Light sport aircraft (LSA) can be flown with a sport pilot certificate instead of a private pilot certificate. Because of the difference in certification, you can become a light sport pilot in as little as half the time and spend half as much money on training. Many sport pilots opt to purchase their own light sport aircraft. Learn about what LSA ownership entails before you purchase. Though there are many more S-LSAs (manufacturer-built) and E-LSAs (experimental) on the market, here are a handful of FLYING’s recommended options for light sport aircraft, to help you determine what would be best for your operations.
Quicklook: Light Sport Aircraft Models
- Evektor Harmony: A good option for instrument-rated pilots
- Tecnam P92 Echo MkII: A good option for luxury seekers
- Tomark Aero Viper SD4: A good option for pilots on a budget
- Flight Design CTLS: A good option for flight schools
- Rans S20 Raven: A good option for pilots interested in kitplanes
5 Light Sport Aircraft Options
When choosing a light sport aircraft keep in mind how you’ll best use the airplane. Engine type, useful load, and fuel range are important factors to take into account before purchasing. You will also want to consider how the aircraft will be serviced, including the availability of parts, and how well it will hold up to extensive use. The best option for one purpose may not suit another.
A Czech Republic-made LSA aircraft, the Evektor Harmony, is available in three engine configurations. The corrosion-proof design is good for pilots who do not pay for hangar space or are frequently in the sky. The Harmony is also available in a full-IFR version best suited for instrument-rated pilots.
Recommended for: Instrument-rated pilots
Engine Options: Rotax 912 ULS/S, Rotax 914 UL Turbo, and Rotax 912iS Sport
Useful Load: 634 lbs
Top Speed: 115 kts, 130 kts, or 115 kts, depending on engine choice
Range with Full Fuel: 700 nm, 600 nm, and 750 nm, depending on engine choice
Climb Rate: 900 ft/min and 1,250 ft/min, depending on engine choice
- Advanced Garmin or Dynon glass panel
- All-metal, anodised, and corrosion-proof airframe
- SL version available as an E-LSA 200-hour quick-build kit
- Low operating costs
- Easy maintenance
- Spacious cockpit
- Low availability
- Used: $68,000-plus
- New: $125,000-$168,000
Tecnam P92 Echo MkII
The Italian-made Tecnam P92 Echo MkII is a lighter, more fuel-efficient alternative to Technam’s other aircraft. It’s available in two configurations and comes at a reasonable all-in cost. The relatively new airframe is considered to be a luxury option in the LSA market for its sleek design and attention to detail.
Recommended for: Luxury seekers
Engine Options: Rotax 912ULS or Rotax 912 iS Sport
Useful Load: 610 lbs
Top Speed: 115 kts
Range with Full Fuel: 430 nm
Climb Rate: 1,220 ft/min
- Glass cockpit
- Optional ballistic parachute
- Wide cockpit
- Built-in Bluetooth connection
- No used aircraft on the market at this time
- Used: N/A
- New: $201,999
Tomark Aero Viper SD4
The Tomark Aero Viper is a two-seat, all-metal LSA designed specially for recreational flying. For an LSA, the interior is quite roomy and features LCD navigation and communication systems. The relatively low price tags for both new and used models make the Viper one of the best choices for pilots on a budget.
Recommended for: Pilots on a budget
Engine Options: Rotax 912 ULS
Useful Load: 445 lbs
Top Speed: 130 kts
Range with Full Fuel: 380 nm
Climb Rate: 1,180 ft/min
- Galaxy recovery system/parachute
- Can be bought as a kitplane
- Available in six models
- 2,000 hours between overhauls
- Short range
- Used: $50,000-$70,000
- New: $85,000-$150,000
Flight Design CTLS
The Flight Design CTLS is one of the most popular LSAs for flight schools to use. The carbon fiber airframe allows for a reduced empty weight without sacrificing rigidity, performance, and aesthetics. The new base model price is quite affordable and may be one of the best options for pilots looking to purchase their first aircraft with many additional features to upgrade to.
