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In denying an exemption request from the International Cessna 120/140 Association, the FAA has reiterated its stance against changing weight limitations for previously certificated aircraft to make them eligible for sport pilots to fly.

The International Cessna 120/140 Association had requested the FAA allow owners of Cessna 120/140 operating under the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) SA0248AT, which lowers the aircraft’s maximum gross weight from 1,450 pounds to 1,320 pounds, to fly the aircraft as sport pilots.

The 120/140 Association cited the economic benefit of allowing its members to continue to operate aircraft with which they had significant experience and. The 120/140 Association also noted the FAA granted the STC while it was developing the sport pilot rule, which the 120/140 Association called “evidence of its (FAA’s) willingness to consider the relief requested….”

In mid-July, the FAA denied the exemption, stating “…The petitioner has not shown how…the exemption would be in the public interest or provide a level of safety equivalent to that provided by the regulation…. In the final rule, the FAA determined existing aircraft are not to be modified to reduce an aircraft’s capabilities to meet the definition of a light-sport aircraft. Granting the petitioner’s request would not be consistent with the intent of the rule.” In the Preamble to the rule the FAA stated, “…in prohibiting modifications to aircraft to meet the light-sport aircraft definition, the FAA seeks to ensure that the light-sport aircraft operating characteristics are consistent with the skills and training for the sport pilot” (69 FR 44792). It added, “The FAA specifically considered the applicant’s STC project in developing the final rule, and the issuance of the STC was a factor in the FAA’s decision to prohibit modifications to existing aircraft to meet the light-sport aircraft definition.”

The FAA agreed with the petition’s assertion that using type-certificated aircraft with a proven safety record benefits sport pilot operations. However, it asserted that the safety record of type-certificated aircraft is a reflection of both the quality of the aircraft design and the skill level of the pilots who have traditionally operated those aircraft.

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