Sport Pilot Applicant – Start Here

This is where to start as a Sport Pilot and learn to fly in Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) at Sport Aviation Center with Paul Hamilton.

Here is where I answer your questions about how to get started. A little research up-front will make getting started in your flying career much easier.

Note that this ‘getting started’ is the same for Ultralight, Sport and Private Pilot. As you go through the process, Ultralight is the minimum training to solo, additional training is required to get the Sport Pilot FAA license, and then more training is required to get the Private pilot FAA license.

If you are thinking or planning on going on to Private Pilot, this describes this approach. Your steps below will be the same.

Step 1. Choose the category of aircraft to fly (Airplane or WSC Trike)

(Typically you have already selected an airplane or WSC trike. If so, go directly to Step 2.)

With consideration to cost, ease of flying, portability, storage, location, aircraft speeds, and your previous aviation experience, you need to choose the type of aircraft and the flying you will do.

The most important decision you start out with is determining what type of flying fits your lifestyle and what type of aircraft will do it for you.

You must evaluate your situation with factors of cost, ease of flying, athletic ability, portability, storage, location, aircraft speeds, and previous aviation experience. The trike is more like riding a motorcycle, the airplane is more like riding in a car. Generally, if you want to go great distances and travel you would choose an airplane. If you want to feel more like a bird and fly more for the fun of it the trike might be a better choice.

If you need, I can provide you a flight in a trike and an airplane, one after the other, to help you decide.

Step 2. Start self studying

Some want to study before they start flight lessons. Others want to start flying first. If you want to start flying first jump to step 3 below

The more you can study on your own, the faster you will learn and the less it will cost you overall.

On-Line Training Our new on-line course is the best way to get going and learn the flight lessons, ground school to pass the FAA knowledge test and everything to pass the FAA checkride.

Choose the Learn to Fly Airplane or Learn to Fly WSC Trike on line course at on-line training.

Simply start at the beginning and go through the course in order. Note this is the exact same order and lessons as the paper “Training Syllabus” which we use for the flight training.

Paper/DVD/CD Training

We highly recommend the on-line training because of  more flight videos and more up to date information but the the alternate to the on-line training is the paper Student Pilot Kit which can be purchased at 

Note that many get the four paper books for either Airplane or WSC Trike:

  • Training Syllabus
  • FAA Pilots Flying Handbook
  • Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
  • Checkride Book

Start with the  Training Syllabus and Workbook book. This is the syllabus you will go through for your flight and ground training.

  • In the paper Training Syllabus and Workbook – Flight Lesson 2 on Page 12, do the assignment for the second flight lesson by reading the book material and watching the DVD’s as specified in the Training Syllabus and Workbook.
  • In the Training Syllabus and Workbook – Ground  Lesson 2 on Page 13, do the assignment for the ground lesson by reading the book material and using the Prepware CD as specified in the Training Syllabus and Workbook. Look at all the terms in the lesson and try to understand and research them in the study materials.

For the on-line training courses or paper Student Pilot Kit continue through all the flight and ground lessons step by step

Simply follow through the on-line training or paper training syllabus flight and ground lessons.
  • This is the full self study course if you do all the flight and ground lesson assignments before you start flight training. It is best to complete all the flight and ground lesson assignments before you start your flight lessons but this is not mandatory.
  • You can do the flight and ground lessons along with your flight training but the more you can study ahead of time on your own the better off you will be.

Notes on the FAA Knowledge test preparation and testing:

  • Both the On-Line training and the paper Student Pilot Kit use the ASA Prepware for the updated questions and answers for the FAA knowledge test. The On-Line prepware is downloaded and the paper Student Pilot Kit has a CD. Both do the same thing.
  • The sport pilot test questions are built into the Student Pilot Kit paper version blue private pilot Prepware CD and Blue TestPrep Paper book. The On-Line version is downloaded. Just choose the sport pilot option for studying/testing.
  • You can study and complete the FAA Knowledge Test on your own with the Prepware. You practice and study with the study modules until you are somewhat proficient with the questions and answers. You then start taking the practice knowledge tests. It does not hurt to take the practice test and score low at first. This does not count against you in any way.  Once you get an 80% twice you e-mail those into ASA from the Prepware   performance section and they will send you your CFI endorsement to take the FAA knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center.
  • The FAA Knowledge must be completed before the Checkride. However, you may complete it any time you want before the checkride. Some like to get it out of the way early in the training process, others like to wait until you have been through all the training before you take it. This up to you when you take the FAA Knowledge Test. You can study and take the FAA knowledge test before you see any CFI if you want.
  • Overall, the knowledge test is pretty easy, we give you a sampling of all the questions and the answers available. You can memorize them and pass the knowledge test. However, this is not the best way to do it. It is best if you learn the material which you have to anyway to pass the checkride.
  • They do sneak in some oddball questions or sometimes you get nonapplicable questions but do not worry. Typically you score 10 points less than what you typically get with the Prepware practice tests so I recommend you constantly score 90% to make sure you pass with a 70%. This was worked for hundreds of successful FAA knowledge tests over the years and is a guarantee to passing the test.

