FlySportUSA: How to Become a Sport Pilot

Sport Pilot Instructors and Flight Schools

Finding a Sport Pilot Instructor or Flight School

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There are basically two ways to get Sport Pilot training:

  1. Sign up with an established flight school or flying club
  2. Sign on with an independent CFI (Certified Flight Instructor)

Which way is right for you depends on a number of factors, such as your geographic location and proximity to a flying school, your schedule, financial factors, personal preference, and whether you already have some aviation training under your belt.

The Sport Pilot program is growing rapidly, and it's probable that training is offered at an airport near you. So your first step in finding a Sport Pilot training program should be to call a local flight school. If they don't offer Sport Pilot training, they'll probably know someone who does.

We're also trying to build up a national database of flight schools and independent CFI's and CGI's (Certified Ground Instructors) who offer Sport Pilot training, which you can access by clicking on the two-letter abbreviation for your state in the map below.

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Of course, we know our database is incomplete. New instructors are being added all the time, and old ones do retire. So if you're a flight school or independent CFI or CGI offering Sport Pilot training, please help us make this site more useful by getting yourself listed in our database. Please click here for instructions.

NOTE: If you previously requested to be listed, but your request was never processed, we apologize. Please re-submit your request.

Flight Training and Ground Training

Whether you choose a formal school or an independent instructor, there are two major aspects to Sport Pilot training: Knowledge Training (often called "ground school" or "ground instruction"), and Practical (flight) training.

Knowledge Training

Knowledge training consists of learning the "head knowledge" that you'll need to know to be a safe pilot. This consists of aeronautical theory, relevant laws and regulations, navigation, operational procedures for different types of airspace, interpreting weather reports, and so forth.

You may receive knowledge training from a formal ground school, through home study, using online courses, or through one-on-one sessions with your CFI or with a CGI. Once your flight instructor or ground instructor is comfortable that you have mastered the required knowledge for the certificate you're seeking, he or she will sign you off to take your FAA Knowledge Test. The actual test is usually taken on a computer terminal at an approved testing center, and you'll receive your results immediately.

Flight Training

Practical (flight) training happens in an aircraft and consists of hands-on instruction in safely operating and navigating an aircraft, performing pre-flight and post-flight procedures, ground operation, using navigational aids, etc. Flight training is usually obtained from a flight school or through an independent Flight Instructor.

Once you have fulfilled at least the minimum required hours of instruction, have passed the Knowledge Test, and your CFI feels that you have mastered the required skills to FAA standards, he or she will sign you off to take your Practical Test (or "checkride"), which consists of both an oral examination and a flight test by a Pilot Examiner.


Finding a Pilot Examiner

Male commercial drone pilot flying a drone at a construction site.

Once you are ready to take your practical test, you will need to find an SPE (Sport Pilot Examiner) or DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner). SPE's are allowed to administer examinations only for Sport Pilot certificates and privileges. DPE's are allowed to administer examinations for Sport Pilot certificates and privileges, as well as higher certificates and ratings.

SPE's and DPE's are not FAA employees, but are private individuals who have many years of experience as flight instructors, and who have been authorized by the FAA to administer the oral and practical examinations. They also are authorized to grant you a Temporary Airman Certificate on the spot if you pass the exam -- meaning that you can legally exercise the privileges of your license the moment the examiner shakes your hand and congratulates you.

By the way: Because they are private individuals and not FAA employees, SPE's and DPE's are allowed to charge whatever fees they like for the examinations; so you may want to shop around a bit.

On rare occasions, candidates may be examined by employees of the FAA's local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office). This usually occurs only when there are no SPE's or DPE's within a reasonable distance of the candidate, which is a rare occurrence.

Many of the instructors listed in our database also are SPE's or DPE's; and if we are aware of this, we include that designation after the type(s) of aircraft they instruct in.


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