How Do I Get A Sport Pilot Certificate?

Before you think about applying for a Sport Pilot Certificate, you need to know that it’s not the same as a Private Pilot License, and while it does allow you to legally fly, it does have its limitations. So, before you decide to apply for your certificate, make sure that you fully understand the FFA (Federal Aviation Authority) rules and regulations that you’ll be governed by once you are certified. 

Even though you don’t need one to get a Sport Pilot’s Certificate, it’s always worth applying for an FAA medical certificate, which your doctor can authorize and sign off on once they’ve conducted the relevant examination.  You don’t need the medical certificate to get your Sport Pilot Certificate, but once you’ve been in control of a plane, like most pilots do, you’ll want more, which will mean applying and studying for your Private Pilot’s Licence, and you will need an FAA medical to get it. 

The only thing that you do need in order to apply for a Sport Pilot Certificate, is a current and valid driver’s license. You’ll also need to be at least seventeen years old and be able to read and write and communicate in English. Providing that you are, have, and can do all of the aforementioned things, you can apply to a flight school and start to learn how to become a Sport Pilot.

In order to get your certificate though, you’ll need to undergo fifteen hours of fully tutored flight training time and five hours of solo flying time. Those twenty-hours need to include at least ten takeoffs and landings after each of which the aircraft must have been brought to a complete stop, two hours of cross-country flight training, two hours of flight training to prepare for the examination, a solo cross-country flight that must be a distance of at least seventy five nautical miles that includes at least two landings and full stops and one uninterrupted flight of at least twenty five nautical miles. 

You’ll also need to be trained in the ground-based operation of an aircraft and be fully versant in all of the relevant FAA regulations that apply to the legal flight of light-sport aircraft. Once you’ve mastered all of those things, you’ll be ready to be certified, and as soon as you are, you’ll be able to legally fly. It may seem like a lot of instruction and tutelage, but it’s only a fraction of what you need in order to become a fully licensed private pilot. 

Can A Sport Pilot Carry Passengers?

The regulations about who can and can’t fly with a certified sport pilot are incredibly restrictive and stringently enforced. FAA regulations state that a sport pilot may fly with one passenger as long as said passenger and the sport pilot divide the fuel, hire, and any other running and flying costs equally. 

The rules are worded the way they are to prevent captaincy of any aircraft being flown with another person onboard becoming the legal responsibility of a sport pilot because according to the letter of the law, a sport pilot isn’t allowed to be in charge of, or responsible for, any other person while piloting an aircraft.

So yes, a sport pilot is allowed to carry one passenger as long as they don’t assume the role of captain, or expect to be referred to as such while flying said passenger and as long as said passenger assumes personal responsibility for getting into the aircraft, and flying, with a sport pilot.    

Can A Sport Pilot Fly A Cessna 150?

Anyone who has ever spent any time at an airfield is more than familiar with Cessna’s and knows just how popular these light aircraft are among, and with pilots.  Unfortunately though, if you’re only certified as a sport pilot, you won’t be able to and can’t legally fly a Cessna 150, 152, or 172 as all of those airplanes fall outside of the parameters of the aircraft that a sport pilot can fly. 

The Cessna 150 isn’t classified as a light-sport aircraft, it’s too heavy and as such can’t be flown by a sport pilot.  The planes that a sport pilot can fly cannot exceed (including fuel) a maximum takeoff weight of thirteen hundred and twenty pounds and must not be able to exceed a maximum cruising speed of one hundred and thirty-eight miles per hour. As we said at the beginning, the rules and regulations that govern sport pilots are incredibly tight, and that includes the airplanes that they can, and cannot fly. 

Can A Sport Pilot Fly At Night?

Flying at night requires an additional level and degree of training and tutelage that isn’t offered to sport pilots either leading up to or during their certification test and examination. The FAA guidelines and regulations concerning who is and isn’t allowed to be in charge of an aircraft, or fly it at night are clear, concise, and strict. And sport pilots don’t make the cut and can’t fly at night.  

If you do want to legally be able to fly at night, then you’ll need to train for and study to get your private pilot’s license and undergo the extra tuition that will enable and prepare you to take to the sky during the hours of darkness. But if you just want to get your sport pilot certificate, then you won’t be legally allowed to fly an aircraft at night. 

Can A Sport Pilot Get An Instrument Rating?

Once again the FAA has stepped into the breach and thanks to their comprehensive rulebook has made it impossible for an aviator flying under the guidelines of a sport pilot’s certificate to get an instrument rating. The certification needed to qualify for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) is a couple of steps further along in the career of any pilot. 

If you do want to become instrument rated, you’ll need to get your private pilot’s license. All private pilots are initially taught to fly according to VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and in order to get an instrument rating and be able to fly IFR (Instrument Flight Rules), they need to undergo additional training before they receive an instrument rating certification and license. But if you want to fly for a living, the only way that you’ll ever be able to do so is with an IFR license.

Can You Fly Cross-Country With A Sport Pilot Licence?

Absolutely. In fact, being able to plan for and execute a successful cross-country flight is one of the requirements of sport pilot certification. In order for any potential sport pilot to gain the necessary certification that they need to legally fly, they have to prove that they can fly at least seventy-five nautical miles in a cross-country journey.  

While the FAA regulations governing what kind of aircraft a sport pilot can and cannot fly and the regulations that control how they can fly it are incredibly thorough and restrictive, they don’t impose any controls on where a sport pilot can and cannot fly. As long as they obey the specific altitude laws, only fly during their permitted hours, abide by the local meteorological conditions and are aware of the airspace restrictions that are in place, and plan the flight accordingly, any sport pilot can fly to wherever they want in the country, whenever they want to.  

How Far Can A Sport Pilot Fly?

And at long last, there’s some good news about sport pilot certificates and how far you can and cannot fly if you have one. If you’re a certified sport pilot, the FAA doesn’t care how far you fly, or when you fly. You can fly as far as you want to. But the bad news is, that in order to do so, you’ll have to obey all of the rules and regulations that are part and parcel of being a sport pilot. 

That said, as long as you plan your journey carefully, there’s no reason why you can’t fly from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again. You’ll just have to make sure that you stay clear of restricted airspace and don’t attempt to enter it, have enough stops planned along the way to make sure that you always have more than enough fuel to cover each part of your journey, only fly during the day and stay below ten thousand feet. And as long as you do, you can fly as far, and for as long as you want to with a sport pilot certificate.