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What’s the deal with Sport aviation?

Posted by on January 4, 2009 0 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags : ,

We have been receiving a lot of Sport pilot and LSA-related questions lately. Ken has two more:

“If I get my PPL, can I count my hours in a non-LSA aircraft toward a SP CFI?”

And, a more general question, “Is there some common reason why schools and FBOs seem very cold to the suggestion of having an LSA craft in their fleet?”

Ken, I’m going to answer your questions out of order, because the second one actually has a lot of depth to it. As you probably know, Sport pilots can ‘self-certify’ their medical fitness—simply being healthy and possessing a valid driver’s license is enough to legally carry a passenger in a light sport aircraft. Somewhat understandably, insurance companies are not too excited about this. Where there was previously some level of oversight in the form of an FAA-approved medical examiner, there is now what you could describe as an honor system. That seems to be part of it; it would be difficult for clubs and FBOs to insure pilots who hold only a Sport certificate.

What you may not realize, however, is that Light Sport Aircraft are also self-certified, in a way. A light sport manufacturer abides by FAA regulations and requirements, but there is no FAA certification process to ensure that the aircraft are being built to those standards. It’s not as if there are LSAs falling out of the sky because of this, but there’s a reason that a Sting Sport costs significantly less than a Bonanza or a Cirrus. This is probably the biggest hurdle for FBOs, as getting hull insurance for Sport aircraft is also quite expensive. Despite these problems, there are many clubs and schools, at least in the Northwest, that do offer Sport training and rentals, but there are likely to be more restrictions.

With that out of the way, I’ll dive into (and expand, for other readers) your first question:

Can normal non-sport aircraft time count towards an SP-CFI (Sport Pilot-limited flight instructor) rating?

Simply put, yes, but it’s a little more awkward than that. First of all, the flight experience requirements depend on which type of SP-CFI you wish to become. This is about as easy as it sounds. If you don’t plan on teaching in a powered parachute, don’t read that section of FAR 61, Subpart K, which discusses the various SP-CFIs. For our purposes, we’ll assume you’re going to be flying airplanes, in which case you need to simply log at least 150 hours total flight time, 100 hours of which is to be as PIC and 50 hours of which is to be in a single-engine airplane. Of that time, only 15 hours must be in an LSA. Your logbook could contain 50 hours of glider time, 100 hours of helicopter time, or any combination of flight time that adds up to 50 hours of SEL/SES and 100 hours of PIC in a powered aircraft.

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