If you are an aviation enthusiast seeking your first pilot certificate, the sport pilot certificate provides one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to fly for fun and recreation. You can think of it as a sort of middle-ground between becoming an ultralight pilot and a full-fledged private pilot.


Unlike ultralight pilots, sport pilots can carry a passenger and operate in certain types of controlled airspace, for example, but they may not fly at night and are limited to lighter and lowered-powered aircraft than those available to private pilots.


The minimum required training time for the different light sport aircraft categories are:

Become a Sport Pilot: Step-by-Step


To earn a sport pilot certificate, you’ll need to:

  • Meet the minimum age requirement:
    • Be at least 16 to become a student pilot and fly solo (14 for gliders).
    • Be at least 17 to test for a sport pilot certificate (16 for gliders).
  • Be able to read, write, and understand English.
  • Hold a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical eligibility (provided the FAA didn’t deny, revoke, or suspend your last medical certificate application). Alternatively, you can also use a third-class airman’s medical to establish medical fitness.
  • Pass an FAA sport pilot knowledge test, also known as the written test.
  • Complete a minimum of 20 hours of training for an airplane; times vary for other aircraft types.
  • Pass an FAA sport pilot practical test, also known as the flight test or checkride.