On July 16, 2004, FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey signed the long-awaited light-sport aircraft rule. The rule allows for the certification of approximately 14,000 existing light-sport aircraft, 14,000 brand-new pilots, and 14,000 brand-new repairmen.
I am well aware that individual mechanics, and maintenance organizations have expressed great interest in this rule's repairman certification and shared with me their honest concerns about the possible negative impact it may have on our profession. So in this article I will attempt to give you a good briefing on the rule requirements and hopefully arrest your fears by calibrating reality.
What is a light-sport aircraft?
This new Part 1 definition is a very broad one and it states that a light-sport aircraft means an aircraft, other than a helicopter, or powered-lift that:
- Weights of no more than 1,320 pounds for aircraft not intended for operation on water or 1,430 for an aircraft intended for operation on water
- The aircraft must have a maximum airspeed in level flight of 120 knots, and a maximum stalling speed of not more than 45 knots
- Two seats
- A single reciprocating engine
- A fixed or ground adjustable propeller for aircraft other than a powered glider
- A fixed or auto-feathering propeller system if a powered glider
- A nonpressurized cabin, if equipped with a cabin
- A fixed landing gear for land operations
- A fixed or repositionable landing gear or hull for water operations
- Fixed or retractable landing gear for a glider
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. "Hey, O'Brien that definition includes J-3-cubs and Cessna 120s and other light 2-place Type Certificate (TC) aircraft. Is this rule going to put us mechanics out of a job?" The answer is no! I made sure in the rule language that TC aircraft and amateur-built certificated aircraft could not "cross over" and be certificated in light-sport category.
So nothing has changed. Annuals, Part 43 performance requirements, and ADs will still apply to the "light-sport" TC aircraft and the annual condition inspection and applicable operating limitations will still apply to amateur-built aircraft even if they meet the definition of light-sport aircraft in Part 1 to a T.
However, it is true that the rule will allow a properly certificated light-sport pilot to fly a TC light-sport aircraft like a J-3-cub or an amateur-built aircraft like a RV-4.
Again, at the risk of repeating myself, this rule will not affect existing TC and amateur-built aircraft maintenance and certification requirements. There will be no supplemental type certificate (STC) granted to older Cessna 150 in order to shave off pounds to meet this rule! There will be no exemptions given to TC aircraft in order to meet weight or speed requirements of light-sport aircraft. Furthermore, certificated light-sport repairmen are prohibited from performing maintenance or inspections on a TC or amateur-built aircraft.
How many kinds of light-sport aircraft airworthiness certificates are there? There are two: Experimental, operating light-sport aircraft, and special light-sport aircraft. An interesting part of the rule is the term, "experimental" operating light sport aircraft, "Experimental" is not considered a "category" but a "special" light-sport aircraft is considered a category by itself. To add to the confusion, both experimental and special light-sport aircraft are issued a special (pink) airworthiness certificate FAA Form 8130-7. So if you are about to work on these kinds of aircraft, first check the pink airworthiness certificate and see what kind of light-sport aircraft you are leaning against.
How many "classes" of light-sport aircraft are there? In experimental, operating light-sport aircraft there are six classes: airplane, glider, lighter-than-air, powered parachute, weight-shift, and gyroplanes. In special, light-sport category, there are five classes: airplane, glider, lighter-than-air, powered parachute, and weight-shift. Gyroplane class was dropped because both FAA and the gyroplane folks estimated that it will take a while to develop a gyroplane consensus standard; so for now they will stay in experimental.
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...
When it comes to performing maintenance on an aircraft it is a little different than what we do when we need to repair our car.