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Announcements United States

FAA Approves Sport Pilot License 520

steveha writes "The FAA has just approved regulations creating a new class of pilot's license. (FAA press release here). The Sport Pilot license allows you to fly Light-Sport planes. It is much, much easier to get than a normal pilot's license; for example, you don't need to get a medical exam, and the training requirements are minimal." Read this overview, as well as some more details below.

"Light-Sport airplanes will be limited in size and power: maximum weight 1,320 pounds, maximum two seats, maximum airspeed 120 knots, single non-turbine engine, fixed landing gear. If it's a Light-Sport, it should be one of the easiest planes to fly."

This has the potential to dramatically increase the number of people owning and flying planes. Not only is it easier for a person to become a Sport Pilot, it is easier and cheaper for a company to sell a Light-Sport airplane. (For years, people have been building "kit" airplanes just so they will fall under the looser "homebuilt" rules. Now, there will be no need to build a plane unless you actually want to do so.) Several airplane companies have promised to produce Light-Sport planes that will cost no more than a luxury car."

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FAA Approves Sport Pilot License

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  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:14AM (#9758354)
    How long before we see F22 Raptor mods for the garage built kit plane ? (I say F22 because the first Enterprise or X-Wing/TIE mod attempts will likely see a Darwin award winner)
    • Dunno about neigbour's raptor mods. If I lived in the US I would have started thinking of this: http://www.thetankmaster.com/ENGLISH/AFV/37mmB47_1 .asp Make a nice garden feature. And works a treat on rraptor mods.
    • Surely you jest! If a Klingon bird of prey can fly in an atmosphere so easily (Voyage Home?) what's keeping a.. oh wait real life... Well at least they'd be better than whomever tries a Death Star mod.
  • by fuzzybunny ( 112938 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:14AM (#9758356) Homepage Journal
    ...now we'll have wave upon wave of ultralights smearing themselves ineffectively across the sides of NYC skyscrapers.

    Who knows, this may cause thousands of dollars of damages to our nation's economy through skyrocketing window cleaning costs.

    As for fears that small planes might be used to carry weapons of mass destruction, I can't imagine any hostile states currently having the technology to produce a nuke weighing under a ton. I have a mental image of a fanatic-piloted sport plane hopping along a runway, frantically trying to get airborne despite the huge black ovoid labelled "ACME BOMB" in bright red letters, before plummeting dramatically off the side of a cliff. "Allah Ackbar, take off you piece of s***!" *Boom*

    Wile E. Coyote, eat your little heart out.
    • not to mention that if you can afford to buy a nuke you can afford something better than a 2 seat aircraft to deliver it with, say a Ryder truck.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      >>Allah Ackbar, take off you piece of s***!" *Boom*

      of course it couldn't be yer homegrown militia types doing this i suppose. They *have* to be muslims... *sigh*
      • No, you're right, but picture the Michigan Militia flying the thing. "Woo haa, Cletus, we goin' airborne!" just doesn't sound nearly as dramatic.

        Plus, the years of selective inbreeding that went into creating most of the home-grown terrorist wingnuts probably isn't too conducive towards figuring out the difference between the buttons labeled "jettison bomb" and "jettison boob" (i.e. the one flying.)
    • by RPI Geek ( 640282 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:37AM (#9758527) Journal
      ...And in an apparent act of copycat terrorism, the Polish Terrorist Organization has hijacked the Goodyear blimp. They have been bouncing off buildings in downtown Manhatten for the past 2 hours.
      • by AftanGustur ( 7715 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:27AM (#9758892) Homepage


        ...And in an apparent act of copycat terrorism, the Polish Terrorist Organization has hijacked the Goodyear blimp. They have been bouncing off buildings in downtown Manhatten for the past 2 hours.

        Newsflash!
        The Belgian Terrorist Organization just attacked the French Eiffel Tower on a ultraglide.

        One person is reported to be seriously injured.

        • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:48AM (#9759057)
          > > ...And in an apparent act of copycat terrorism, the Polish Terrorist Organization has hijacked the Goodyear blimp. They have been bouncing off buildings in downtown Manhatten for the past 2 hours.
          >
          >Newsflash!
          >The Belgian Terrorist Organization just attacked the French Eiffel Tower on a ultraglide.
          > One person is reported to be seriously injured.

