Sport Pilot Eligibility Requirements
The requirements to be certificated ("licensed") as a Sport Pilot vary a bit depending on the privileges sought. For a Sport Pilot certificate with Airplane privileges, an applicant must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 17 years of age.
- Possess a currently valid Airman Medical Certificate or a state-issued driver's license.
- Be able to read, write, and speak the English language.
- Be able to prove U.S. citizenship or nationality, or else comply with TSA procedures for alien flight training eligibility. We'll talk a little more about this a bit farther down this page.
- Have completed the following flight training as a student pilot training under a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or Certified Flight Instructor - Light Sport (CFI-LS):
- A minimum of 20 hours flight time, including:
- Fifteen hours of dual flight instruction (time spent in flight training with an instructor in the aircraft with you)
- Five hours solo
- Two hours dual cross-country
- One solo cross-country flight
- Three hours of test prep instruction
- A minimum of 20 hours flight time, including:
- Pass the FAA Sport Pilot Knowledge Test (sometimes called the "written" test, although it's generally taken at a computer testing center these days)
- Pass the FAA Sport Pilot Practical Test (oral and flight test, or "checkride")
Minimum and Maximum Ages for Flight Training
There are no minimum or maximum ages to take flying lessons defined by federal law.
Flight schools and instructors may, however, at their discretion, decide that a youngster is too young to start flight training, or that an older person no longer possesses the ability to safely learn how to fly. Generally, these decisions will be based upon the individual's physical, mental, and emotional abilities, as perceived by the instructor. Other practical considerations may include (for example, in the case of a child) the candidate's ability to reach the rudder pedals or to see over the instrument panel.
No instructor can be forced to accept a student if the instructor doesn't feel comfortable teaching that individual to fly. But neither does one instructor's decision not to accept a student prevent other instructors from doing so, if they feel comfortable doing so.
In order to obtain a Student Pilot Certificate and fly solo, however, a student pilot must be at least 16 years of age (or 14 for free balloons or gliders), possess a valid Student Pilot Certificate, and be endorsed for solo flight by his or her instructor.
In addition, if a student does not possess a valid driver's license, then that student will need to obtain an Airman Medical Certificate before being allowed to solo. This would also apply if the student's driver's license has certain restrictions, such as a requirement that a parent or guardian accompany them while driving. (Please note that neither a medical certificate nor a driver's license are required for operation of gliders or free balloons.)
As mentioned earlier, candidates for Sport Pilot certification must satisfy the Transportation Security Administration requirements that apply to all individuals applying for pilot training in the United States. These requirements must be met before a candidate begins instruction.
Applicants who are U.S. citizens must provide a current, valid, government-issued picture I.D. (such as a driver's license) and one of the following proofs of citizenship before beginning pilot training:
- A valid, unexpired U.S. passport (may also be used to meet the photo I.D. requirement).
- An original, government-issued birth certificate of the United States, American Samoa, or Swains Island.
- An original Certification of Birth of a U.S. Citizen Abroad, Certificate of U.S. Citizenship, or Certificate of Repatriation, with raised seal.
- An original U.S. Naturalization Certificate with raised seal.
Candidates who are not U.S. citizens (including those who have permanent resident status) must comply with extensive requirements that include fingerprinting, photographs, background checks, and the payment of a processing fee. You can learn more about the process here.
The time needed to complete the approval process varies according to many factors, including the type of training desired and whether the applicant already holds an aviation-related security clearance. In most cases, however, new applicants for Sport Pilot flight training will fall into TSA Category 3 and will receive an email authorization to begin initial training shortly after all of their paperwork (including fingerprints) and the required fee are received by TSA.
Sport Pilots who possess a current and valid U.S. driver's license don't have to have an Airman Medical Certificate, but some requirements and conditions do apply. For more information about medical eligibility, click here.