Fly With Flint

Sport Pilot / Private Pilot

As a pilot who started out with sport pilot-airplane, transitioned to private pilot-airplane, and then went on to sport CFI, I can tell you first hand what the differences between the two are, and how to transition from one to the other. Here are some questions that often come up for people thinking about getting their sport pilot’s license:

Yes! All hours spent training for sport pilot with a Sport CFI do count as flight experience towards your private license as long as you successfully complete the sport pilot checkride per §61.109(l). However, there is one exception: the solo cross-country required for sport (75NM distance to 2 different airports with at least one straight leg distance being 25NM) does not meet the standards of private. You would have to make sure your solo cross-country hours for private pilot all include at least one straight leg distance of at least 50NM to another airport and make sure your private pilot initial solo cross-country is 150NM distance to 2 different airports with at least one straight leg being 50NM in length in order for those hours to count towards your cross-country PPL requirements.  

A sport pilot can only act as pilot in command in light-sport aircraft (LSA), which is categorized by the max gross weight limit of 1,320 pounds. In the next couple years, the FAA is planning on raising the weight limit for light-sport aircraft so that there will be more options available and even some Cessnas will become eligible to be used for sport pilot privileges.

 You can travel anywhere in the USA as long as you have the proper endorsements and qualifications to do so. You can fly at or below 10,000 ft MSL or 2,000 ft AGL, whichever one is higher. This allows you to be able to fly over mountain ranges while still being safe and within limits of your sport pilot privileges.

A sport pilot must go through extra training to receive a towered airport endorsement from a qualified instructor in order to fly into towered airports.

Because the sport pilot requires a minimum of 20 hours of training versus the private license which requires a minimum of 40 hours, the sport license would ideally require half the amount of money compared to private. There are many different ways to go when financing for pilot training. One common way is to attend a flight school and pay for training by the hour. Other ways include getting loans and scholarships. At $170/hour for the aircraft rental and $85/hour for instruction, a total of $255/hour would be spent with the engine running, including fuel costs.

A sport license through Fly With Flint would be a minimum of $6250.

  • $500 for online pilot training ground school (all books included in this course);
  • $3825 (15 hours of dual training x $255)
  • $850 (5 hours solo time x $170);
  • $175 for the knowledge exam;
  • $900 checkride fee (price varies based on examiner).


That being said, the average time it takes for a person to get their sport pilot license is about 35 hours. Anywhere between $6,250 and $12,000 could be spent on training. It all depends on how much you study and how fast you pick it up.

The actual length of time in terms of months or years that is spent on training completely depends on the student. Some people like to take a longer time by budgeting for 1 hour of flight training a week. This method is good for financing, but it will be more challenging to make progress that way. The best way to make good progress is by committing 2 to 4 hours a week on flight training. By committing more time to flying per week, you allow yourself to gain muscle memory a lot quicker and you will retain the skills it takes to be a pilot faster than one who decides to budget once a month or once a week. For those of you who have to budget once a week or month, don’t worry! The online pilot training/ground school has videos on every flight lesson and videos on almost every ground lesson you will need. As long as you keep studying, you’ll do fine. 

As long as you have a driver’s license, you don’t need to get a medical to become a sport pilot. However, if you previously took a medical and failed, you will not be allowed any pilot’s license until you have cleared the medical. If you are planning on getting a medical, please do your research beforehand. Ask an aviation medical professional about anything you might have on your record that would disqualify you before you take your medical. Sport pilot is an option to take if you don’t think you will pass your medical.

Not at all. The training for sport license is no different than private in terms of standards and skills required. There are really just a few differences between the two. Sport pilot doesn’t allow night time flights, doesn’t require as much instrument time,  doesn’t require the use of VOR navigation, and doesn’t require towered airport training, although you can get endorsed to fly into towered airports. Other than those few things, the training and checkrides between the two are pretty much the same. 

As long as the aircraft has the instruments necessary for the checkride, you can fly in a light-sport aircraft for a private pilot checkride.

A sport pilot may:

  • Share the operating expenses of a flight with a passenger, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenses, or aircraft rental fees. A sport pilot must pay at least half the operating expenses of the flight.
  • Only act as Pilot in Command (PIC) in Light-Sport Aircraft.


A sport may not act as PIC of a light-sport aircraft:

  • That is carrying a passenger or property for compensation or hire.
  • For compensation or hire.
  • In furtherance of a business.
  • While carrying more than one passenger.
  • At night.
  • In Class A airspace.
  • In Class B, C, or D airspace, at an airport located in Class B, C, or D airspace, and to, from, through, or at an airport having an operational control tower UNLESS you have met the requirements specified in §61.325.
  • Outside the United States, unless you have prior authorization from the country in which you seek to operate. A sport pilot certificate carries the limitation “Holder does not meet ICAO requirements.”
  • In a passenger-carrying airlift sponsored by a charitable organization.
  • At an altitude of more than 10,000 feet MSL or 2,000 feet AGL. (This rule allows a sport pilot to safely fly over a mountain range that exceeds 10,000ft MSL.)
  • When the flight or surface visibility is less than 3 statute miles.
  • Without visual reference to the surface.
  • If the aircraft has a maximum forward speed in level flight that exceeds 87 knots CAS, UNLESS having met the requirements of §61.327.
  • If the aircraft has a maximum forward speed less than or equal to 87 knots CAS, UNLESS you have met the requirements of §61.327(a) or have logged flight time as pilot in command of an airplane with a maximum forward speed less than or equal to 87 knots CAS before April 2, 2010.
  • Contrary to any limitation or endorsement on your pilot certificate, airman medical certificate, U.S. driver’s license, or any other limitation or logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor.
  • Contrary to any restriction or limitation on the sport pilot’s U.S. driver’s license or any restriction or limitation imposed by judicial or administrative order when using a driver’s license to satisfy the requirements of Part 61.
  • While towing any object.
  • As a pilot flight crewmember on any aircraft for which more than one pilot is required by the type certificate of the aircraft or the regulations under which the flight is conducted.