          ...but President Chirac is expected to be released from the hospital tomorrow, having waved a white flag so furiously he broke his right arm in three places. *rimshot*

      • by StressGuy ( 472374 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:27AM (#9758893)
        ...the eventual build-up of static electricity caused them to helplessly cling to one of them until they could be rescued by noticably giggling members of the NY fire department.

    • by CritterNYC ( 190163 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:24AM (#9758865) Homepage
      I have a mental image of a fanatic-piloted sport plane hopping along a runway, frantically trying to get airborne despite the huge black ovoid labelled "ACME BOMB" in bright red letters, before plummeting dramatically off the side of a cliff.

      Or Sideshow Bob slooooowwwwwly flying towards the Emergency Broadcast Station in the Wright Brother's plane as a pair of Harriers make chase...

      "Prepare to engage enemy." Zoooooooommmmm... "Bogey's airspeed not sufficient for intercept. Suggest we get out and walk."
  • by thbigr ( 514105 )
    It is nice that the FAA is going to treat ultralights in a more formal way, but then I am not sure it is a good thing. Now I must have a licence to fly them, where as before you just hoped on one and Up, Up and Away.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:21AM (#9758406)
      The FAA is not replacing the Ultralight rules with this; single seat Ultralights under 550 pounds are still OK to fly under the existing rules. This allows use of TWO seat 'ultralight trainers', which were not really legal under the Ultralight rules, except for flight training.

      Many people were flying these as if they were in the Ultralight category when they were really not.
    • As others have mentioned, the ultralight rules don't change with this...

      But, on a personal note, I would encourage anybody who is going to fly ultralights to get some flight training with a Certificated Flight Instructor in an airplane. I'm not suggesting that you go the whole course and get your license (not a bad idea though); but I do think you'll want some training in stall awareness and recovery.

      I'm not at the point of saying that everybody who flies should have a license; but I would say that every
  • Good overview (Score:5, Informative)

    by essaunders ( 469150 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:17AM (#9758372)
    Another good overview can be found at http://www.aero-news.net/index.cfm?ContentBlockID= 65261609-3814-42c0-979d-a77f9b8c10f8& [aero-news.net] This new category bridges the gap between the relatively uncontrolled (US) ultralights and the standard airplane. If I understand correctly (correct me If I'm wrong), it may allow European 'ultralights' (which can be larger than their US cousins) to be flown in the US without meeting all the standard airplane rules.
    • Re:Good overview (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Coz ( 178857 )
      One of the better things to come out of this is that folks who already have pilot's licenses can fly this class of plane with just a driver's license. The FAA has a long set of procedures you have to go through to get a medical certificate if you are in anything but great health - chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines - all these can completely disqualify you from flying unless you get a doctor to help track you for a period of time, fill out a lot of paperwork, an
  • ugh.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:17AM (#9758374)
    I sometimes wonder how did certain people managed to get their driver's licence at all.. and most importantly, from WHO ;-) I just shiver at the thought that pilot license could be obtained much easier from now on.. I know people who I wouldn't give the license to use a computer, yet alone something else, with much more devastating crashing effect.

    *sigh*
  • ultralights (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dncsky1530 ( 711564 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:20AM (#9758392) Homepage
    ultralights don't require a license if they meet certain requirements [aol.com]:

    "(d) If unpowered, weighs less than 155 pounds; or (e) If powered: (1) Weighs less than 254 pounds empty, excluding floats and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation;"

    Certification:
    "(a) Notwithstanding any other section pertaining to certification of aircraft or their parts or equipment, ultralight vehicles and their component parts and equipment are not required to meet the airworthiness certification standards specified for aircraft or to have certificates of air-worthiness."

    • "(d) If unpowered, weighs less than 155 pounds; or (e) If powered: (1) Weighs less than 254 pounds empty, excluding floats and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation;"

      I spot a loophole! My F22 raptor is just an ultralight with several million dollars of "safety devices" (happens to include jet engines). Cool, gonna get me a license this afternoon


  • > just so they will fall under the *loser* "homebuilt" rules.

    I was about to complain about the editorializing in the article summary until I realized that I should probably be wearing my glasses.

    heh...

  • At last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:21AM (#9758403) Journal
    The FAA tried something like this years ago with the Recreational Pilot Certificate - however, the requirements were almost the same as the full private (still need a full class 3 medical, nearly as many hours needed to qualify), and the rec. license was 'crippled' in features compared to the full private. It was hardly surprising that almost no one bothered with it.

