Learn to Fly!
by ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas
Yeeeehhhaaaaaa! Welcome to a whole new world of aviation, sport
pilot. The signs at the new "Learn to Fly" area of the EAA tent
proclaim the excitement for the "new" Sport Pilot Certificate.
Charlie Becker, Director of Aviation Services at the
Experimental Aircraft Association sees "sport pilot and light sport
aircraft as the key to the future of aviation."
The "new" certificate had its birth about 13 years ago with the
first proposals to the FAA. About three years ago, the
implementation began. "You’re starting to see the
infrastructure grow and finally catch up with the expectations,"
The next generation trainers are being introduced, the latest
being the Cessna 162 Skycatcher, and Cirrus Design's just-announded
According to Becker, many of the Light Sport Aircraft coming
into the country are being delivered to individuals.
"We need them out on the flight line and I know Cessna's plan is
to get a lot of their initial production out to their Cessna Pilot
Centers". The expectation is around 2009.
During the wait, EAA members can apply for their Student Sport
Pilot Certificate at the Learn to Fly area in the EAA Member tent
between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. During AirVenture, Designated Pilot
Examiners are donating their time to approve the paperwork and
issue certificates. Normally, the paperwork to issue the Student
Sport Pilot Certificate runs $40 to $50 -- so if you are not a
member of EAA but are interested in becoming a Sport Pilot, the EAA
yearly membership dues are $40. The free certificate, coupled with
the "normal" EAA benefits, make it a no-brainer.
Becker applauds the Pilot Examiners. "I think that tells you how
dedicated people are in aviation when Designated Pilot Examiners
will take time out of their stay here in Oshkosh to sign off on
Student Pilot Certificates just so that they can get this ball
The Student certificate will be valid for two years. Becker
hopes "the person will go home and take that next step of finding
an instructor and become a pilot." According to research, EAA
reports that student pilot starts are down and total pilots has
dipped below 600,000. "The more people you bring in on that first
step of the ladder the bigger that (pilot) base becomes, it
benefits everyone in aviation." Says Becker. "It's just good for
Non-members and members alike can enjoy the mini-forums at the
membership tent on different aspects of becoming a sport pilot or
private pilot. "We’re here to answer and encourage people as
much as possible" says Becker.
'Reach For The Sky' is a new booklet available at the tent. "It
is a summary, in my mind, of everything you need to know to move
forward and become a pilot." Says Becker. The booklet is filled
with information, making the choice between sport pilot and private
pilot, choosing an instructor and even building your own LSA if the
Becker has heard of resistance at some Fixed Base Operators on
Sport Pilot. To this end, another booklet is available at the EAA
tent, 'CFI’s Guide to Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft.'
Instructors are encouraged to pick up a copy and students are
encouraged to take a copy to an instructor putting up walls on
Sport Pilot. After enough calls to an FBO about Sport Pilot,
economics may take over and realize maybe Sport Pilot is not so bad
The Sport Pilot website contains a listing of CFI’s
willing to teach Sport Pilot and those who have access to LSA.
Becker notes only about 30% of the CFI’s listed have access
to an LSA. Becker asks EAA or NAFI member CFI’s to add
themselves to the list if they want to instruct sport pilot. "There
are some work arounds, like being able to do some of the training
in Cessna 150s and other aircraft that don't comply... but at the
end of the day when you get to the solo part you need a light sport
aircraft to do your solo work and your check ride."
Older Cubs, Champs and Taylorcraft are also available. Training
and certification in the tail draggers would also require
additional training, and sign-off in the tricycle gear.
After AirVenture there will be an e-newsletter those interested
in the program can sign up for. There will be a free trial period
for non-members; members can receive the e-newsletter free. "Learn
a little bit about becoming a sport pilot, get some of your
training questions answered. I think that will be a very effective
training tool as we move forward," says Becker.
What Becker and company want to do at the Learn to Fly center is
"Give them all the information they need, encourage them to take
that first step, remind them that EAA, through the chapter networks
has thousands of members all across the country that want them to
be successful and have them join the aviation community." Many
people have come up to Becker who have mentioned receiving the
student certificate at an EAA event and now are Sport Pilots.
"It’s really cool to see it come full circle."