If you are an aviation enthusiast seeking your first pilot certificate, the sport pilot certificate provides one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to fly for fun and recreation. You can think of it as a sort of middle-ground between becoming an ultralight pilot and a full-fledged private pilot.
Unlike ultralight pilots, sport pilots can carry a passenger and operate in certain types of controlled airspace, for example, but they may not fly at night and are limited to lighter and lowered-powered aircraft than those available to private pilots.
While a private pilot certificate requires a minimum of 35 or 40 hours of training time (depending on the curriculum), those requirements are much less for sport pilots.
The minimum required training time for the light sport aircraft categories for an airplane is 20 hours.
(from the EAA.org website – How to Become a Sport Pilot)
To earn a sport pilot certificate, you’ll need to:
2. Be able to read, write, and understand English.
3. Hold a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical eligibility (provided the FAA didn’t deny, revoke, or suspend your last medical certificate application). Alternatively, you can also use a third class airman’s medical to establish medical fitness.
4. Pass an FAA sport pilot knowledge test, also known as the written test.
5. Complete a minimum of 20 hours of training for an airplane; times vary for other aircraft types.
6. Pass an FAA sport pilot practical test, also known as the flight test or check ride.
(from the EAA.org website – Steps to becoming a sport pilot)
The FAA has defined light-sport aircraft as simple-to-operate, easy-to-fly aircraft that, since initial certification, has continued to meet the following performance definition:
2. Maximum stall speed of 51 mph.
3. Fixed or ground adjustable propeller.
4. Single reciprocating engine.
5. Fixed landing gear.
6. Seating for no more than a pilot and passenger.
7. Maximum speed of 138 mph.
Any aircraft that meets the definition of a light-sport aircraft as called out in 14 CFR Part 1.1 is eligible to be operated by a sport pilot. These aircraft can be certificated in any category, such as standard, experimental amateur-built, experimental exhibition, experimental light sport aircraft (E-LSA), or special light sport aircraft (S-LSA).
(from the EAA.org website – About the Aircraft)