Plane & Pilot
Friday, October 1, 2004

The New Sport-Pilot License Is Here!

Landmark changes from the FAA have just made Flying cheaper and easier

The New Sport-Pilot License Is Here!It took more than 2 ½ years to review the more than 4,700 comments on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2002 proposal to simplify pilot training and make the sport more affordable and accessible. After a tremendous amount of debate, research and consideration (and a certain amount of suspense), the FAA made its announcement on September 1, 2004: The new sport-pilot license became official, and with it came an entirely new category of planes, the light-sport aircraft (LSA).
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Ed Downs, president of SkyStar Aircraft, which is a kit aircraft company that’s considering getting certified under the LSA category, says, “There are literally tens of thousands of people who have been waiting for the completion of the sport-pilot rules before they could buy an aircraft.” So, in essence, by offering inexpensive flying for people who could previously only dream of flying, the new sport-pilot rule has the potential to revolutionize general aviation.

Exploring the Medical Provision
One of the hottest topics surrounding the sport-pilot license is the medical provision, which states that an applicant can use a valid U.S. driver’s license to fly a light-sport aircraft. Many were under the impression that older pilots who could no longer qualify for a medical certificate now can use the provision to fly again by applying for the sport-pilot license. But according to the FAA’s final rule, that isn’t the case. Since the FAA is concerned that pilots whose airman medical certificates have been denied, suspended or revoked, or whose authorizations for special issuance of a medical certificate have been withdrawn would be allowed to operate light-sport aircraft under the proposed rule, it has made a few conditions to the medical provision. The proposal states that “if a person has held an airman medical certificate, that person’s most recently issued airman medical certificate [latest medical on file with the FAA] must not have been revoked or suspended. If a person has been granted an authorization, that authorization must not have been withdrawn.” In other words, pilots who can no longer fly because of a revoked or suspended medical can’t use their U.S. driver’s licenses alone as evidence that they’re medically fit to fly under the sport-pilot category.

In addition, the FAA underlines that although applicants who have never been issued a medical can use their driver’s licenses in lieu of a medical certificate, it doesn’t establish the fact that the driver’s license is medical evidence that a pilot is fit to fly. That means that pilots who know that they have a medical condition that would deem them unfit to fly can’t use their U.S. driver’s licenses as replacements for medical certificates. The bottom line for the FAA: All pilots need to be medically sound to safely fly.

Sport-Pilot Resources
Experimental Aircraft Association
(877) FLY-1232

(202) 267-3437

Sport Pilot Training
(775) 747-0175

United States Ultralight Association

(301) 695-9100


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