Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Light-Sport Chronicles: Learn To Fly The LSA Way

A quick look at the light-sport aircraft category and the sport-pilot rule

Current FAA-certified and experimental aircraft that fall within the specs also can be flown by sport pilots, as well as private, recreational or higher-pilot-certificate holders. Examples: Ercoupe, Piper Cub J-3, Taylorcraft.

LSA are not FAA certified in the traditional manner. Comprehensive structural and flight testing is performed by manufacturers in conformity with consensus standards established by the ASTM International Committee F37 standards organization. FAA does oversee and audit manufacturers to make sure they remain in compliance with ASTM. More info here:

Since 2004, 133 models have been certified as S-LSA; the great majority is still in production.

LSA have less-restrictive maintenance requirements. Some maintenance and inspection tasks are possible for pilots and/or owners, providing they've received appropriate training, such as the "repairman: light-sport" certificate.

Sport-Pilot License (SPL) Basics
Here's something I've learned from several flight instructors who teach for the sport- pilot ticket: LSA pilots tend to be better at pure flying. Primary reason: lighter-weight LSA are generally easy to fly but are more sensitive to gusts, winds and turbulence. LSA pilots learn quickly to develop sharp stick-and-rudder skills.

The sport-pilot certificate, advanced and developed for years by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), debuted in 2004.

Purpose: to simplify pilot training, allow rated pilots with potential (not existing) disqualifying medical issues to maintain flight privileges, and offer less-costly aircraft, training, and operating costs and maintenance.

VFR, daylight-only recreational flight was the primary motive for LSA and the SPL.
I Having failed an FAA medical prohibits flying as a Sport Pilot. Once the medical issue is resolved with FAA, an
SPL is achievable.
An FAA medical certificate isn't required. SPL holders must have a valid, current driver's license. Caveat: Sport pilots must not have been medically disqualified to fly under any other FAA license. This causes confusion, but here's how it works: Most rated private and above pilots, concerned they may lose their medicals, get their SPL before they fail an FAA medical exam.

Having failed an FAA medical prohibits flying as a sport pilot. However, once the medical issue is resolved satisfactorily with FAA, an SPL is achievable.

Qualifications for applicants: 17 years old (16 for glider or balloon), speak/read/ write/understand English.


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