Marion Blakey has officially unveiled the long-awaited Sport Pilot
and Light Sport Aircraft rule that will allow many pilots to fly
with a valid driver's license in lieu of a medical certificate and
create new, less-expensive ways to become a pilot.
From the beginning of this nine-year process, AOPA pushed hard
for a driver's license medical standard that would allow
already-certificated pilots to fly light sport aircraft
immediately-and many of the provisions that AOPA sought have been
included in the final rule. Beginning September 1, pilots who
qualify will be able to act as light sport pilots using a driver's
license instead of a medical certificate.
"It was important to AOPA that our members who love and support
general aviation, but no longer have a current medical, be able to
fly again," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "That's why we asked
the FAA to make the rule effective quickly, and they
Pilots who hold a
recreational certificate or better, but whose standard or special
issuance medical certificate has lapsed, will be able to fly under
sport pilot rules with a driver's license and self-certification
that they are medically fit to fly. Pilots whose medical has been
revoked, suspended, or denied will need further review by the FAA
and could be required to obtain a special issuance.
Certificated pilots who hold a valid driver's license and whose
medical has not been suspended or revoked will be able to fly many
familiar certificated airplanes, including Piper J-2 and J-3 Cubs
and models from Luscombe, Taylorcraft, and Ercoupe when the rule
becomes effective September 1.
More on the sport pilot rule…
The rule also creates a new class of light sport aircraft that
will include both kit airplanes and yet-to-be-certified models. The
FAA estimates that light sport aircraft will be available for
"about the price of a new car," but because the class includes
powered parachutes and two-place ultralights, that figure may not
realistically represent the cost of a more traditional airplane.
Even so, new aircraft should be less expensive than many models now
available, and with that lower cost will come lower operating and
And the rule creates a
more affordable avenue for learning to fly, requiring a minimum of
20 hours of flight time to earn a sport pilot certificate. While
experience suggests that the certificate may take closer to 30 or
35 hours to earn, the standard still represents a significant cost
savings over the average time of nearly 70 hours to earn a private
Although the new rule defines pilot and aircraft certification
requirements, it also raises a host of new questions that will
require interpretation. "AOPA's staff of full-time medical and
technical experts will remain in continuous contact with the FAA to
ensure that our members get accurate answers to all their questions
as they take advantage of this new rule," Boyer said.
The rule has been, literally, years in the making, and only the
dedicated efforts of organizations like the Experimental Aircraft
Association (EAA), which has made sport pilot regulation its sole
focus, have made it possible.
"Organizations like EAA and AOPA recognize that anything that
makes general aviation accessible to more people is good for all
pilots," Boyer said. "This rule invites old friends to get back
into the air while creating opportunities for more people to pursue
their dreams of flight for the first time."