What if I Fail?

Jabiru 250 (Photo: EAA / Jim Koepnick)

Each month, Flying answers questions about the new sport pilot/light sport aircraft rule with assistance from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the authority on the opportunities available within the category commonly known as "sport pilot":

Q: My medical examination is next month. If I "fail," I know I cannot fly as a sport pilot using my driver's license for medical certification, but is this forever? Could I wait, say six months or one year, and then apply for sport pilot?

A: The regulation states that you cannot use your driver's license in lieu of an FAA medical certificate if your most recent application for an FAA medical certificate was denied, revoked, suspended or withdrawn by the FAA. There is no time limit on that requirement, so it doesn't matter how long ago that denial, revocation, suspension or withdrawal took place.

The last time you applied for an FAA medical certificate, no matter how long ago it was, must have resulted in the regular or special issuance of a valid medical certificate. If that is not the case, you are required to reapply for an FAA medical certificate and have a valid medical issued in order to be able to take advantage of the possibility of using your driver's license in lieu of the medical certificate in the future. Your other option is to simply allow your current medical certificate to expire, keep your flight review current, and become a private pilot exercising sport pilot privileges.

Q: A bunch of us at my local airport were discussing the limitations on a sport pilot, and whether they would apply for a private pilot flying as a sport pilot. Is there any difference whether you're flying a light sport aircraft as a sport pilot or private pilot?

A: There are limitations and some differences. The limitations apply to sport pilots. They do not apply to private pilots flying light sport aircraft with a third-class medical, but they DO apply to private pilots using a driver's license as medical eligibility. More information on the rules and limitations is available at sportpilot.org.

Q: My father was a longtime private pilot, but hasn't flown for several years. He's worried that he would not be able to pass a third-class medical exam (he's 72), even though his last regular checkup was fine. He's interested in the sport pilot category and I want to help him get back into the air, but what do he (and I) have to know?

A: It depends in what category your father fits:

If he passed his last third-class medical exam and meets all the health regulations to hold a valid driver's license in his state, he may fly as a sport pilot using that driver's license.

If his last medical certificate was denied or revoked, he must take a third-class medical exam or receive a special issuance before being eligible to fly as a sport pilot.

It sounds as if your dad has been away from flying for a while, so he should make sure that he updates his flight training and has a flight review. Check at sportpilot.org for a list of sport pilot instructors near where he lives. Good luck!

For more information on sport pilot, go to EAA's sport pilot website at sportpilot.org. EAA, which also hosts the annual EAA AirVenture fly-in at Oshkosh, provides in-depth information on the website, as well as a sport pilot hotline and complete membership services for all aviation enthusiasts. Call 800/564-6322 for membership information.

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