Notes on how, when and why to apply for a student pilot certificate:

  • A new process was enacted by FAA under the direction of TSA to apply for a student pilot certificate starting early 2016. There is now NO immediate issuance of the student pilot certificate as there was in the past before early 2016. This has caused some big hassles/delays for student pilots to solo.
  • Now, the applicant goes through a background check with TSA before the FAA can issue a student pilot certificate. This student pilot certificate is the same for Sport and Private. No difference. Same student certificate for sport, private, airplane, weight-shift control trike, PPC, gyrocopter, etc …….
  • Once it is submitted to FAA via IARCA it takes about 1 to 2 weeks to get a temporary Student Pilot certificate via E-mail and about 3 weeks for the green plastic student pilot certificate to arrive in the mail to the applicant after the student pilot certificate has been applied for. Takes longer if you use paper. A student pilot needs a FAA Student Pilot Certificate to solo. So make sure you get this going to not be help up to solo.
  • If the student is participating in an accelerated course, solo could be one to two weeks after the student starts flight training. Therefore, it is important for the student pilot certificate to be applied for AT LEAST 3 weeks before the solo is anticipated.

Guidance for FAA Student Pilot Certificate application:

  • Student/applicant go to the FAA IACRA web site and set up account
    • Top right – click register
    • Top – click Applicant box
    • Read terms of service – click agree at bottom and you will come to the IACRA User Profile Information screen.
    • If you do not have any FAA certificate (which you probably do not), skip the top section asking for pilot certificate number and start filling out your information.
    • Under SSN click “Do Not Use”
    • Create your user name and password. Mark these down in an important place – click register. Now you have registered with the FAA which will be your pilot certification account for your complete flying career.
  • After you have registered, you must log in and apply for a “pilot certificate”.
    • Choose student
    • You will receive an FTN number. Again, write this important number down in an important place with your user name and password.
  • Get your student pilot application approved and submitted
    • Once you have applied for the student pilot certificate you need to see some sort of FAA official to get your application approved. This can be the local CFI (FAA flight instructor) at any local flight school. They do not have to be sport pilot specific, they do the same for private pilots. There is no difference. ANY CFI/Flight Instructor can do this for you. There may be a fee for this service.
    • You can also use the local FAA FSDO office and they will do it for free. Some FAA FSDO offices may be more willing to take the time to do this than others depending on their workload. See to locate your nearest FSDO office.
  • Once this has been submitted by the approving FAA representative, a temporary student pilot certificate will be e mailed to you in 1 to 2 weeks and your green plastic student pilot card/certificate will come to in the mail in about 3 weeks unless there is some sort of problem which you should be notified.

Step 3. Schedule your flight training

There are a number of options for scheduling flight training which we will cover here. Overall, it is best to schedule your flight training as far ahead as possible for the best time slots early in the morning. Scheduling is first come first served.

What is the best training schedule?

  • Best training schedule is flying every other day. This allows you to absorb what you have learned plus review what you have done and study what is the next flight and ground lessons. This will work fine if you are local but if you are coming in for an accelerated course, we typically fly every day to get it done in the shortest time possible.
  • ACCELERATED TRAINING – If you are coming in from out of town and trying to get the course done as soon as possible, we fly every day (weather permitting) so you are spending as little total time here as possible. In this case it is best to complete as much ground school ahead of time as you can. Best to show up with your on-line learn to fly course and FAA knowledge test completed. A typical day of training would be to fly as long as you are capable (1 to 3 hours) in the morning, take a break for lunch, and than do ground school or fly again in the afternoon. Most students think they can fly all day but after your saturation point (1 to 3 hours flight time), you are mentality and/or physically exhausted and your ability for learning slows and the time becomes unproductive. Everyone’s saturation point is different. We will fly you EVERY DAY, weather permitting, to your saturation level for maximum value.

What is the best time of year for flight training?

  • Late fall, winter through early spring. This is the least busy and you can fly much later in the day. During the summer it gets bumpy around 11:00 in the morning so you want to be done flying the airplane by 12:00 noon at the latest and finish flying the trike by 11:00 AM the latest. In the late fall  (October), winter and early spring (April) with nice weather, you can fly all day. The late fall/winter/early spring is best all-around to get the most flight time.  Winter can be a great time to learn to fly as long as there are not consistent storms rolling through.

How long will it take and how much will it cost?

This is a question with many variables to the answer.
  • Simple answer: it can take as little as 2-3 weeks and as long as 2 years. It can cost as little as $5,000 and as much as $20,000.
  • If you are young and motivated to study on your own the time/cost will be low. If you are older and/or not motivated and/or understand the concepts the time/cost will be longer/higher. Simple. When someone asks me this question I really have no idea but at least we have a range. This all depends on the student. Here is a detailed breakdown of “Pilot Training Time and Cost” for airplane and trike.

Got questions?

Contact Paul Hamilton