Recommended for: Flight schools
Engine Options: Rotax 912iS or Rotax 912
Useful Load: 603 lbs
Top Speed: 130 kts
Range with Full Fuel: 970 or 1,080 nm, depending on engine choice
Climb Rate: 805 ft/min
- Airframe emergency parachute system (AEPS)
- Ample sitting height in cockpit allowing for tall pilots to enter and exit easily
- Low operating cost
- High-wing airframe
- Exterior access baggage compartment
- High used prices
- Used: $99,000-$199,000 depending on specifications
- New: $132,000-plus
Rans S20 Raven
The Rans S20 Raven is great for someone who has always wanted to own and fly an airplane and also build one. Rans is one of the popular kitplane manufacturers and makes four different airframes. The S20 Raven LSA can be built in approximately 1,000 hours and flown by sport pilots. With a low all-in price, S20 Raven may be the best choice for your next hanger project.
Recommended for: Pilots interested in kitplanes
Engine Options: Rotax 915ULS
Useful Load: 588 lbs
Top Speed: 130 kts
Range with Full Fuel: 497 nm
Climb Rate: 900 ft/min
- Customizable kitplane
- No welding required
- Build Time: 700 to 1,000 hours
- Fun project
- Can only buy assembled used
- Engine price is separate
- Use: $65,000-$115,000
- New: $65,000 all in
What Is a Light-Sport Aircraft?
Light sport aircraft (LSA) meet FAA weight, size, and performance requirements of simple, low-performance, low-energy aircraft that are limited to 1,320 pounds maximum takeoff weight for aircraft not intended for operation on water; or 1,430 pounds maximum takeoff weight for aircraft intended for operation on water.
Do I Need a PPL to Fly LSAs?
No. To fly an LSA, you must be at least 17 years of age, possess a driver’s license (for medical compliance purposes) and a sport pilot certificate, and follow all FAA rules and regulations. The sport pilot rule allows a pilot to fly an LSA without the need for an FAA medical certificate.
S-LSA vs Experimental LSA (E-LSA)
The difference between an S-LSA and an E-LSA is the assembler of the aircraft. S-LSAs are assembled by the manufacturer while E-LSAs (kitplanes) are assembled by amateur builders and are considered to be experimental aircraft. The aircraft is certificated as experimental amateur-built and must be operated in accordance with the operating limitations issued to the aircraft at the time it receives its airworthiness compliance certification.
What To Consider With an LSA
When choosing an LSA, understand what you will be using the aircraft for. Picking an aircraft that can meet your needs of useful load, cruising speed, range, passenger load, and price is important before purchasing.
Useful load in aviation means the difference between the gross weight and the basic empty weight. It includes the pilots, passengers, usable fuel, drainable oil, if applicable, and cargo. If the aircraft will be used for things such as family trips or cross-country flying, choose a LSA with a high useful load.
Best economy cruise speed on an aircraft is the speed at which it is most economic to fly long distances. For short hauls, cruising speed will make a negligible difference in overall trip time, but on longer hauls, a higher cruising speed will make a large difference in trip time. Choose an LSA with a cruise speed that will best fit your needs.
The range of an aircraft is the maximum distance an aircraft can fly between takeoff and landing. This is directly correlated to the fuel burn of the aircraft and the amount of fuel it can carry on board.
Passenger loads of LSAs are two people. This is because of the total weight of the aircraft, including useful load, having to meet specific requirements by the FAA to be considered an LSA.
Prices of LSAs vary depending on the manufacturer, but overall, LSAs are more affordable than traditional aircraft of similar sizes. The cost of a LSA can be between $80,000 to $400,000, depending on the make and model.
Light Sport Aircraft To Meet Your Flying Needs
Now that you have a better understanding of what LSAs are and what they can offer, you can choose the aircraft that will suit your needs. For more information on all things LSA and aviation, subscribe to FLYING Magazine.
The fastest LSA is the JMB VL3, which has a cruise speed of 170 kts.
LSAs are to be operated under VFR, day only, unless appropriately equipped for night and/or instrument flight.
The FAA presently forbids either retractable gear (except on seaplanes) or in-flight adjustable props on LSA.