Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning To Fly: All About Priorities

There’s a practical solution to every barrier in aviation

If you're frugal and creative, you can save money by buying used gear and instructional materials, training often (four times a week or more), and coming prepared to each lesson, having pre-studied the day's instruction module.

Doing so will get you closer to the FAA instruction time minimums. As I write this, I'm seeing advertisements for FBOs even offering sport-pilot certificate packages in the $3,000 range.

There are, obviously, differences in the two ratings. A private certificate will give you the foundation for more advanced ratings and airplanes.

The private certificate allows you to carry more than one passenger, fly at night, in complex airspace and in heavier aircraft.

The most compelling reason to earn the sport certificate instead of the private is if you just want to fly for the love of flying and nothing else.

Many people have no desire to get advanced ratings, and studies show that most of the general aviation population consists of pilots flying solo or with a single passenger. For those reasons, the sport-pilot certificate is a great way to join the ranks of aviators at a fraction of the cost.

Minimum training time 40 hours 20 hours
Language requirement Be able to speak, read, write and understand English Be able to speak, read, write English
Fly at night Yes No
Maximum passengers (in addition to pilot) No limit (limited by aircraft capacity) 1
Requires FAA medical certificate? Yes—third class No—a U.S. driver's license is adequate
Maximum aircraft weight 12,500 pounds 1,320 pounds and a maximum of two seats
Maximum speed No limit 138 mph
Complex airspace limitations Can fly in Class B, C, D airspace Can't fly in Class B, C, or D without a written endorsement and additional training
Altitude restriction None (automatically excluded from Class A airspace) 10,000 feet (or 2,500 feet AGL in mountainous terrain higher than 10,000 feet)
Minimum age to earn certificate 17 17
Minimum age to solo 16 16
Written test required Yes Yes
Flight (practical) test required Yes Yes
Eligible for advanced ratings Yes (such as instrument) No
Type of aircraft Any Aircraft must meet LSA requirements
Can fly outside of the continental U.S. Yes No, except for the Bahamas


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