Pilot training is a very personal experience, and each pilot will need to consider how he will learn best and what best fits his long-term goals and lifestyle. There is no wrong answer of how to begin. The important first step — start flying!
Chris Esposito began flying at the age of 15, soloing in a Bell 47 helicopter on his 16th birthday. Prior to co-founding First Landings Aviation, a flight school specializing in sport pilot and private pilot training, Chris worked as an aviation insurance agent and helicopter flight instructor, accruing more than 1,900 hours of instruction time. He says:
The “sport or private” question is one our flight school is intimately familiar with. Many students are unsure which would be the best fit, and there are always questions about sport time counting toward the private license. I feel the sport rating is a great place to start and would recommend that any prospective pilot start there. The key is to be aware of the private pilot requirements as you work toward your sport rating so you don’t waste any time when you decide to move on to the private.
It’s important to find an instructor who is an FAR Part 61, Subpart H CFI (instead of the Sport-only Subpart K CFIS). Training with a Subpart H instructor will allow all of your dual instruction time to count toward the private license, so you won’t have to repeat anything when you choose to advance to the private certificate.
So many pilots begin training and never finish, and I believe that is due in large part to the financial and time commitments involved. The sport license creates a “checkpoint” and gives students the feeling of accomplishment that can only come from earning a pilot’s license. Instead of working toward the private, soloing and having to stop for financial or workload reasons, the student can earn a sport certificate in as little as 20 hours of flight time, and he can keep that certificate for life. It’s much more manageable when the license can be earned in as little as two weeks. Those interested in pursuing the private license can do so after earning the sport license, knowing they have a certificate that won’t expire like a student pilot certificate.
As opposed to the recreational pilot license, the sport pilot license does not restrict the distance you can fly, so pilots are free to roam the United States as well as the Bahamas and gain real-world flying experience. With the sport rating they can also work toward several of the private requirements on their own, building confidence as they do so.
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