    On the second attempt, they seem to have got it right. The class of plane the Sport Pilot license addresses are non-complex, easily maintained and things happen slowly enough that even very green pilots shouldn't have a hard time handling them. Over-regulation has been killing general aviation for years so let's hope this gives the recreational end of it a good boost.
    • What's to stop you from using a sport pilot license to fly a Cessna 150? I didn't see anywhwere in the specs where something like this would be prohibited.
    • Re:At last (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Man of E ( 531031 )
      The other good thing about the Sport Pilot license is that initial flight training becomes much cheaper. Per hour rental of these ultralights can't be much, and you can still start learning the controls, aerodynamics, and many of the maneuvers. After that, transitioning to a "real" plane (say a Skyhawk) for a private pilot license shouldn't take too long, and would certainly be cheaper than the complete training in a Skyhawk.

      Cheaper training means more potential interest in general aviation, which means mo

  • Good idea. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JPriest ( 547211 )
    The 1,320 pound limit is definately a good thing.
    I wish more states would follow this trend in the other direction with cars. I remember renewing my license at 21, the lady asked me to read the 2nd or 3rd line down in the eye chart, no prob, done. Expecting her to ask me to read the next line, or maybe a few down, she says thanks and stamps off my renewal. wow.

    That is all the better I have to see to be licensed to drive a 3500 pound automobile that will go 165 mph? In the Army, when I got my hummer license

    • "at least they made me take a test that measured my reaction times and depth perception"

      And how to run over civilians... aaah the glory days.

  • by MetaMarty ( 38276 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:25AM (#9758435)
    In Europe, the medical requirements (JAR-FCL) are horrible. You need to be superman to be allowed even the most simple license. I've been fighting the rules for some years now. One requirement is that there can no be more than 5 dioptry between both eyes. My left eye is slightly over +5 and my right eye is normal. Although my optometrist has confirmed that my vision is normal and my stereopsis is normal, I'm out. If my right eye would get worse to, say, +2, I would be allowed to fly.

    One other issue that needs adressing is anti depressants. I'm not sure if this new law covers anti depressants in the US, but I know there's talk about legalising their usage for pilots. Many modern antidepressants cause no threat to your flying abbilities. What does cause a threat is pilots flying around with untreated depressions because they will be grounded if they seek help. I've been on paxil for over 5 years and I never ever noticed any change in my abbilities to fly or drive.

    Really, these regulations should be relaxed. I accept being picky about choosing people to fly +400 people airliners, but please leave people alone who want to have some fun in a tiny 152.
    • Yeah - it's really fun when a stoned pilot decides to visit your BBQ by crashing in your yard.

      If you're in a position where you can seriously kill a bunch of people, you need to be regulated. There needs to be an official acknowledgement of your fitness to fly. What works for you might not work for anyone else. That's why they don't offer members of the general public to fly commercial jets.

      • by Politburo ( 640618 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:39AM (#9758980)
        If you're in a position where you can seriously kill a bunch of people, you need to be regulated.

        Parent did not argue against all regulations, but merely indicated that perhaps they should be revised to allow for greater deviations from what was considered "normal" when the regulations were developed, based on our further understanding of the human body.

        That's why they don't offer members of the general public to fly commercial jets.

        And parent specifically indicated that they felt these regulations were proper for commercial jets: "I accept being picky about choosing people to fly +400 people airliners, but please leave people alone who want to have some fun in a tiny 152."
      • <i>"it's really fun when a stoned pilot decides to visit your BBQ by crashing in your yard."</i>
        <p>
        Yeah. Because no one's ever driven an SUV into a BBQ or through the front of someone's house. Exactly how much "fitness to drive" regulation is there on cars?
        <p>
        Consider that the average SUV probably weighs 2 - 2.5 <b>tons</b> vs the maximum for a plane under this license: 1,320 pounds or just over half a ton. An SUV is going to plenty more damage.
        <p>
        Also consider that
    • Well, you won't get any further on the anti-depressant point with the US FAA - it's still a disqualifying condition (even for things that don't need a medical, like gliders).

