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You are a Sport Pilot applicant (or a Sport Pilot student in training) who wants to transition from a Sport Pilot certificate to a Private Pilot license. Or, you are a Private Pilot student and want to utilize your Private Pilot training to obtain a Sport Pilot certificate.

NOTE: If you want to add an additional private pilot category to your certificate such as airplane to trike click here.

Differences between Sport Pilot and Private Pilot

Sport pilots are limited to flying two place light-sport aircraft, no night flying, must always have visibility with the ground (no OnTop over clouds) and no flying above 10,000 feet MSL or 2,000 feet AGL which ever is higher. Training and requirements for the sport pilot certificate do not include flight at towered airports, but sport pilots can fly into tower controlled airports with the additional tower controlled training and an airspace endorsement.

There is no difference in the piloting ability (stick and rudder skills) between a sport pilot and private pilot. The standards are the same. Both must be “master of the aircraft”.

However, sport pilots are not required to have training in a number of areas which reduces the minimum required training time to half. This is an overview from the knowledge test questions and the practical test standards (Checkride) of the additional subjects the private pilot must be trained and tested:

  • Night flight with night cross country training
  • A longer cross country flight is required (150 N Miles verses 75 N Miles)
  • Instrument flight training (Airplane only) Note: both sport and private must have some instrument training for solo cross country flight.
  • Radio navigation (VOR, DME, etc) (Airplane only)
  • Communications and operations at tower controlled airports (however, sport pilots can obtain this training and privileges, but this is in addition to the minimum sport pilot requirements)

Sport Pilot To Private Pilot transition overview

Many pilots want to obtain their sport pilot certificate first and may or may not want to go on to private pilot because one or more of these typical/common reasons:

  • They do not want to hassle with the FAA medical examination or risk not passing it, essentially ending their flying dream.
  • They want to get their FAA pilot certificate in half the time and half the cost.
  • They have no need nor desire for flying at night or above 10,000 feet.
  • Their aircraft is not equipped with IFR instruments or they do not intend on flying by instruments.
  • They plan on using a GPS rather than old and more difficult VOR/DME radio navigation systems.
  • They do not want to fly into busy airports and/or want the stress/learning required to talk with a control tower.

Can sport pilot training be used for private pilot training? Yes and no.

Here are the details you need to know which depends on the flight instructor rating…

  • Yes. All solo time for sport pilot can be used towards the private pilot certificate…solo time is solo time.Dual training is where it gets tricky. To understand the differences in Sport and Private pilot training the differences in flight instructors must be understood. A normal private pilot CFI (subpart H CFI) can train Sport and Private pilots and can teach in both LSA and non LSA heavier aircraft such as Cessna 152 and 172’s. A flight instructor with a Sport rating CFIS (subpart K) can only teach sport pilots and only teach in Light-Sport Aircraft. So yes, if the flight instructor is qualified and current as a private pilot flight instructor CFI, than all the dual training time counts towards the sport and the private pilot certificate. If you start training, or even get your sport pilot license first, all your dual training counts towards the private pilot certificate also with a CFI.
  • No, if the flight instructor has a Flight Instructor with a Sport Rating (CFIS), the dual training DOES NOT count towards the 20 hours dual training for the private pilot certificate. Typically, to go from a sport to a private pilot would take an additional 20 hours any way for the extra night, instrument, VOR navigation and towered airports dual training.

To use sport pilot training hours towards private pilot certificate

The basics:

  • The minimum 20 dual training hours for Private cannot be done by a CFIS operating only under “Subpart K Flight Instructors with a Sport Pilot Rating” (CFIS).
  • The minimum dual 20 hours towards a Private pilot certificate may only be accomplished by a CFI who is operating under “Subpart H Flight Instructors Other than Flight Instructors with a Sport Pilot Rating”. Any additional dual training hours can be accomplished by a sport pilot flight instructor (CFIS). In many cases, the additional dual training for the private pilot additional requirements may take 20 hours anyway. However, anyone wanting to go from sport to private should be aware of this and plan accordingly.

For Weight-Shift Control or Powered Parachute (PPC) it can be a CFI operating under Subpart K which was a Private pilot certificate for the appropriate category (Weight-Shift Control or PPC).

Here is a unique situation where a subpart H (private) flight instructor (CFI) has a current flight instructor certificate but let his 3rd class medical expire. He/she can instruct a student private pilot in a light sport aircraft without a medical and the time counts towards a sport pilot and private pilot because he/she is pilot in command (PIC). All hours count towards a sport and private certificate (except night) because the CFI has a valid Subpart H flight instructor certificate and is PIC of the LSA. He/she cannot fly or provide instruction in a non LSA, at night in any aircraft or in IFR conditions in any aircraft because he/she cannot be pilot in command.

The CFI with expired medical and a CFIS can give instrument training in a LSA required by 61.93 (e)(12) before a student cross country if it has the required equipment as long as they are in day VMC. No attitude display is required for this and a partial panel (compass, airspeed, altitude) is adequate.

To upgrade from a sport to a private pilot, the Airplane sport pilot is trained by a qualified private pilot CFI following the lesson plans provided in this guide, study and take the private pilot knowledge test, and take a checkride with an FAA Private pilot examiner. For Weight-shift Control or Powered Parachute Private Pilot, a Sport Pilot CFI with Private Pilot rating in the WSC or PPC category is OK for dual training for private pilot WSC or PPC. There is no additional cost to becoming a sport pilot first except the sport pilot knowledge test and the sport pilot checkride, both which are stepping stones to building knowledge and experience to private pilot knowledge, skill and requirements.

Got questions?

Contact Paul Hamilton

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