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You are a Sport Pilot applicant (or a Sport Pilot student in training) who wants to continue from a Sport Pilot certificate to a Private Pilot certificate. 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 aircraft 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 of 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 and if you get a Sport Pilot Rating BEFORE the private Pilot…

  • 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, then all the dual training time counts towards the sport and the private pilot certificate without any exceptions. 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. Additionally, there are 10 hours for private, in addition to the 20 dual and 10 solo, that can be used for private.
  • Yes and No for the Sport Pilot CFI providing the training. If the flight instructor has a Flight Instructor with a Sport Rating (CFIS), the dual training CAN count towards the 20 hours dual training for the private pilot certificate, IF the pilot has/gets the Sport Pilot rating first. In other words, if the sport pilot goes through and gets the training from a Sport CFI, gets his Sport Pilot Certificate, then the time DOES count towards the private. This is specified in the new FAA Rule 61.109 (L). IF the student gets the training from a Sport Pilot CFI, and does not get his Sport Pilot rating, then he/she will need 20 hours of dual training from a Private Pilot CFI for the private pilot certificate. Typically, to go from a sport to a private pilot would take an additional 20 hours anyway for the extra night, instrument, VOR navigation, preparation for the checkride 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 can be done by a CFIS operating under “Subpart K Flight Instructors with a Sport Pilot Rating” (CFIS) IF the pilot gets a Sport Pilot Certificate. This can be done in a Light-Sport Aircraft.
  • The minimum dual flight training 20 hours towards a Private pilot certificate may be accomplished by a CFI who is operating under “Subpart H Flight Instructors Other than Flight Instructors with a Sport Pilot Rating” (private pilot CFI). 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 an 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. The CFIS MUST have instrument training per new rule 61.412 to provide this instrument training. 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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