Not too long ago, light-sport aircrafts (LSA) were viewed with suspicion, mainly because of the reputation they’ve gained in the 1970s. During that period, due to precarious designs and numerous accidents, light-sport aircrafts were considered dangerous, a toy for amateur pilots.
However, that’s no longer the case. Since the introduction of sport pilot certificates ten years ago, LSA has gained a special place in the hearts of pilots and aviation enthusiasts. Not only that light-sport aircrafts are no longer perceived as unsafe and unprofessional, but they are also gaining popularity. More than that, they represent an affordable alternative to private pilot training.
Whether you are considering getting a light-sport pilot certificate or you are simply interested in sports aviation, here’s everything you should know about LSA.
- Light-Sport Aircraft 101
Before we dive into what you can do with an LSA and how you can become a sports pilot, it’s important to understand what light-sport aircraft is and what it isn’t. There is plenty of confusion between LSA and ultralight aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines the light-sport aircraft as heavier than air aircraft, other than a helicopter with a topmost takeoff of less than 1.230 lb. The LSA must meet certain requirements, such as have a maximum stall speed of 45 knots, two seats, fixed undercarriage, and so on.
Light-sport aircraft do include not only airplanes, but also airships, gyroplanes, trikes, balloons, and powered parachutes. They can be used for recreation and sport, or flight training.
One of the great advantages of light-sport aircraft is that you need no more than a valid driver’s license to get behind the gear, instead of an FAA medical certificate. That’s because the main purpose of LSA is to refresh the aviation industry and to bring back latent pilots back in the flyer’s seat. As a result, getting a sports pilot certificate is easier and more accessible than earning a private pilot license.
How Can You Become a Sports Pilot?
As mentioned already, the FAA allows pilots to fly light-sport aircraft without the need for a medical certificate. However, you must have a valid driver’s lesson if you want to fly an LSA.
To get a sports pilot certificate, you need to meet the following requirements:
- You need at least 20 hours of flight training, including 15 hours of training with an instructor and 5 hours solo flight;
- Flight training must include minimum two hours of cross-country flight time and at least ten takeoff and landings.
- Your flight training must also include one solo cross-country flight
- At least three hours of training for the practical test.
Once you get your certificate, there are several different types of standard category light-sport aircrafts you can fly, such as Aeronca Champ, Piper J-2 and J-3, Taylorcrafts BC, BC-65, and BCS, or Luscombe 8, 8A, 8B, and 8C.
- What Can You Do with an LSA Certificate?
It’s a real shame that so many pilots are not aware of the thrills these light aircraft can offer. Similar to their larger, faster, and heavier counterparts, LSA can offer you just as much excitement and adventure. The only difference is that, since they were created as a fun aircraft, they are easier to fly and maintain than larger planes.
A light-sport aircraft can do pretty much what a large plan can. If you travel to the Bahamas, for instance, you will see LSAs making ocean crossings on a regular basis, or exploring the areas surrounding the islands. Other manufacturers are flying light-sport aircraft across the globe, over deserts and oceans, putting their confidence in the craft’s high-tech engines and proven soundness.
- A Dynamic Market
The LSA market is anything but boring. New designs emerge every week more creative and innovative than the previous ones. And the interest is certainly growing. Even huge airline companies such as Boeing or Airbus are showing interest in the light-sport aircraft field.
The Light-sport aircraft has proven to be an excellent gateway to big thrills and new adventures without the exorbitant costs and complexity of standard planes. While there are still some doubts and concerns surrounding the LSA market, they are becoming an important part of the general aviation.