Sport Pilot


light sport aircraft
pilot conduct code


The term 'Sport Pilot' is an essentially American one. The license entitles the pilot to fly 'Light Sport Aircraft'  The license permits the pilot to operate a large number of aircraft, from powered parachutes to selected standard category aircraft. Click here for the list. This website also includes a more generic definition of the sport or sporting pilot and includes sections for those who may elect to fly gliders, do aerobatics or even air racing.

Ultralights, microlights and ULMs

Ultralights microlights and ULMs are defined differently in different countries. Essentially, they are very light airplanes, either single-seat or dual seat, and the licensing regulations for both pilots and aircraft are less stringent than for conventional light aircraft. The low stall speeds and weights mean that, while crashes may be more frequent, they are usually less painful! The aircraft are also a lot cheaper, and you fly slowly enough to appreciate the scenery. There are two main types: 3-axis - which have conventional controls, and weight shift, or trikes, which use a similar control system to hang gliders. The new category of ULM requires the same skills of flying as conventional aircraft and frankly, some of the newer models out-perform some conventional aircraft.

The world of Microlighting has advanced so much over the last 15-20 years that it has become the most affordable and safest form of motorised flight in the UK.

The advancement of four stroke dedicated aviation engines now make the aircraft more reliable than before, faster, as well as sleeker looking.

There are two types of Microlight aircraft, one is derived from hang-glider technology and the basic principle to operating the weight-shift, as it is called, is by moving the wing in the airflow to manoeuvre the aircraft in the air, usually you are open to the elements in this type of aircraft.

The other type of Microlight aircraft is the simple stick and rudder control, very similar to normal aircraft, being in an enclosed cockpit, these have surfaces on the wings and tail-plane which can be moved in the airflow, to manoeuvre the aircraft in the air, they are better known as 3-Axis types.

this Xair is typical of 3 axis microlights

The weight-shift aircraft are able to carry two people and fuel up to 4 hours duration in the air. Pilot and passenger sit in tandem like a motorbike; they have been likened to 3D motor biking. The 3-Axis types usually have side by side seating arrangements like the normal cockpit of a small aircraft.

During your trial lesson, you will, depending on the length of the lesson have an opportunity to have a go at flying the aircraft yourself, in the 3-Axis type this is a simple matter of passing control, from the Qualified Instructor to yourself with the instructor overseeing your every move. In the weight-shift, passing control, because of the tandem seating arrangement can be a little difficult, so initially you have a choice. If you want to have a go at flying the aircraft your instructor will generally ask you to sit in the P1 seat at the front, donít worry all instructors on these types prefer to sit in the rear seat anyway, itís the norm for them. Its then a simple matter of the instructor showing you what to do, how much, and when, and he can oversee you all the time in the air.

The weather plays a very important part in all forms of flying, but Microlights are a little more susceptible to the elements than other forms, so bear that in mind. Contrary to popular belief, the wintertime is the best time to fly in the UK, ok its cold, but we can wrap up against that. The difference is the stability of the air, cold crisp winter days are the best, saying that though, last thing on a summers evening can be just as enjoyable.

the new generation of 3 axis microlights are virtually indistinguishable from conventional aircraft, such as this CT

In the UK the definition of a microlight is under review with a view to more standardisation across Europe. You need to obtain a NPPL (microlight) to fly one. You will also have to sit written examinations. Your licence will allow you to fly weightshift microlights (trike) or three-axis microlights. If you want to change from one to the other it is advisable to take a conversion course. One thing to bear in mind when selecting a school is that some do not allow you to fly the school aircraft once you have flown your first solo, which means you have to then purchase your own machine.

In the US an ultralight is a single-place airplane under a certain maximum weight and with a maximum attainable speed, with additional definitions involving stall speed and fuel capacity. They are flown under the FAR Part 103 regulations, which do not require any form of pilot licence or certification provided they are flown within certain operating rules. However, teaching yourself to fly an ultralight is not recommended, and the single-seat requirement is waived for approved training establishments, who will teach you on a two-seat ultralight. A new category has been approved in the USA, the sport class, which allows many light conventional aircraft.