The airplane light-sport aircraft (LSA) you learn to fly in will always have a special place in your heart. Depending upon your choice of sport plane flight school and its fleet, you may have a couple of options from which to choose. You may even select your flight school based in part upon the type of sport airplane that they fly. Some of the most common airplane LSA used for flight training are the Flight Design CT, Breezer II, and the SportStar.
Ultralights Verses Light-Sport Aircraft
An Ultralight is a “single place” vehicle (the FAA does not call ultralights Aircraft) that requires no pilots license. These can only weight up to 254 pounds empty. There is very little regulation on the aircraft and the operator except that it is restricted from flying in busier airspace. The Ultralight Trainer two place Ultralight evolved which is a heavier ultralight used for dual training (instructor and student) until 2004 when the ultralight trainers were transitioned to Light-Sport Aircraft. See Ultralight airplane for more information on ultralights.
In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed everyone the freedom to fly for fun with a new category of aircraft which are are simple to fly, plus lower costs to own and operate. These new Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) can carry two people and be flown by a pilot with a new and easier to obtain sport pilot license.
Sport airplanes are the most popular because their general aviation brothers/sisters have been used for transportation since the 1940’s. There is a wide variety of light-sport airplanes, from the slower open cockpit (ultralight looking) flying as slow as 25 MPH, to the fast and sleek performance machine flying 140 MPH. With speed and fuel capability comes range. The fastest high performance airplane, with full fuel, have a range of almost 1000 miles. The slowest airplane has a range of over 100 miles.
Sport planes can be flown in higher winds, so they can fly in a variety of fair weather conditions. They be operated out of fields as well as airports. They generally should be stored inside a hanger since they do not take down easy but some new ones can fold the wings and be stored in a trailer.
The light-sport airplanes cost much less to purchase than larger general aviation airplanes, but are more expensive than the trike weight-shift control LSA or powered parachute (PPC) LSA. Similarly, the fuel burned is about half that of the larger airplanes such as a Cessna 172, but slightly more than the trike or PPC.
Private pilot airplane pilots can transition to LSA quickly in very little time. But for the new pilot controlling the three axis (roll, pitch and yaw), they are the most difficult to learn, taking the most time and costing the most compared to the trike and PPC. It must be understood that getting the sport pilot license costs about half the private pilot license.
A airplane light-sport aircraft is similar to other airpanes except it is light-weight and simple to operate. This aircraft can be safely flown and requires minimal training by aviation standards.
A Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) new catagory for airplane is a certified aircraft built to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specifications which are approved by the FAA. This is built by the manufacturer and test flown for production acceptance before you buy it.
A airplane Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (E-LSA) kit is based on a certified S-LSA certified design, but built as a kit by the owner/operator. This kit can be as simple as bolting on the wheels, to more assembly required. This is not the classical 51% rule where the owner must fabricate and assemble 51% or more which is called an “amature built” (home built) aircraft. It cannot be used for instruction nor hire. It can be maintained in a condition for safe flight by the owner/operator. Some of the older two-place ultralight trainers and fat ultralights are also E-LSA grandfathered in before January 31, 2008, (heavier than 254 pound ultralight, OR carries 2 people OR holds more than 5 gallons of fuel).
The airplane Special LSA (S-LSA) are FAA-approved to meet industry ASTM consensus standards for aircraft design, production, and airworthiness. This is a new certification process performed by industry rather than FAA inspections. It allows the aircraft to be produced less expensivly and the design updated and improved with minimum expense compared to other aircraft.
If the airplane light-sport aircraft is properly equipped, and the pilot has a private pilot rating, it can be flown at night. Also, if the airplane light-sport aircraft is properly equipped, and the pilot has a private pilot instrument rating, it can be flown in IFR conditions by instruments.