Leverage Your Fun - a Talk by Roy Beisswenger
By Dan Grunloh, Editor - Light Plane World, EAA 173888
Award-winning aviation journalist and powered parachute instructor and examiner Roy Beisswenger gave a talk at the 2012 Illinois Ultralight and Light Plane Safety Seminar about adding a new category or class to your pilot certificate. The 200 or more attendees got the benefit of some really terrific advice on the subject, but the rest of you missed it. So I want to share with you some of the secrets revealed.
Roy's talk began by explaining why you should add a category or class to your rating and how to leverage your flight time to maximize your fun and minimize the cost. He said anyone already flying has done the hard work, and we shouldn't get stuck flying only one kind as there are plenty of opportunities to fly different aircraft.
He said, "If you have a pilot certificate, if you have learned to fly anything, you have done something that is quite remarkable in today's world. But there is still an entire world of other aviation out there, and learning to fly something else will make you a better pilot. Learning to fly something else is not as tough as it might look from the ground. The big risk is you might find a new favorite to fly and you might make new friends. Adding a new category or class will add a whole new batch of flying friends."
He emphasized the point that all the important pilot skills like using the radio, airspace, traffic patterns, and cross-country flying are transferable. The things that took you a long time to learn while earning your first certificate are all easier when picking up your second rating. Regardless of where you started, be it ultralight, sport pilot, or private pilot, all of it is transferable. Unfortunately, though, beginning this year the flight time that you accumulated as an ultralight pilot is no longer transferable to a sport pilot rating. You still have your stick and rudder skills, but now if you want to earn a sport pilot certificate you are back at square one. Next Roy brought up what I think is the number one idea for existing ultralight pilots that came out of this talk.
"Ultralight pilots who want to become a sport pilot will be frustrated if you try to become a sport pilot in something you already know how to fly. Once you are a sport pilot, the transition from category to category is really simple and quick. But for the initial rating, you must put in the basic dual flight time the FAA requires. If you are going to do that, reach out and do something new. If you have been an ultralight trike pilot and you want to become a sport pilot, go down to your local airport and become an airplane sport pilot. Then go to a trike instructor for a proficiency check and get endorsed as a trike pilot. It almost becomes a two-for-one deal."
Roy elaborated, "I've had powered parachute pilots come to me for a sport pilot rating that are as good as I am or better. So we are sitting on takeoff and neither of us knows what we want to do except that we must put in 10 hours. That is the upshot if you are starting from ultralights. If you're already starting from sport pilot, all your skills are transferable and all the training is transferable. Once you are sport pilot...you can transition to another type of light-sport aircraft without going to an examiner, without taking a knowledge test, and without any minimum hours. You just go to one CFI for an endorsement to then take a proficiency check with another CFI."
That capability reveals a less well-known way of transitioning from one type of sport aircraft to another. Since there are no minimum hours, you could go with a flying buddy and learn a lot of the basic core skills on the other aircraft. Then go get your final training and proficiency check from the appropriate sport pilot CFI.
Unfortunately if you're moving up from a sport pilot to private pilot rating, sometimes not all your sport pilot training can transfer to a private pilot rating. It depends on the instructor. Roy said, "If you come to me for a powered parachute sport pilot rating, all of your time that I put in your logbook will count, not just for sport pilot but also toward a private pilot rating because I hold a private pilot powered parachute rating. It doesn't mean that my training is superior to a sport pilot powered parachute instructor, but the way the rules are written, you can't provide training for a rating you don't already have. If a trike or powered parachute instructor also holds a private pilot single engine land, they can get an exemption letter that allows that training time to count for a private pilot certificate."
He explained, however, that if you're an airplane private pilot and you want to become a private pilot gyroplane, private pilot powered parachute, or private pilot trike, you're now changing categories. It's not like the class changes. When you're changing categories at the private pilot level, you have to get a lot of dual time with an instructor again. That ends up being one of the advantages of sport pilot where all you have to do is pass a proficiency check.
Roy said people ask him, "What do I need to get a powered parachute sign-off for my private pilot rating?" This is where he becomes the bearer of bad news because they will have to do three hours of night flying in a powered parachute. It's because now they are changing categories and must meet the experience requirements like anyone else. If you want to move to a new class such as adding a seaplane class to a single engine airplane land rating at the private pilot rating, it behaves a lot like it does for sport pilot level. There are no knowledge tests, and no minimum flight experience when going from one class to another, but it does take a recommendation from a CFI and checkride with an examiner.
Getting the training and sign-off begins with seeking out your instructors. Talk honestly about what you want to do and whether they are willing to do it or not. Roy's powered parachute flight school is specifically designed to take people from off the street and put them through a concentrated program, where 12 or 13 days later-weather permitting-they are flying a powered parachute with a certificate in their pocket. There are many other instructors who focus on transitioning pilots because they prefer to work with someone who already has "sky time."
Roy said the best way to find a DPE is to talk to your instructor. Most instructors use the same DPE for all their students, and they come to learn what that examiner likes to emphasize. Another way is to talk to the DPE and ask him to recommend a CFI. It can work both ways.
Roy Beisswenger, an FAA DPE and Gold Seal flight instructor, is host of the Powered Sport Flying Radio show and technical editor for Powered Sport Flying Magazine. He was awarded the Bax Seat Trophy in 2011. The website for his flight school in Greenville, Illinois, is www.EasyFlight.com.