What does a sport pilot have to do to get a private pilot certificate in the US?

What are the minimum requirements for obtaining a privates pilot certificate if a pilot already has a sport pilot certificate?

The requirements for a private pilot certificate don't changes because you already have a sport pilot license. However by successfully obtaining a Sport Pilot certificate, you should have already completed some of the private pilot requirements.

• How much of the training will have to be re-done?
• Does it depend on the type of your flight instructor's certificate?

If you hold a Sport Pilot certificate and are looking to upgrade it to a Private Pilot certificate, your best bet is to use the requirements of Part 61 Subpart E. All of the flight time you logged earning a Sport Pilot certificate applies towards Private, but additional hours and types of flight time need to be logged.

The requirements for each are paraphrased below. You'd have to log the difference, which is a minimum of 20 hours, including another 5 hours of dual and 5 hours of solo. There's a lot more to it than what I reference below, but this is the basics.

How much of the training will have to be re-done? This should vary wildly from pilot to pilot. You'll need to redo training as required to meet standards. If you're transitioning right away, theoretically none, but it's likely that some retraining will be required.

Does it depend on the type of your flight instructor's certificate? Yes. If the instructor has only a sport pilot instructor certificate, none of the dual instruction hours are able to be counted for the private pilot dual hours criteria. They are not an "authorized instructor" for private pilot privileges. If the CFI had a CFI-airplane certificate then those dual hours working towards the sport pilot certificate will count toward the dual hour requirements of the private pilot.

See the Kern INK Interpretation

Required for Sport (citation)

20 hours of flight time, including at least:
15 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and at least:
5 hours of solo flight training in the areas of operation listed in §61.311


Required for Private (citation)

40 hours of flight time that includes at least:
20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and:
10 hours of solo flight training in the areas of operation listed in §61.107(b)(1)


If you've chosen a flight school that operates a Part 141 program, you get to do it all over. Hooray!

• That's a very nice and to-the-point answer. According to what I know (actually according to Wikipedia), a Private Certificate (Part 141) can be obtained in as little as 35 hours. – Farhan Dec 18 '13 at 15:58
• Thanks! And yes, that's correct, but then the sport pilot's time will not apply towards the requirements of 141, which is an approved predetermined course. – egid Dec 18 '13 at 16:02
• This answer has one problem for those not familiar with the terminology (and thus those likely to seek answers in this question). If your instructor is a CFI, they can provide you with the training required for a Private Pilot certificate. -- that's correct but some people may not know there's a difference between a CFI and a CFIS. A CFIS is only able to provide instruction towards the sport pilot certificate, while a CFI can provide both... so it depends on the rating of your previous instructor(s) at the time of instruction. – mah Feb 2 '14 at 13:41
• @mah is correct and this answer should be updated to reflect that. If the instructor only holds a sport pilot instructor certificate, none of those hours count towards the 20 hours of dual required for the private pilots license. If the instructor is a CFI-A then all of the hours will directly transfer to the dual requirements of the private pilot license. – wbeard52 Nov 21 '15 at 1:56
• Just saw the updates. Thanks, mah and @wbeard52. – egid Nov 21 '15 at 20:11

I am a CFI CFII MEI with over 8000 hours dual given and direct experience in this area of confusion. Just to clarify everything above into what is and isn't. It comes down to they type of instructor you received your sport pilot training from.

If they are the traditional CFI your minimum of 20 hours of dual that you did with them counts. If they were a Light Sport rated CFI none of your dual will count.

Another big concern is if you do your private pilot training part 61 or 141. Part 61 would be the least expensive way to go since you get credit for your 20 (+) hours of dual you flew with a normal CFI. However, under Part 141 you are signing up for an FAA approved curriculum and you have to fly the whole program and NO PREVIOUS training regardless of type of instructor can be carried over. This is consistent with any type of 141 program regardless if it is IFR, Commercial, Multi, etc., now previous experience logged can be counted towards a Part 141 program.

The honest truth about 141 being a savings only really applies when you start from one rating and go right to the next, any time spent flying above the minimums from the previous rating or between ratings can be applied to the next. However there are now 141 programs out there that let you work on a combined certification where you are working on your private and IFR at the same time, this has the potential to be a real money saver for the career focused student, or even someone who is not career bound but is committed to having an Instrument rating for safety or more reliable travel.

To add a few things to egid’s answer, there are a few specific areas besides just the overall hours requirement that are not required for a sport pilot, therefore may not have been included in the training. A sport pilot would need to check their training logbooks to see if the hours meet the specific requirements below.

1) Cross-country dual and solo hours

• PPL requires 3 hours of dual cross-country; SPL only requires 2 hours.
• PPL requires 5 hours of solo cross-country; SPL has no specific requirement for this, only 5 hours total solo.

2) Cross-country solo distances

The cross country solo flight requirements are also different. PPL requires

§61.109 (a)(5)(ii) One solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations*

Whereas SPL is only 75nm total, two legs and one leg of over 25nm.

3) Solo landings

PPL requires

§61.109 (a)(5)(iii) Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.*

SPL doesn’t specify a number of solo landings except for in the cross-country flight. Note the tower requirement. There are no tower requirements for SPL unless you have a controlled airspace endorsement.

4) Night flying

Sport pilots are not allowed to fly at night, so it was probably not included in training. Private pilot requires

§61.109 (a)(2) 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane that includes—

(i) One cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance; and

(ii) 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport.

5) Instrument flight

Instrument training is not required for sport pilots. Private pilot requires

§61.109 (a)(3) 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight

6) Written test

You must also take the PPL written exam which is different from the SPL exam.

7) Practical test

The practical test requires 3 hours of test prep with a CFI. These have to be performed within 2 months of the test, so they will have to be redone.

* All emphasis mine.