Sport Pilots can be trained and qualified to fly in Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) such as airplanes, weight-shift aircraft, powered parachutes, gliders, and lighter-than-air (airships or balloons). The Experimental Aircraft Association also believes that gyroplanes will shortly be contained in the LSA category, making a total of six distinct forms of aircraft that the sport pilot could command.
The minimum qualifications for getting a sport pilot are that the applicant be 16 years of age to start training (or 14 years for gliders), and at least 17 years old to be eligible to take the licensing test (16 for gliders). The sport pilot applicant doesn’t have to make an appointment with a FAA Designated Medical Examiner to find a flight physical, because he or she is considered medically qualified with only a valid drivers license. (That is, of course, if the candidate has been previously denied, or had an FAA medical certificate revoked.) If the aspiring game pilot already has an FAA medical, that’s fine too! And finally, he or she has to be able to read, write, and understand American English.
Whereas becoming a Private Pilot means you have to log at least 40 hours of flight time, but the national average at the moment is almost 65 hours. Of these hours, 20 must be with an instructor (OUCH! – these teacher fees), and at least 10 hours must be solo. As a Sport Pilot candidate, you can be eligible to take your certification exam with as few as 20 hours of flight time! You have to take and pass a written test for the two qualifications, but with the sport pilot course, you will be up in the air much faster and heavier in the wallet area. The best part is, all of the time you log as a sport pilot can be applied towards your private pilot license in case you choose to upgrade later. Talk about a great starting place!
Some of those constraints sport pilots have placed on them are
1) no flights above 10,000 ft,
2) no flights to airspaces around airports which are controlled by towers,
3) no flights away from the U.S.,
4) no night flights, and
5) no flights unless the surface of the Earth can be viewed for flight reference (i.e. cloudy days).
Also, sport pilots can simply take one other person flying at a time, so taking ALL your friends flying could take an extra long day! Also, taking individuals flying for compensation or hire is not allowed under the new sport pilot rating, nevertheless with Certificated Flight Instructors (CFI’s) all around the U.S. gearing up to teach this new rating, the Sport Pilot certificate would appear to be the best value for your hard earned dollar.