20 Hours to Solo

Will a new pilot category restore the glory days of general aviation?

Sport pilots who choose to build the SeaRey kitplane can take off from and set down on both land and water. (Jim Koepnick/EAA)
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Further information

Students can receive sport pilot training from any Federal Aviation Administration-certified instructor, and they can take lessons in any aircraft. For the required solo flight, however, student sport pilots must fly an airplane in the light sport aircraft category.

There is not yet enough data to firmly gauge the cost of obtaining a sport pilot certificate, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association. For rough budgeting, the EAA suggests figuring on one-third to one-half the cost of a private pilot certificate.

A person who has been denied an FAA pilot certificate for medical reasons cannot be issued a sport pilot license until approved by the FAA’s medical branch. The FAA notes at least 15 conditions that can disqualify someone from receiving any pilot certificate, and FAA rules state that if a pilot knows of any medical condition that would affect his or her ability to operate an aircraft, that person should refrain from acting as pilot-in-command. In addition, a pilot who is severely overweight might have difficulty fitting into the smaller cockpits typical of some light sport aircraft.

For answers to frequently asked questions about sport pilot training, go to www.sportpilot.org.

For answers to frequently asked questions about private pilot training, visit the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Web site.

An online calculator to help determine the cost of flight training — aircraft rental rates, instructor fees, study materials, medical costs, and exam fees — is available at www.csgnetwork.com/cost2learntoflycalc.html

A discussion of medical restrictions for sport pilot versus private pilot can be viewed at www.leftseat.com/sport.htm

—Roger Mola

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