As the rule progressed, the definition of what constitutes a Light Sport Aircraft changed; happily, the final rule read something like a wish list. The rule defines a light sport aircraft as: - Having a max gross weight of 1,320 pounds, or 1,430 pounds if float equipped - Stalling at a maximum of 45 knots - Having a maximum full power straight and level flight at sea level of no more than 120 knots - Seating a maximum of two - Operating day/VFR only - Having a single, reciprocating engine - Being equipped with a fixed or ground adjustable propeller - Having an unpressurized cabin - Being outfitted with a fixed landing gear (which can be a repositionable gear for amphibians)
The new-manufacture airplanes are the focus of much of the interest in the Light Sport Aircraft rule. While they will be type-certificated, they will be built to certification standards much less stringent than those required under Part 23. The new benchmarks will be based on industry/government consensus, which will greatly ease many of the most difficult aspects of certification, making the process, the FAA hopes, doable for even small companies. Some of these new airplanes might be quite affordable, too. At the low-cost end, Sabre Trikes, an Arizona-based trike maker, says that it plans to sell a certified, light sport aircraft version of its Wildcat two-seat weight-shift trike for less than $20,000 complete and ready to fly.
New Pilots Coming through the Doors
Who will fly these new LSA (or LSA-eligible) airplanes? Once they emerge, sport pilots will be able to, but so will private, commercial, and ATP-rated pilots. And any of those pilots can fly light sport aircraft without a medical so long as they have a valid drivers license. One major advantage of the sport pilot certificate is that pilots can get their ticket in as little as 20 hours, a point that supporters of the rule say will quickly swell the pilot ranks. Once they have their ticket in hand, sport pilots can: - Fly Light Sport Aircraft or Light Sport Aircraft-eligible aircraft - Take a passenger along for the ride - Use the time logged as a sport pilot toward higher ratings - Add on certain privileges, like flying in controlled airspace, including at airports with control towers There are limitations to sport pilot privileges when compared to those of private pilots, but most of them can be removed with additional training. Some will require that the sport pilot upgrade to a private pilot certificate. Some sport pilot restrictions include: - Day/VFR ops only - Operation in Class G and E airspace only - The requirement to get checked out in each new category and make and model of Light Sport Aircraft they fly. Private (or higher-rated) pilots are exempt from this requirement.
Many requirements of other certificates apply to the sport pilot ticket. Pilots need to meet the same age (16 to solo, for example) and language requirements, they need to maintain currency on the same schedule as other pilots, and the light sport aircraft they fly need to be appropriately equipped for the airspace and conditions in which they operate.
For some pilots the best news in the rule was that sport pilots don't need to have an FAA medical certificate. Instead, sport pilots (and those with a private, commercial, or other certificate) can exercise the privileges of sport pilot with just a driver's license as proof of medical fitness. Those pilots who have had a medical denied or revoked won't be eligible for self-certification, as it currently stands, but in time even that restriction could be modified.