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10/13/05 - SPECIAL LSA AND NIGHT/IFR FLYING
Some confusion exists in the aviation marketplace regarding the use of special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) for flying at night and/or under instrument flight rules (IFR). The ASTM consensus standards that govern the manufacture and production of S-LSA specifically address day/visual flight rules (VFR) operations only.
First, sport pilots, or those exercising sport pilot privileges, are restricted from flying at night or in IFR conditions, so they may not operate an S-LSA, or any aircraft, at those times.
Other properly rated pilots may fly an S-LSA in those conditions if allowed per the aircraft’s operating limitations and if it is equipped per FAR 91.205. Additionally, FAR 91.327(d) requires all S-LSA to be operated in accordance with the aircraft’s operating instructions. An aircraft’s operating instructions are different from operating limitations; operating instructions are issued by manufacturers—engine, airframe, and accessory—while operating limitations are issued by the FAA.
Many S-LSA are equipped with Rotax engines. Rotax’s operating instructions prohibit the use of a Rotax engine at night or in IFR conditions unless it is the FAA type-certificated engine; that is, certificated to FAR Part 33. Rotax’s non-certificated engines are indicated by the letters “UL” after the engine series number; for example, 912UL, 912ULS, and 914UL.
Additionally, S-LSA airframe and engine manufacturers may place restrictions against the use of their aircraft and/or engines for night/IFR operations. For example, other S-LSA are powered by Jabiru engines; these engines are certificated to JAR-22H and are limited to day/VFR operation.
Bottom line: some S-LSA can be equipped for night and IFR operation; be sure to tell the manufacturer/dealer if your intent is to operate the aircraft under those conditions…and make sure you have the proper ratings.
For more information, call EAA’s Aviation Service at 888/EAA-INFO (322-4636) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.