Less than a warm welcome

I too, like Brian Sheets, have less than a “warm welcome” for the Sport Pilot certificate. I believe that when you have three government agencies, DOT, OMB and the FAA, very seldom does anything good come of it. Sport Pilot is an example of government at its finest. Take something simple and make it complicated.

I don’t disagree with all Brian has alluded to, just a few of his points. If he is truly worried about a pilot having less than 40 hours of training, where was the protest against Recreational Pilot? I believe that requires only 30 hours. True enough, 20 hours is a very short time to sit in a fairly comfortable seat, and learn all there is to know about flying. I know, because it has taken me years, and I still try to learn something every time I go up. Of course I’m 55 years old and don’t learn as fast as I used to.

We have students that solo with 10 hours, sometimes less. Pilots need to realize that most of the sport pilots are transitioning from ultralight aircraft. Some of these pilots have hundreds, if not thousands, of hours, not only flying, but instructing. At this point, the only instruction these pilots need is proper radio/communication training, because most of them fly in uncontrolled air space. We have check rides for exactly this purpose, to make sure pilots are trained and meet the minimum requirements — which is what will also happen with sport pilots. Just because someone has 40, 50 or 60 hours, we do not issue them their private certificate.

The “pilots” that trouble me are the people in the ultralight community, and they are out there, that are not going to care about the Sport Pilot ruling and will end up flying illegally. I’m not trying to single out the ultralight folks, because we all know some GA pilots that fly illegally (if you don’t, you are one of the few.) These pilots have the choice of either flying legal FAR 103 or flying Sport Pilot. If you don’t like those choices, get your private ticket. But fly legally. If you don’t, I agree with Mr. Sheets, it will backlash on all of us. And there are agencies in the government just looking for a reason to pull us out of the skies.

As far as aircraft, very few of the planes that meet the standards for Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) have the ability to fly 120 kts. In fact, the ruling reads that the LSA will fly no faster than 87 kts Vh. To fly up to 120 kts., the Sport Pilot will need more training and a logbook endorsement, hence more time in that semi-comfortable seat. Also, you need to demonstrate you have the ability to communicate in a controlled air space for another logbook endorsement. More time. I believe you see where this is going. By the time you receive all of the logbook endorsements that one will need to fly, even in a class D airspace, you are very close to the magical number of 40 hours. If you doubt this, remember that 20 hours is the minimum. How many GA pilots get their ticket at 40 hours? Very, very few. I know of one!

As far as the medical goes, once again it is not as simple as it looks. If you have ever applied for a medical and been denied, for any reason, it’s over. You cannot legally fly under the Sport Pilot certification. If you have in the past been denied and later received your medical back, fine. Why would you want to fly under the Sport Pilot certification anyway if you have a medical?

Flying has a risk factor, every one of us knows that every time we leave the ground. But we love it or we would not do it. I do not believe there will be a “flood” of pilots to the skies, but a trickle. This transition from the ultralight side could take up to three years. I pray it is a safe one.

Mr. Sheets strategy is to “fly defensively” around UBG. Good idea! I fly defensively all the time. I can’t remember how many times a traffic controller has forgotten about me. Fly safe Brian. And to update an old saying “You’re only a medical away from Sport Pilot.”

Steve Irwin
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