The ability to fly is something that still astounds humankind. Children find themselves fascinated by planes, birds, and superheroes that can leave the ground and soar miles above. This fascination doesn’t always go away in adulthood as many people dream of being able to leave the ground themselves, if only for a short flight. Some are content with commercial flights in helicopters and planes. Others go to extremes of wing-suits to jump from mountains.
Many hold on to the desire to control a plane of their own, on their own, and want to become a pilot. There are many challenges with the Private Pilot License for many hopeful trainees.
A full pilot’s license is not easy to obtain, so many give up on this dream. However, a new Sports Pilots License could be the answer.
- What is this license?
- What are the benefits?
- What is the required training and exams?
Unfortunately, the dream of becoming a licensed pilot is one that appears to be out of reach for many people. The Private Pilot License is a great achievement for all those that want the freedom to operate a personal plane and work in aviation across the country. It is one that requires plenty of commitment and sacrifice to obtain. There are four basic requirements here and we will explain below.
(Source: US Sport Aircraft)
The first is cost, the required training classes, instructor time, and training flights are not cheap. Trainee pilots need to have the cash or credit available to spend on flights, training courses, exams, kit and more. This is a financial commitment. Many find that they finally have the right job to earn enough for their dream, but have too many other commitments.
Then there is the time it takes to go from the very first lesson to the final exams. This is a process with many required hours of solo flight, training for all kinds of conditions and many tests and exams. This requires the commitment and dedication that some cannot afford with their busy work or family schedule.
One of those many tests and exams that trainees have to deal with is the medical exam. There are strict rules about the health and safety of pilots. Those that don’t pass the pilot physical exam cannot obtain the full Private Pilot License.
Perseverance and determination are essential for anybody that wants to become a pilot with the full private license. There are many lessons and obstacles to overcome, which means this is for the committed, passionate trainees that are desperate to fly solo. They are also additional stresses with this license option that come from the multiple exams and the difficult training sessions. For example, all pilots with a Private Pilot License need to be able to fly at night, and in adverse conditions. This can be pretty daunting for all newcomers.
This all means that some give up on their dream because it simply isn’t viable. However, a new type of license may provide the answer to this problem. That is the Sports License.
What is a Sports License?
A Sports License is an option that is fairly new in the world of aviation. It is there to fill a gap in the market for those that want to learn to fly but can’t go the full distance for the full Pilot License. This option is a lower-grade option that permits pilots to fly under clear conditions and restrictions. It is nowhere near as inclusive as a full license but could be the next best thing for many hopeful trainees.
There are many advantages to this approach that address the problems of the Private Pilot License.
There are many similarities between the Private Pilot License and Sports Pilot License regarding the requirements and skills needed. The fact that this is a lower-level approach does reduce some of the issue seen with the full license. This can be highly beneficial for new pilots, and they see this in the following ways.
Time is still an important factor here, as there are many hours spent in the air at training facilities. Some trainees will still have to take time off to commit to this new venture, but it is not the same length of time as the Private Pilots License. This is much more manageable and doesn’t seem like quite as big a mountain to climb.
The costs are significantly cheaper with this approach. The reduction in requirements and lessons means less money to spend over a shorter period. This is great news for all those that struggle to finance this dream or budget accordingly. There is a cost per hour to rent the training airplane, including fuel. Therefore, fewer lessons mean fewer rentals. The same goes for your time with the instructor as they are also on an hourly rate.
The aspect that stays the same is the expense of the equipment needed for the training, other pieces of vital kit and the examination costs. Some suggest budgeting an extra $1000 overall for these extra. This could all lead to a final bill of as much as $5,000 for everything. This is still a sizable sum, but not as bad as it could be.
The main concerns with health and fitness remain with this alternative license. All pilots still need to be fit and capable, with good eyesight and the capacity to fly safely. However, the rules are a little more relaxed here. There is no need for a medical exam if trainees have a valid drivers license that indicates their good health.
All of these benefits with the reduced costs, smaller time frame and overall scale of the challenge lead to a better frame of mind. The act of aiming for a full Private Pilot License can be daunting and challenging, but here it is more manageable. This gives trainees the confidence to keep going to get that license. There are still the same fears and obstacles in flight and taking the controls, but some of the pressure decreases.
Who is this approach for?