      I don't think even the UK's NPPL (requires only a DVLA Class 2 medical - i.e. a driver's medical for truck drivers, which any GP can issue) if you're taking antidepressants, but I could be wrong.
    • Even a 152 is too big for a Sport Pilot. They're talking about things like Piper Cubs.
  • Is it good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dresseduptoday ( 621090 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:25AM (#9758437)
    Being a private pilot myself, I can see why one wants to reduce costs. It does take an awful lot of both money and time to get a PPL. However, never forget that flying can be very unforgiving if you do something you shouldn't. I just hope that what little requirements are left, are rigid enough to not cause danger to others. _ /Bjorn.
    • Many of the requirements (especially when you consider something like a JAR PPL) make things more dangerous, not safer. Over-regulation often has unintended consequences: think of the maintenance issues - as it's so expensive to get useful safety improvements (mainly due to the expense of filing paperwork), they usually aren't done - so the onerous regulations make it more dangerous. It is really borne out by the fact that the GA accident rate is lower in the US compared to the UK, and US general aviation i
  • Access to Aviation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:26AM (#9758444) Homepage
    The FAA and aviation community has made access to aviation too costly for most people. The cost of mandated repairs/upgrades/maintenance and the cost of licensing really is prohibitive and limits the market for aircraft. A new class of less regulated, easier to maintain planes and easier to get licenses would go a long way towards ending this problem... Even a two seat puddle jumper with a 200 MPH speed and 600 mile range would be a huge improvement over the car.

    • sorry but I disagree.

      there is a local moron that fly's his air-jalopy from the uncontrolled field north of town. His numbers on the plane are faded and incomplete, the oil streaks running down the underside and the smoke trail he leaves coupled with the fact that it sounds like a car that is about to explode makes everyone worry.

      The man has crash landed at least 10 times in the past 5 years due to engine failures and other problems witha plane that is undermaintained.

      if you cant afford to maintain that

      • if you cant afford to maintain that $150,000 Cessna in absolute top condition then you do not deserve to own it or fly it.


        This is exactly the problem. Let's find a way to make aviation more affordable. Let's get a mass market moving that can support high quality/low cost aircraft and reduce maintenance costs. If cars were regulated the way aircraft are you'd still have a horse.

    • I'm a private pilot and I DO agree with your viewpoint. Government regulation has been killing general aviation. I'm glad that they're allowing all folks the opportunity to enjoy flying.

      As for safety, it should be up to the flyer to preserve his own life. I don't want the government to baby me. I can take care of myself.
  • I'm not talking from personal knowledge, just piecing together what I think I've heard, but ... Before this new class was invented, wouldn't these craft have fit under the 'ultralight' heading, which does not require licensing?

    Could this be intended to help HomeSec track these "potential weapon" vehicles?
    • *Disclaimer: I'm from Europe, so what do I know about US stuff?*

      My impression is that these new "sport" planes are significantly bigger than ultralights. The article says that they may weight 1360 pounds, while IIRC ultralights are limited to something like 250 pounds. Secondly, ultralights are not going away because of this. This is just a new class between UL and "real" planes.

      We have a similar class over here, IIRC max weight is 500 kg (or 550 kg if you have pontoons), and they're quite popular.
    • by vlm ( 69642 ) * on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:45AM (#9758571)
      Not even close.

      Ultralight limited to 55 mph vs this class at 120

      Ultralight limited to 254 lbs dry weight vs this class at over 1200 lbs

      Ultralights are pretty much toy looking, whereas these are "real" small aircraft.

      The difference in size and performance is roughly the same ratio as Yugo vs Ford Exploder.
    • The FAA announced working on this Sport Pilot rating before 9/11 2000. So I doubt this has anything to do tracking weapon vehicles.

      These planes ARE LIGHT. Meaning they weigh no more than 1,320 pounds. Most of them can only carry around 450lbs. This means people and FUEL.

      See here [fly-kr.com] for an example only has capacity for 35lbs of baggage! These are not dangerous vehicles.

      You could do way more damage with a U-Haul or Ryder truck and a few oil drums of fertilizer...

      As far as 'Ultralight's they are even

  • Flying 101 (Score:5, Funny)

    by InsaneCreator ( 209742 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:28AM (#9758460)
    The training goes sometning like this:
    If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull the stick back they get smaller. If you keep pulling the stick for too long, they get bigger really fast!
  • Good news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreatBallsOfFire ( 241640 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @08:29AM (#9758468)
    This is good news for people like me who used to fly but had to give up our licenses due to overly restrictive Third Class Medical requirements.

    I know there will be lot's of critics here, all spouting off about 9/11, but that's nonsense. Flying a small aircraft into a target does not cause similar damage. That was proven shortly after 9/11 when a teenager in Florida killed himself after trying to duplicate the events of 9/11, and it was a bigger plane than what is permitted by this new class of license.

