Become a Private Pilot

You are a Sport Pilot applicant (or a Sport Pilot student in training) who wants to continue from Sport Pilot training or a Sport Pilot certificate to a Private Pilot certificate.

We will cover in detail how much Sport Pilot Training counts toward Private Pilot. Or, you are a Private Pilot student and want to utilize your Private Pilot training to obtain a Sport Pilot certificate.

We generally promote the concept of starting with Sport Pilot and adding Private Pilot after as an add-on. Why?

  • First, it is less time and less money to get a real FAA pilot certificate. You can start flying your friends and family around sooner.
  • We have a one stop shop for Sport Pilots INCLUDING the FAA Checkride Examiner (DPE) on staff (Paul Hamilton) so there is no waiting for the Sport Pilot checkride. When you are ready, we do it when everything is fresh in your mind. It should be noted that sometimes there is a 6 month waiting period to get a Private Pilot checkride.
  • Sport Pilot is the foundation with the same piloting skills, same safety level and same procedures for Private Pilot.
  • Once you go through the Sport Pilot Tests, the Private Pilot FAA Tests are a breeze since you are just adding on night, additional instrument, VOR/radio navigation, towered airports (which you can get Towered Airports done as a sport pilot), and a longer cross country flight.

It should be noted that a Private Pilot needs an FAA medical which can complicate or stop ALL pilot in control (PIC) flights so do not take this requirement lightly. For more details see FAA Medical for details.

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

Differences between Sport Pilot and Private Pilot

First, it must be understood that the stick and rudder flying skills for a sport and private are the same. Some think the private pilot is more skilled than the sport pilot at controlling the aircraft, NOT TRUE. Flight skills are the same.

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 whichever 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.

Sport Pilots are not limited in distance. They CAN fly across the USA. There is no difference in the piloting ability (stick and rudder skills) between a sport pilot and private pilot. The flight skills 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)
  • Three  hours 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. Pilots start with sport pilot first for 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 and do not want that useless training.
  • They do not want to fly into busy airports and/or want the stress/learning required to talk with a control tower.

Advantages of starting with Sport Pilot and continuing on to Private Pilot

Many pilots want to obtain their sport pilot certificate first and see if they want to go on to private. There are some specific advantages to this approach:

  • You may want to get the sport pilot certificate as fast and as easy as possible.
  • You want to accomplish one step at a time.
  • You want to go through a Sport Pilot checkride first, which makes the Private Pilot checkride so much easier.
  • You may want to get going initially with no risk of not passing a medical.
  • You may want to see if the Sport Pilot certificate is what you want for your flying needs; you can always move on to private.

As described in the next section, most all of the Sport Pilot Training can be used for private. If it is planned out, the only additional costs are for the FAA Knowledge test and the FAA Practical Test (checkride).

Which sport pilot training can be used for private pilot training?

This video describes which Sport Pilot training time can be used towards Private pilot time and the text below the video will provide you a reference for this.
Here we will discuss this in detail.

First we will define the three specific classifications of training time for the private pilot 40 hours minimum required training time; 40 hours total with:

  • 20 hours dual
  • 10 hours solo
  • 10 hours undefined or ANY time in aircraft flight training (with CFI) or PIC (pilot in control)

We will look at each of these types specifically:

10 Hours undefined or ANY time in aircraft training or PIC (pilot in control)

This is the easiest to understand because it is ANY flight training time with a CFI or PIC (pilot in command) time you have logged. Any solo or dual training (with CFI) time in any category, any solo or pilot in command time as a student or sport pilot. Any time can be used for this 10 hours if you need it to get to 40 if you have 20 dual and 10 solo.

This is “any time” but does NOT include riding along with another pilot who is not a CFI since it is not dual training or PIC (pilot in command) time for you.

Typically, you would get this 10 hours as dual training or solo time, or PIC as a sport pilot, but if you happen to be at the minimums 20/10 you can use this to get to 40.

10 Hours Solo

‘Solo time is solo time’ -so all solo counts except possibly the cross-country solo time depending on how long the cross-country flights are. For private pilot you need 5 hours of cross-country solo time. For sport pilot there are no minimum cross-country hours. Just a flight with the required distance for sport pilots.

For sport pilot requirements, “cross-country time” is defined as landing at a point that is at least 25 NM from a departure point. For a private pilot “cross country-time” is defined as landing at a point that is at least 50 NM from a departure point. Big difference. So, if you want your sport pilot solo cross-country time to count towards private pilot, you must fly to points 50 NM miles away to land not just 25 NM, which is cross country for sport pilot. Simply put, Private Pilot cross-country is twice as far as Sport Pilot requirements.

Additionally, the required cross-country flight for private is 150 NM total with full stop landing at three points with two of those points being at least 50 miles apart. The sport pilot minimum required cross-country flight is only 75 NM (private 150 NM), with two stops (private three stops), and a minimum leg of 25 NM (private 50NM). So, if you want to use your sport pilot cross-country solo time for private, you simply fly the longer legs airport to airport (50 NM) and do your cross-country flight of 150 NM not just 75 NM. You can also do this private solo cross-country as a sport or private student pilot or as a certificated sport pilot as long as it is solo and meets the private pilot criteria.

Also, there is this other detail in 61.93 Solo cross-country flight requirements -item (e) that is commonly overlooked. For 91.93 (e) Maneuvers and procedures for cross country flight training in a single-engine airplane (12) “Control and maneuvering solely by reference to instruments……etc”. If the sport pilot is flying a light-sport aircraft that has a Vh above 87 knots, the sport pilot needs this instrument flight training. IF the sport pilot instructor has the required training per 61.412 Instrument Training (new in 2019), then he/she can provide this instrument training needed for cross country solo. Note this can also be counted towards the 3 hours instrument training needed for private pilot per 61.109 (3).

Note how the 3 hours instrument training needed for private pilot per 61.109 (3) can be covered during the sport pilot training in preparation for cross-country solo by a Sport Pilot flight instructor if properly trained per 61.412. 20 hours dual flight training.

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…

  • Dual flight 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 Pilot Instructor 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 (subpart H), then all the dual training time counts towards the sport AND private pilot certificate without any exceptions. If you start training or even get your sport pilot license first with a Private Pilot CFI, all your dual training counts towards the private pilot certificate. Note that in reality not 20 hours of training can be used because you still need 3 hours from a private pilot CFI in preparation for the private pilot checkride 2 calendar months before the checkride so use the 20 minus 3 to get 17 hours minimum dual training that can be used for private. Also note these are “minimum hours” required.
  • Yes and No for the Sport Pilot CFI providing the training. If the flight instructor has a Flight Instructor with a Sport Rating (CFIS subpart K), 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 all the flight instruction dual time DOES count towards the private. This is specified in the new FAA Rule 61.109 (L) hidden at the end of the Private Pilot requirements.  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. Note same as above, that in reality not 20 hours of training can be used because you need 3 hours from a private pilot CFI in preparation for the private pilot checkride, 2 calendar months before the checkride, so use the 20 -minus 3 to get 17 hours minimum that can be used for private. Again note these are “minimum hours”

Additional items about sport to private flight training

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 any flight 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.

Generally, 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 steppingstones to building knowledge and experience to private pilot knowledge, skill and requirements.

Got questions?

Contact Paul Hamilton