Since the introduction of the sport-pilot certificate in 2005, light-sport aircraft (LSA) have been eyed with a mixture of hopeful optimism and cautious indifference. At first, the whole idea of light-sport aircraft was viewed with suspicion, largely because of the reputation that ultralight aircraft had gained in the 1970s. During that decade of hang-glider accidents and cobbled-together designs, ultralights were seen as dangerous toys for “amateur” pilots. However, LSA are far beyond ultralights (the FAA created a different definition for ultralight aircraft), and have found a place in the hangars and hearts of many aviators. Light-sport aircraft are here to stay and are growing in popularity in ways nobody thought possible.
When the sport-pilot certificate was created, the idea was to bring more people into aviation by introducing an affordable alternative to the privatepilot rating. There are thousands of people who love to fly and have no aspirations of adding ratings, working for an airline or flying higher-performance aircraft. Indeed, FAA studies conclude that most of our general aviation flying is done alone or with another occupant in the aircraft. There are plenty of solitary pilots looking over their shoulders at five empty seats in their Bonanzas who would agree with the FAA.