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EAA Experimenter

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From the Editor

LSA Might Not Be the Only Solution to an AWOL Medical Certificate

By Patrick Panzera, EAA 555743, ppanzera@eaa.org

Pat Panzera
Experimenter editor Pat Panzera preparing for a checkride in a Schweizer 2-33 at the Central California Soaring Club. Photo by Harold J. Gallagher

A year or two before the sport pilot, light-sport aircraft rule became a reality, I wrote an editorial titled “Why Wait for LSA?” Long before the rule became a reality, it was apparent to many that the lack of a medical requirement would mean that those who could no longer pass a third class exam (or never could to begin with) would still be able to legally pilot an aircraft, but they had to wait until the rule was final. Knowing that there was a way to legally fly powered aircraft with minimal training and with a self-endorsed medical, even if a medical was denied, surrendered, or revoked, I wrote the following with the hope that those who had been waiting or had given up could start flying right away. Even though this is an older article, it still applies to anyone who has lost their medical or thinks that sport pilot is the only option.

This article has been edited for relevancy as it was written before the SP/LSA rule.

Many of the features of the sport pilot rule, such as the lack of a third class medical requirement and the reduced training time required to qualify for the rating have been available to us by way of a sailplane certificate with a self-launch endorsement. This would allow a properly trained and endorsed sailplane pilot to operate a motorglider such as Fournier RF4D featured in the May 2010 issue of Experimenter, without a medical certificate.

On the positive side of self-launch experimental glider rules, there’s no “speed limit” specified, or a minimum stall speed. This allows the builder to choose the highest-performance engine available if he wants maximum climb power. The fact that the plane would now easily exceed the maximum speed numbers of the sport pilot limits is of no concern. Weight isn’t an issue either; there’s no maximum weight. Also, there isn’t a limit on the number of seats, and in-flight adjustable props are permitted as are retractable gear. And unlike a sport pilot, a glider pilot with a self-launch endorsement may fly a motorglider at night (if it’s so equipped) and in any airspace (save Class A) if properly equipped and the proper radio calls are made.

On the negative side, you’ll need more training. Specifically, you’ll need a glider certificate. This isn’t very hard or expensive to do if you already have your private pilot certificate. If you don’t have a certificate, it can still be cheaper to get a glider certificate than a sport pilot certificate. I’ve posted the minimums at the bottom of this article. You’ll also need the self-launch endorsement, which will be more difficult to get than the glider time. The Auxiliary-powered Sailplane Association can be a good resource for this. Their website has a listing of available instructors, many of whom have a ship you can use. I say “more difficult” as finding a motorglider to get dual in isn’t as easy as finding a sailplane and instructor. If you’re considering building, buying, or otherwise owning a two-place, you can likely find an instructor to work with you in your plane. If a single seat is in your future, you might have a harder time getting the endorsement.

So if you’re like the thousands of individuals who lost their medical and are currently grounded, you can legally take to the skies. For those who realize that we’re all merely one physical away from being grounded, motorgliders may be in our futures. Just remember that to pilot a motorglider, even though it looks and behaves just like single-engine-land aircraft, our private pilot certificate is useless without a glider rating and a motorglider endorsement.

A quick Google search for “motorglider” turns up several offerings that you may recognize, a few of these being factory-built, while the others are homebuilt.

Xenos (Sonex)

The Experimental Soaring Association might be a good resource for homebuilt self-launch sailplane information.

Requirements for Private Pilot-Glider Rating (FAR 61.103)
Applicant must be at least 16 years old
Read/speak/understand English
Receive logbook endorsement for check ride
Pass knowledge test (written)
Pass practical test, oral, and flying
No medical examination required, self-endorsement

Aeronautical experience, no previous flights logged, FAR 61.107
10 hours flight time in gliders including:
20 flights in areas of operation, FAR 61.107(b)(6)
Instruction: 3 flights, test prep, 60 days before test
2 hours of solo including 10 launches and landings

Add-on Glider Rating (no written required)
Applicant has logged 40-plus hours PIC in heavier than air
3 hours flight time in gliders, including:
10 solo flights, FAR 61.107(b)(6)
3 training flights 60 days prior to test


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