Downgrade or Transition to LSA

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We will call the Private, Instrument, Commercial and Airplane Transport Pilots (ATP) — General Aviation Pilots or “GA Pilots” for short.

Many GA Pilots want to transition or downgrade from flying the large and more complex airplanes to flying the light sport aircraft. (Note: I do not like the word downgrade, but I’ve used the term here because it’s how may GA pilots refer to it. I prefer to use the word “transition” rather than downgrade since this is more appropriate and accurate.)

Why do pilots want to transition to LSA? For many reasons...

Some cannot pass the medical or do not want to take the chance of failing a medical, others may want to reduce expenses, while others may want to go back to the simplicity and basics of the flying they started out with, and some others just want to fly for fun and own their own aircraft. For whatever reason, here are the basics of GA Pilots transitioning to LSA.

  • Current GA pilots airplane wanting to fly LSA airplane
    You should know that any current private pilot may fly a light-sport aircraft (LSA) they are qualified for without a FAA medical, using their driver’s license as medical eligibility. To be a “current pilot” you need a biennial flight review (flight review every 2 years) same as all pilots need to be current.
  • Non-current GA pilot airplane wanting to fly LSA airplane
    Your pilot’s license is good for life. If you have not flown for years, but your medical has run out, you simply need to get a flight review to be current and you are good to go.
    But, it must be understood that if you still have one of those ancient paper pilot certificates which most of you do, these are no longer any good, and you must get a new plastic one from the FAA.
    The minimum time for a flight review is 1-hour ground training on Part 91 rules, and 1-hour flight training.
    However, if you are returning back to flying after getting “rusty” after not flying over the years, it may take 5 to 10 hours of flight time and some ground school to understand the new aircraft, airspace and regulations.

    Whatever it takes to get you back up to speed and transition to a new aircraft is all part of your flight review.

The regulations that allow Private Pilots to fly LSA

What are the specific regulations that allow a GA/Private pilot and up fly Light-Sport Aircraft using a driver’s License, and what are the regulations flying as a sport pilot?

Regulation 61.303 is the regulation where this is specified. In the table you simply follow what you have, the basis for the privileges and limitations is described for your situation.

For the Private Pilot who let his medical expire and wants to fly LSA as a sport pilot:

If you follow 61.303

  • (a) (2)  to “If you hold only a U.S. driver’s license”, then over to the right
  • (ii) “and you hold At least a recreational pilot certificate with a category and class rating”, meaning private pilot and above, over to the right one more box
  • “then you may operate “any LSA in that category and class” one more box to the right
  • and you may fly (A) Any light-sport aircraft in that category and class”, then one more box to the right
  • and ( 1 ) “You must comply with the limitations in §61.315, except §61.315(c)(14) and, if a private pilot or higher, §61.315(c)(7)”.

OK -now if you look at 61.315 these are the sport pilot limitations, but you as a private pilot DO NOT have to comply with §61.315(c)(14) which is the airspeed endorsement, and you DO NOT have to comply with  61.315(c)(7) which is the airspace requirement required for sport pilots.

This means that private pilots flying as sport pilots using their driver’s license as a medical can continue to use tower airspace without a separate endorsement.

It is a complex puzzle, but hopefully I’ve explained it well enough for you.

Any pilot who wants to add a new category

If you wish to add Weight-Shift Control Trike or PPC category to your Sport or GA Pilot certificate, this requires training by one CFI and taking a proficiency check with another CFI.

Additionally, you must be current as a pilot, have a flight review in any aircraft you are qualified for within the last two years. If you are interested in adding a new category, go to Add Category/Class or Speed Endorsement.

Got questions?