Sport Pilot Differences Pr Copy

So you wanna fly sporty planes like Harambe?

flying harambe

If you’re planning on earning your Sport Pilot Certificate instead of your Private Pilot Certificate, then you’ll want to review the subtle differences between a private pilot and sport pilot below.  Be sure to complete the quiz below at the end of this topic as well!

General Limitations

  • Cannot fly for hire
  • Cannot fly above 10,000 msl (grace is given to stay within 2,000′ agl and operate above 10,000′ msl for mountain flying)
  • Cannot fly at night
  • Cannot fly in Class A Airspace
  • Cannot fly in Class B, C, or D airspace without having training and an endorsement from an instructor
  • Need training and an endorsement stating you are proficient either in airplanes with a max speed of 87 knots or less, or greater than 87 knots (depending on which aircraft you intend to fly)
  • Must always have at least 3sm visibility
  • Cannot fly “without visual reference to the surface” (i.e. cannot fly above clouds)
  • Must comply with all limitations on your driver’s license, and any limitations or logbook endorsements your instructor places on you
  • Cannot tow anything (like tow a glider)
  • Cannot act as a crew member on an airplane that requires two pilots

Aircraft Limits

  • Max Takeoff Weight 1,320lbs or less (1,430 lbs for seaplanes)
  • Single Engine only
  • Max airspeed in level flight less than 120 knots CAS (corrected airspeed) at sea level
  • Must be fixed gear (unless designed for operation as a glider or on water)
  • Max stall speed less than 45 knots CAS at gross weight and most critical center of gravity
  • Fixed pitch propeller (or ground adjustable propeller, but not a constant-speed propeller)
  • Non-pressurized cabin
  • No more than two seats (including the pilot, choose only one friend to go fly with you)


You do not need a FAA medical to fly as a sport pilot, a valid driver’s license will suffice, however, you must not have any known “disqualifying conditions”.  A list and explanation of what would be “disqualifying” can be found in 14 CFR 61.53 (or AOPA has a nice explanation of it here)   You must also comply with 14 CFR 61.23(c)(2).  This regulation states:

A person using a U.S. driver’s license to meet the requirements of paragraph (c) while exercising sport pilot privileges must—

(i) Comply with each restriction and limitation imposed by that person’s U.S. driver’s license and any judicial or administrative order applying to the operation of a motor vehicle;

(ii) Have been found eligible for the issuance of at least a third-class airman medical certificate at the time of his or her most recent application (if the person has applied for a medical certificate);

(iii) Not have had his or her most recently issued medical certificate (if the person has held a medical certificate) suspended or revoked or most recent Authorization for a Special Issuance of a Medical Certificate withdrawn; and

(iv) Not know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner.