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The ASTM International standards committees for light-sport aircraft (LSA) spent two productive days discussing and refining the current standards during meetings held in Sebring, Florida, on January 14 and 15. More than 66 members of the various ASTM committees gathered just prior to Thursday’s opening of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo to review weight-shift, powered parachute, and fixed-wing LSA standards.

The group was guided through the ASTM process by Dan Schultz, an ASTM director of committee services, and Earl Lawrence, EAA’s vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, who is also chairman of the ASTM LSA Committee. Other LSA executive committee members assisted, including Tom Gunnarson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturing Association; Eric Tucker, Technical Services Director for Kodiak Research; and Dan Johnson, president of Dan Johnson Media.

Larry Werth, the FAA's light-sport aircraft manager, addresses the ASTM LSA committees regarding the importance a responsible auditing program.

During those meetings, the benefit of using the ASTM International standards process versus the traditional FAA type certification process became more and more apparent. Equally obvious was the LSA committee’s increasing understanding of the importance of the standards process and the wording of standards. The LSA committees continue to mature as more manufacturers of aircraft and related products, plus user groups participate and understand the ASTM process. Spirited debate ensued on a variety of topics, and several changes to the various standards were balloted and voted upon.

Schultz and Lawrence welcomed the discussions. “As manufacturers have become more involved in using the standards on a day-to-day basis, they’re finding the areas where clarification of the intent of the original standard, or revision, is necessary,” Lawrence said. “Questions arose over the intent of specific requirements and how one can show compliance with the original intent. For example, how does a manufacturer show it has met the intentional spin requirement?”

Topics of distinct interest during the meetings included: firewall requirements for fire protection; propeller/airframe testing requirements; the pros and cons of an IFR standard for LSA; maintenance manuals and pilot operating handbooks; as well as an auditing standard.

A significant contingent of European Union manufacturers exporting LSA to the United States also participated in the meetings. Lawrence highlighted their participation, saying, “Because the ASTM LSA standards are used throughout the world, the level of understanding of the standards varies. Language issues arise, and sometimes users confuse their local government and FAA requirements with the standards requirements. They need assistance in understanding how the two bodies of regulations--standard and regulatory requirements--relate to each other.”

During the meetings, Jan Fridrich, president of the Light Aircraft Association of the Czech Republic, made a presentation on the current situation regarding development of light aircraft standards in the European Union. He estimates that it would be late 2009 before the body of regulations would be completed.

Larry Werth, the FAA’s light-sport aircraft program manager, called the meetings very successful. “It’s the combination of manufacturers’ input, user input, and the input of interested third parties that results in a useful product that gets out the door and on the street a lot quicker than it would if the certification process was used,” Werth said. “In the ASTM process, the user experts and the government are working together to develop something everyone can use and benefit from.

“The FAA has been very pleased with the ASTM standards process,” he continued. “The LSA industry is still relatively new and a work in progress, but there have been a lot of new aircraft developed in a short period of time, and that’s good. But, the FAA has to look at the accident record and keep monitoring the continuing airworthiness and continuous support of the product by manufacturers; that’s the FAA’s charge. This is a very fast-moving program compared to Part 22; we’ve gotten to where we are in a fairly short of period. But, we’re able to keep refining the standards and infrastructure; that’s one of the benefits of this process. So far, LSA looks good, and everyone’s watching it to make sure it continues on the right track. That’s where we are now.”

The next ASTM International LSA standards committee meetings will be held in Miami, Florida, in October 2008.

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