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FAA to Fast-Track LSA Amphibian Issue

One of the lingering issues of the sport pilot/light-sport aircraft rule has been the inability to certificate an amphibious aircraft with a repositionable landing gear, but steps were taken at last week’s 2007 EAA/FAA Oshkosh Recreational Aviation Summit to remedy the situation. FAA officials informed EAA it intends to publish a final rule change to clarify the amphibious light-sport aircraft issue by May 2007.

The FAA’s position since the release of the original rule has been that LSA certification is prohibited for any aircraft with “repositionable landing gear,” which allows a pilot to change the position of the landing gear for land or water operations while the aircraft is airborne. At the summit, EAA Government Affairs Vice President Earl Lawrence aired the concerns of many in the LSA industry/community about the delay in clarifying the issue. (EAA had asked for a rule change two years ago.) EAA’s consistent position has been that amphibious airplanes that meet the other LSA performance and specification parameters, regardless of gear-repositioning features, should be included among LSA-eligible aircraft, thus allowing more participation in this category segment.

Kim Smith of the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate said they were attempting to fast track a change to the rule, and FAA Director of Aircraft Certification John Hickey went a step further, vowing to have the final rule change, along with clarification of the gross weight for lighter-than-air vehicles, available by May.

Czech Aircraft Works’ Mermaid received an exemption from the FAA last year allowing that aircraft to be operated as special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA). And as the summit took place in Oshkosh, LSA-Aero’s received its FAA exemption for the amphibious S100 Freedom. But the inconsistency in the rule remains.

SP/LSA Status Report

In his SP/LSA status report, Larry Clymer, manager of the FAA’s Light Sport Standardization Branch (LSSB), said 1,226 sport pilot and 180 sport pilot instructor certificates have been issued since January 1, 2005. Clymer also reviewed the number of designated pilot examiners (DPEs); flight instructor examiners (SFIEs); and designated airworthiness representatives (DARs), emphasizing the need to ensure a sufficient workforce available to meet the demand for pilot and aircraft certification in the coming year.

Special concern involves the number of DARs required to facilitate transitioning ultralights to experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) by the conversion deadline, January 31, 2008. Hickey said the FAA does not intend to extend that date, but it may issue a Federal Register notice or other official statement regarding an application deadline to ensure all transitioning aircraft entering the FAA system can be inspected and certificated by 1/31/08. This deadline notice would be reinforced in several ways, including letters in registration packets, and communications efforts at major aviation events including EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

The agency asked for EAA’s help in encouraging more weight-shift and powered parachute enthusiasts to become DARs for those categories of aircraft.

SP/LSA safety discussion

“Our sense is (the development of the community) is moving along at a comfortable pace,” said Steve Wallace, director of FAA’s Office of Accident Investigations. “There have been a few accidents, and we’re studying those carefully, but we see no reason for undue concern.”

EAA stressed to the FAA the importance of the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) and FAA appropriately categorizing accidents involving LSA, including a differentiation between the certification levels of the pilot.

“Accident data and statistics must differentiate between S-LSA, E-LSA, E-AB and Part 23 type-certificated aircraft, as well as include a differentiation between accidents involving sport pilots or other rated pilots,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations.

EAA President Tom Poberezny added that even though the number of LSA is still relatively small, correct and suitable categories should be created so they can be populated with the accurate data to provide reliable statistics. Poberezny also recommended that EAA and FAA hold quarterly discussions to review the safety record of LSA to maintain a continuing dialogue.

“There’s no regret in the agency (for issuing this rule),” Hickey said. “It was a long time coming and implementation is taking time, but the capital expended to create this rule was worth the effort. It has not disrupted the safety balance, and it has not created a new pocket of problems.

“This was a clear ‘plus’ for general aviation.”

EAA Aviation Center, 3000 Poberezny Road, Oshkosh, WI 54902
Phone: 920/426.4800

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