There are reports from training facilities providing these license options that suggest that there is a particular demographic drawn to this approach because of these advantages. This is the middle-aged man finally able to work towards their dream. These are the people that saved up in their careers and feel that the time is right to take the next step. They are also the family men that found a compromise on time and cost to convince their partners that it was a good idea.
Of course, this route isn’t limited to this group, but there is a common pattern. An option is also an option to older men and women that want to get out of a rut and try new things – providing they have the health and valid drivers license. It is also open to younger adults with the determination and finances to see it through. The difference with these determined younger pilots is that the Sports License may not be enough. This leads us to some of the important disadvantages of this option.
The problem is that that there are also some disadvantages to choosing a Sports License over the Private Pilot License
The first disadvantage here is the restriction on the restriction on the type of plane that pilots can use in these situations. A Sports Pilot License is only valid with a Light Sports Aircraft. All new pilots that have never flown before may wonder what this means.
A Light Sports Aircraft is one categorized as a small, single-engine craft with no more than two seats and a weight of no more than 1,320 pounds. This may be much smaller than some had expected. There is also the fact that the plane cannot travel faster than 138 miles per hour. All new pilots must look up the full specifications and limitations before committing to this type of license.
This is a problem for all those that want to use the plane as an alternative form of transport for a vacation. These light aircraft are an idea for day trips and tours with family members for a fun afternoon in the right conditions. Things get a little more difficult when we have couples heading across the country for a week away. This weight allowance may seem reasonable on the surface, but pilots have to remember that this is mostly taken up with the weight of the two occupants and the fuel. This leaves little room for luggage.
The other disadvantage here is the restrictions on the flight.
Pilots with Sports License essentially don’t have a full license or the full training that allows them to handle any plane or condition. Therefore, there are some restrictions and where and when pilots can fly with this lower-level option. Sports Pilots cannot fly above 10,000 feet, through clouds and other bad weather, or at night. They simply don’t have the experience and training to handle these conditions.
This is a potential problem for those that look to a Sports Pilot license as a stepping stone to new career options and other professional opportunities. This inability to take on more than one passenger, or a substantial load, is a problem with the much aviation-based business.
Furthermore, commercial operations for tours and other pilot hire schemes require a full pilot license. Therefore, anyone that would like to embark on a career as a pilot should not restrict themselves to this option. This is just for those with small-scale personal travel and goals in mind.
So what are the training requirements of this new Sports License?
Trainees must work through twenty hours of training for this Sports Pilot License. This is split between the fifteen carried out with an instructor and five that allow for solo flight. This balance is important as all trainees need the right guidance but also need solo practice for personal flights. The rules on these five solo hours are pretty strict as there are certain requirements to meet before anyone can get their license. They are as follows:
All trainees must undertake two hours of cross-country flight training. All trainees must complete ten solo take-offs and landings. All trainees must fly at least 75 nautical miles from one solo cross-country flight total distance and 25 straight nautical miles between taking off and landing locations on another.
- All trainees must go through three hours of flight training before the practical test.
- All trainees must go through ground training from an instructor.
- Passing the exams to become a qualified Sports Pilot.
Even though this is a “lesser” license, there are still plenty of tests to take. Trainees must first undergo a FAA-approved written exam. This is a computerized test that should be easy enough to access. Then there is a two-part practical exam. The first is an oral exam administered by a FAA-approved senior pilot, with a quiz on the trainee’s aviation knowledge. The second is an hour-long test of practical skills.
Is a Sports Pilot License the best approach for new pilots?
There are lots of people that will see this alternative form of pilots license as the ideal solution to their needs. This mid-way point is perfect for those without the finances, time or desire to go through the full training of the Private Pilot License. Students can learn enough to get them up in the air unsupervised, providing they fly the right type of plane in the right conditions. However, it is important to understand all the different limitations on flights and planes before making this choice. Those that have specific goals in mind after qualifying may find that the Sports Pilot License is not enough.
In the end, this is a great solution for all those that feel trapped between their desire to fly and inability to learn. Some too many people feel that the dream of being a pilot is completely out of reach, and give up. This provides that much-needed compromise situation of low-level restricted flight where pilots are still in full control of their plane and destination. The low costs, short training period and potential gains are worthwhile for those that want a fun route to personal flight and new adventures.