Last week, I wrote about some of the reasons why the progress of Light Sport has been mixed. There is another reason for it that lies within, i.e., an attitude within the aviation community that derides Light Sport. It demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of what Light Sport entails and what it can do, doesn’t make sense, and general aviation can hardly afford it.

Just surf a few forums that talk about Light Sport, and it’s easy to find a lot of pilots chastising it for one reason or another.

For instance, I saw a comment online from a pilot talking about how he punched out of IMC to find a Light Sport guy flying down below the clouds, where regs often require him to be, and concluded the close call was because this guy was unsafe. (Damn FAR 91.113(b)!) He clearly implied it was the fault of the guy flying the LSA who had to be unsafe because he had only twenty hours of training. Yet, there was no mention of where this occurred, whether the Light Sport pilot was perfectly legal, or how the pilot “talking” knew the other guy held a Light Sport certificate (instead of an ATP flying under Light Sport rules).

While getting more flight experience and good training is very important, anyone who thinks that a rating or hours alone makes a good pilot doesn’t get it. I know guys training for the Light Sport certificate I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with, and I’ve known guys with Commercial and even ATP certificates who couldn’t get me in their airplane.

There are a multitude of reasons for pilots to think they are “hot stuff”, to put it politely. It’s because they are multi-engine pilots or formation pilots or acrobatic pilots or military pilots or airline pilots…the list goes on and on. When that venom is directed at Light Sport, it’s because Light Sport airplanes are only two place and lightweight and slower…they are, well, inferior! Yet, my CTSW has the same power loading as a 200 HP Piper Arrow, and in the wind, is a lot harder to land. Funny how the high time pilots seem to have more accidents flying Light Sport than the “unsafe” pilots who are certificated on it. (Don’t take my word for it; look it up!)

The fact that a Light Sport pilot gets his certificate in fewer hours than a Private Pilot says nothing about the quality of his/her training. There is almost no difference between the Practical Test Standards for Light Sport and Private Pilots; the Light Sport pilot’s training must be as good or better than the Private Pilot’s training or he simply won’t pass. The additional twenty hours the Private Pilot is required to have may make a small difference in the newly rated pilot‘s flying skills; but, even if it does, it will be quickly overcome by time and experience. At 50 hours and beyond , assuming we’re talking the same type of flying, there will be little difference between the two pilots. The better pilot will be the one who continues to fly, improve, and maintains his discipline, regardless of his certificate.

My approach is to never judge a pilot by their appearance, the airplane they’re flying, or their certificate. Unless I know him or her personally, I have no idea what his training and experiences have been. If I insist on drawing conclusions about any pilot based on an impression or brief encounter, I’m going to wind up with serious egg on my face. You will, too, if you decide to test that. Go ahead. Make someone’s day….

At the same online discussion as the IFR pilot’s, I also read comments from another Light Sport CFI. He was talking about the derision he has experienced from subpart H CFI’s. I have experienced the same thing enough to know his experience is not unique and what he was reporting was true. The ironic thing is when I have gotten attitude from subpart H CFI’s, it’s also been true they seemed ignorant of the FAR’s that deal with Light Sport and uninterested in taking advantage of what it might have to offer. It is beneath them. Of course, the passengers of the Titanic said the same thing…

In one of the early scenes in Topgun, Viper asks the assembled Topgun class if anyone thinks their name will be on the plaque for the top driver and his RIO. Maverick answers, “Yes, sir!” “That’s pretty arrogant considering the company you’re in,” Viper responds. When Maverick acknowledges it is, Viper answers, “I like that in a pilot!” While I understand the mentality, I’ve matured enough to know that the line between confidence and arrogance is often thin; and, even in combat flying, arrogance…especially when it leads to you overestimating your ability or underestimating your opponent’s…can get you killed. It can kill general aviation exactly in the same way.

Every dog has his day and so does every pilot. We’re all different. We like different things and fly different airplanes. We are, though, all part of one community fighting for its very existence. If we want our children and grandchildren to be able to take to the skies like we have, then we need to stick together to make that happen. We also have a duty to teach them that being human doesn’t stop when we set foot in an airplane nor does it make us better human beings back on the ground.