    As for using it to carry a bomb, another criticism frequently heard, this also is of no merit. The original World Trade Center attack was done with explosives in a van, similar to the Oklahoma City event. You can bring an explosive in a briefcase as well, possibly even a small nuclear device. You don't need an aircraft for that.

    Finally, passing legislation allowing the FAA to oversee ultralights is a good thing. Previously, it was self regulated, with almost nothing in the FAR about them. This now allows the agency to oversee safety where there was previously no one there to do so. This may be bad, as well as good, because the FAA is not known for its speed when it comes to certification, but will help the general aviation industry and sport pilots in the long run.

    As for pilot training for terrorists, I don't see anyone chasing after Microsoft for Flight Simulator ...
  • Cheaper training? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lasindi ( 770329 )
    Actually owning or renting the aircraft may be cheaper, but will it be cheaper to learn to fly? It costs several thousand dollars just to get a Private Pilot's License; such costs also cause prospective pilots to shy away from flying.

    I also wonder if health insurance companies will treat sport pilots differently. My insurance specifically excludes flights in private aircraft that aren't scheduled commercial carriers. Would insurance companies start covering this if lots people begin to use it?

  • by agraupe ( 769778 )
    And there already was something like this in Canada. I could have got it starting at fourteen, and been flying by myself by now. I chose to wait until next summer, when I'll be 16, to start on the actual private pilots license. Why, you ask? Because I'll invariably want to move up to the next level (I'm even considering an aviaton career). Flying is so fun that this is like the free sample of crack given by a drug dealer.
  • It sounds like enabling legislation for a new category of Darwin Awards: Ex-Sport Pilot.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:18AM (#9758805) Homepage
    IAHGP? (I am a hang glider pilot)

    The US Hang Gliding Association (USHGA) [ushga.org] had/has many concerns regarding the sport pilot [ushga.org] program. Currently, hang glider and paraglider pilots fly under FAA part 103 [ushga.org] which grants very liberal self-regulation to these pilots. One concern is that the sport pilot license is the beginning of the end to self-regulated hang glider/paraglider flight. The other problem is that it add stricter regulation for tow-parks [aerosports.net] such as Kitty Hawk Kites [kittyhawk.com] who tow hang gliders, which might hurt these outfits since they already have a tough time making money. There's also an often-ignored group of powered hang-glider's [swedishaerosport.se] and powered paragliders [poweredparaglider.com] that are like ultra-ultralights (sometimes <100lbs), who typically fly unregulated who may now need to have a sport pilot license, along with annual flight inspections, etc. That's a pain for something that fits in your trunk.

    It is a double-edged sword, because some of these above groups fell into loopholes in the regulations, so the FAA's handling of thse groups may determine if the sport pilot license is a good thing or a bad thing.
  • by straddle ( 173066 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:35AM (#9758949) Homepage
    I recently obtained a Private Pilots license so the training is fresh in my head. I can't think of anything I studied or learned that would be a waste of time for light sport pilots.

    As for the third class medical certificate required for Private Pilots, I really don't see what the big deal is. If you have a pulse and can see three feet in front of you can easily obtain one. Perhaps it is the cost? ($80)

    I think what the FAA is saying with this designation is that since you will be flying a light aircraft that can do little damage to others - feel free to take your own risks.
  • Aleady there! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:23AM (#9759355)
    I'm already finishing up my http://www.zenithair.com/ [zenithair.com] Zodiac 601 just in time. She should be flying in the spring.

    Mind you, I'm in Canada and we already have something like this called an advanced ultralight since the early 90s.

  • Perhaps this is the first step on the road to air-cars? First one with a flying Delorean wins.
  • How did this pass? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by X-Nc ( 34250 ) <nilrin@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:44AM (#9759536) Homepage Journal
    > It is much, much easier to get than a normal pilot's license

    You'd think that in these days the Ministry of Home Defense (zieg heil!) this kind of thing wouldn't come to pass.

  • by mabu ( 178417 ) * on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:36PM (#9760727)
    The government announced a series of additional "sport" licenses with more lenient prerequisites:

    * Sport Coroner
    * Sport Patent Attorney
    * Sport CPA
    * Sport CIA Operative
    * Sport Journalist
    * Sport Software Engineer
    * Sport President

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