For a very long time, the US was one of the only countries that did not have a class of aircraft that sat between ultra light aircraft (other countries call them microlites), and regular aircraft. Finally, in 2004, the FAA released new regulations bringing Light Sport Aircraft and the Sport Pilot into existence! Best of all, unlike with ultralights, the FAA considers Light Sport Aircraft to be exactly the same as regular airplanes for pilot training and flight logging, which means you can train and record flight time for any license just like with a regular airplane!
New Flyers Association is a flying club for training and recreation which has roots that go back a long way (since 1968 as National Flyers Association). Of all of the airplanes we've seen and flown, light sport aircraft are extremely unique, and just outright bundles of fun. Since we got our first Light Sport Aircraft, we've been focusing a lot on them as they are too much of a joy to pass up!
So, what makes light sport airplanes AWESOME?
BECAUSE THEY ARE!
Light sport aircraft combine modern construction methods with weight reduction. This means that despite smaller engines, they maintain a great cruising speed and have a very nimble touch.
N566FD, the first light sport that NFA acquired, has a weight of approximately 790 pounds. That's less than half of the weight of the 2012 Smart Fortwo. She also is equipped with a Ballistic Recovery System from BRS Aerospace, which is an AIRPLANE parachute. BRS Aerospace has a proven history of saving lives, which shows it is not just security theatre!
As for flying, for an airplane with a 100 horsepower engine, she's got a lot of spunk! Fully loaded on HOT days, which is when airplanes perform their worst, we still clock her climbing at 700-800 feet per minute. On a cold day with very little loading, we've seen her climb over 2,000 feet a minute without breaking a sweat, which is an outstanding climb rate that isn't easily matched by heavier airplanes unless they are high powered or multi-engine aircraft!
Speed and range wise, she boasts a 120 knots (138 mph) max level flight speed, and a range of around 830 nautical miles (955 statute, or regular miles)!
She's a tiny plane, two seats, and designed to be a plane for flying for fun!
We fell in love with light sport so much (and we felt that N566FD was getting a little lonely) so we went and got her a few friends!
How does light sport work for flight training?
N566FD, as well as the other light sports that we have, can keep pace with the most common civilian airplane of all time, the Cessna 172, and even outperform it in many areas.
What about flying one? Light sport aircraft provides a really fun mix of challenge (but not too challenging!) and just outright joy to fly. If a plane isn't fun, then neither is training, and we believe that being bored is not appropriate when learning to fly!
Did you know that some aircraft, even though they have standard certification, are also considered "light sport"? A J-3 Cub, which is an airplane built in the 1940's, is a golden example!
A Piper J-3 Cub
The J-3 is so respected, that it's been copied and built by so many different people. There are more Cubs flying today than Piper Aircraft ever built. The J-3 Cub is considered a light sport airplane because it meets the definition of one as laid out in the regulations, despite being a design that is over 70 years old!
So, the idea of a light weight aircraft construction isn't new! It's just that the FAA took a long time to finally getting around to creating a classification for it!
So, are Light Sport Aircraft worth flying?
The answer is "YES!"
- N566FD just loves to fly. We like to think she doesn't want to stop flying and she's trying to tell you that (don't look at us that way... it's fun to personify airplanes!). She jumps off the ground on takeoff and climbs hard, but when it's time to come back for landing, she doesn't want to come back down!
- She's quite easy to fly. Once you get used to it, it is VERY fun to play with the air and ride the winds!
- Visibility. Flight Design aircraft are very well known for the amount of window real estate that they have. Seriously, have a look at how much visibility there is in a Flight Design CTLS!
Extremely sensitive controls. You'll learn to develop a soft touch during your pilot training. It's a good thing to have sensitive controls, because it means an airplane will respond very well to your control input! N566FD is sensitive because she has very large control surfaces, and the entire elevator moves (it's called a stabilator when the whole thing moves), which controls the nose up and down movement (pitch). Here's an illustration of a stabilator, complete with the anti-servo tab in the back (you will learn what it is for in training).
You just have to come out and give it a try! These little light sports are purely about going back to the roots of flying by having a light frame, while using modern construction and equipment, making them a very unique experience for flying lessons!
What is the difference between a sport pilot and a private pilot?
In private pilot training, there's a lot of night flying, a little bit of instrument training, and a few extra solo flight requirements as well. With sport pilot, the night training is removed as the majority of people aren't interested in flying at night. Private pilots can still fly light sport aircraft at night though!
At NFA we believe that there should still be basic instrument training for sport pilots because it's a big safety factor. Our aircraft are well equipped for navigation and we'll teach you how to use them just in case, so you have the tools and knowledge to get home safe!
Also, if you fly with us for your sport pilot lessons, you automatically get the endorsement to fly in controlled airspace, since we are located in it!
Does that mean Light Sport flying is right for me?
You yourself need to decide for yourself! We can't tell you if an LSA is or isn't a good airplane for you. We fly for fun and train for professionalism, so you should come in and find out if it's the kind of fun that you like! If it turns out light sport isn't for you, you can always move to other aircraft! But in reality, you won't want to, because they really are super fun to play with :)
New Flyers Association has Introductory Flight Lessons that you can use to give it a try!
If you want to see more info about specific pilot training, please check out our Overview for Pilot's Licenses!