data and must simply "accept" the data submitted by the manufacturer. Essentially, light sport aircraft are "self-certified". This is one reason why only the manufacturer can approve any equipment or modifications to their aircraft. The good news is that this method of "certification" significantly lowers the cost of airframe development and approval.

So, other than FAA acceptance, what are the differences in an light sport aircraft? Light sport aircraft are limited as follows—

· Single engine
· No more than 2 seats
· A gross take-off weight of no more that 1320 lbs (1420 lbs for amphibious   aircraft)
· Maximum speed of 138 mph
· Minimum speed of 45 mph
· No complex systems (constant speed prop, turbochargers, retractable gear,   etc.)

Flight Schools Use LSAs

Flight schools are warming to light sport aviation aircraft as an economical way to update their aging training fleet. Light sport aircraft offer the flight school operator current technology combined with lower operational costs.

Rotax engines, which power about 85% of light sport aircraft, use premium auto fuel, rather than the more expensive aviation 100LL. This means a savings of at least 30%, or more, on fuel costs. The typical light sport aircraft burns only 3.5 to 5.5 gph as opposed to 10-12 gph for a Cessna 172. (BTW, a similarly equipped CE-172 will cost at least $175/hour to rent as opposed to a light sport at $95/ hour.)