Opportunity Knocking: DARs needed to inspect and certificate light-sport aircraft

With the advent of the light-sport aircraft rule becoming effective on Sept. 1, 2004 the FAA is scrambling to certificate approximately 14,000 existing "Fat Ultralights" flying around out there in the vapors.

Attention A&P mechanics! The Federal Aviation Administration is going to need some short-term help to issue Light-Sport Special and Light-Sport experimental special airworthiness certificates.

How come? With the advent of the light-sport aircraft rule becoming effective on Sept. 1, 2004 the FAA is scrambling to certificate approximately 14,000 existing "Fat Ultralights" flying around out there in the vapors. All these light-sport aircraft must be certificated as experimental light-sport aircraft on or before Jan. 31, 2008.

OK, we identified the problem, what is the solution? The solution is the FAA is looking at creating a temporary workforce of approximately 200 to 300 Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DAR) nationwide who will inspect and certificate these light-sport aircraft for a fee. By the way, each DAR sets his own fee for certification, not the FAA. For planning purposes here in the Virginia and Maryland area the average DAR fee to certificate an amateur-built aircraft is between $250 and $350. I expect the fee for a light-sport certification to be in the same ballpark or maybe just a bit higher.

In the above paragraph, I used the word "temporary" because all FAA DAR serve on a "need only" basis (ref part 183:15 Duration of Certificate (d)(5)). If the light-sport boom goes bust in three years and the numbers of new light-sport aircraft are not as numerous as we anticipated, then many light-sport DAR will not be renewed by their local FSDO or MIDO.

Before I get into the eligibility requirements to apply for a DAR, I better go over the light-sport pilot rule so you will know what kind of aircraft that you will be inspecting and certificating. First, what is a light-sport aircraft? As defined in 14 CFR Part 1 section 1.1 Light-Sport craft are simple, low-performance aircraft that are limited to 1,320 pounds maximum weight, two occupants, a single reciprocating engine, stall speed of 45 knots, maximum airspeed of 120 knots, and fixed landing gear.

Light-sport aircraft are further divided into classes that include airplanes, weight-shift-control aircraft, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, gliders, balloons, and airships. Due to their complexity, helicopters and powered-lifts are not covered by the rule. A DAR must qualify in each "class" of aircraft that he or she wishes to certificate.

The FAA currently issues two types of airworthiness certificates - standard and special. The white standard airworthiness certificate is for Type Certificated aircraft and the "Pink" Special airworthiness certificate is for such aircraft as experimental, restricted, and limited. Because of the light-sport aircraft rule the FAA added a new category of special airworthiness certificates - light-sport, that are issued a Special Light-Sport Airworthiness Certificate in accordance with 14 CFR Section 21.190. These "Special" light-sport aircraft are designed and manufactured to an industry consensus standard and accepted by the FAA. These "Special" light-sport aircraft can be used for the following purposes:

  • Sport and recreation
  • Flight training
  • Rental
  • Towing

The second certificate issued under this rule is the Experimental Airworthiness Certificates - Operating Light-Sport Aircraft (14 CFR 21.191(i)). These experimental aircraft can be used for sport and recreation, flight training (personal use only), and towing. A light-sport aircraft owner is eligible for an experimental certificate for the purpose of operating light-sport aircraft if the aircraft meets one of the following:

  1. The aircraft does not meet the existing definition of ultra light vehicle in 14 CFR 103.

  2. The aircraft is assembled from an eligible kit.

  3. The aircraft previously had been issued a special, light-sport aircraft airworthiness certificate and you do not want to comply with the operating limitations associated with a special light-sport certificate.
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