Sport Pilot vs. Private Pilot

Pilots · 4 min read · Mar 10, 2022
Sport Pilot vs Private Pilot

Piloting remains a demanding career that takes you through many sleepless nights, hectic examinations, exacting moments, and not to mention the huge cost involved. For many, becoming a private pilot is the stepping stone to this demanding career. With that said, there is an exhilarating way of pursuing your dream job in a cost-effective style.

First feat of a future pilot

The very first step of becoming a pilot is to grab a private pilot license and become a private pilot, did you know that? If yes, you have missed the better part. A private pilot certificate or private pilot license, whatever you want to call it, comes with a heavy price tag, which will be hard for many in the first place. Here comes the sport pilot certificate to the rescue. Through this ‘sport pilot vs private pilot’ article, we are providing more ground on both paths in a detailed manner.

Cost and time involved

Compared to light sport aircraft training carried out under a sport pilot certificate, private pilot training requires additional training efforts costing more money and time. The path to a private pilot’s license may cost you around $10,000 and a sports pilot’s license cuts the cost by nearly 50%, which is a big deal for many.

Time taken for the flight training under private certificate falls between 4-6 months while light sport aircraft training may take only 2-3 months.

A small airplane requiring sport pilot licence in the sky.

The process of claiming a license: sport pilot vs private pilot

Out of three available options: private pilot certificate, recreational pilot certificate, and sport pilot certificate, the private pilot license is the least restrictive license category, and sport pilot license is the most restrictive out of three.

Regardless of the license type, student pilots should acquire a student pilot certificate before the solo flight. No certificate is required for flight training and ground school. As per the FAA guidelines, you become eligible for a student pilot certificate if you are:

  • At least 16 years old,
  • Able to read, speak, and understand English.

For a sports pilot license, student pilots require 20 hours of flight instruction that comprises 15 hours with an FAA-certified flight instructor, 50 hours logged flight time for solo flight, and 20 hours of cross-country flight hours. Then it is down to a check ride with an FAA-designated pilot examiner to impress him with your piloting skills.

For a private pilot license, the number of required flight hours is 40 and the pilot should learn to fly at night as well.

Medical requirements for a sport pilot certificate

LSA or the light sport aircraft category does not require an FAA medical certificate for acquiring any sport pilot certificates. A driver’s license is accepted as medical proof. A medical exam is not mandated and this relaxation of medical requirements opened the door for many including retired pilots who are willing to fly for fun by just having a sports pilot license under their name.

A private pilot license demands stringent requirements as it offers more capabilities for a private pilot. A third-class FAA medical certificate is the standard requirement for a private pilot license, and a BasicMed will allow you to grab the license but with certain limitations.

Out of three main medical certificate categories, third-class medical is the one designated for a private pilot, while a second-class certificate is required for a commercial pilot, and a first-class FAA medical is required for an ATP certificate.

To obtain a third-class medical certificate, you should visit an authorized FAA medical examiner. Succeeding the physical examination makes you eligible for the medical certificate.

Here is what you can do with the two licenses

As we mentioned earlier, a sport pilot license comes with certain limitations compared to a private pilot certificate. Here is a broader comparison of sport pilot vs private pilot capabilities highlighting key differences.

Applicable aircraft categories

Sport pilots are only able to fly light sport aircraft with two seats limited to a maximum certified gross weight of 1,320 lbs. These pilots are not allowed to fly an aircraft equipped with the retractable landing gear.

Flying aircraft under a private pilot license offers more capabilities. The maximum certified gross weight for private pilots is 12,500 lbs. Private pilot certificate holders are allowed to fly aircraft with retractable landing gear provided that they have received the required flight training. Many private pilots expand their scope with additional training and instrument rating when they are willing to pilot different aircraft categories and fly under instrument flight rules in bad weather conditions.

Taking passengers onboard

As sport pilots are only allowed to fly aircraft with two seats, only one passenger is allowed to be carried. Private pilots are allowed to carry more than one passenger depending on the aircraft type.

Flying at night

A sports pilot is not allowed to fly at night. On the other hand, private pilots can perform nighttime flights as they have flown at nighttime with flight instructors.

Approved airspaces

With a sport pilot certificate, a pilot gets permission to fly in Class G and E airspaces. If sport pilot holders want to fly in Class B, C, or D airspaces, special flight training plus an endorsement from the flight instructor is required. A sport pilot cannot legally fly in class A airspaces. Private pilot certificate holders can fly into any airspace except class A, but an instrument rating qualifies a private pilot for all the airspaces.

Two small private jets requiring to be piloted by a private pilot stationed in an airfield.

Path to excel

This is what we promised at the beginning – an exhilarating, yet cost-effective path, sport pilot certificate holders get the opportunity to take their next step of becoming a private pilot by completing advanced training along with the FAA medical exam. It takes less time and effort, more importantly, less cost as you have already laid the stepping stone as a sports pilot.

Recreational pilots fall between sport pilots and private pilots. A sport pilot holding a sport license can opt for a recreational pilot’s license before becoming a private pilot.

By any chance, if your intention is to grab a pilot’s license for fun, fly in a light aircraft, and not intended to fly at night, a sport pilot certificate is ideal, and going for a private pilot certificate is something dispensable.

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Aeroclass Team
A team of professionals with a deep passion for the aviation industry bringing you the newest and the most striking industry-related news and content.

1 comment

  1. Thank you for sharing this informative article about light sport aircraft training. I hope there are a lot of flight schools who could read this and be guided accordingly.

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