Light-Sport Repairman: Details on the new ruling

On July 16, 2004, FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey signed the long-awaited light-sport aircraft rule.

Under this rating the repairman can work on and sign off manufacturer's safety directives and AD on TC products installed on special, light-sport aircraft only. The rating is limited to regular maintenance and preventive maintenance functions and does not authorize the performance of major repairs or major alterations. Why? Because the aircraft's consensus standard requires the manufacturer of the aircraft to determine what is a major repair and a major alteration. The same consensus standard requires the manufacturer to determine what additional training is required to perform those tasks to ensure that the repairman is qualified to make those major repairs or alterations.

What kind of training does a light-sport repairman with a maintenance rating need?

The FAA-accepted training is different for each "class" of special light-sport aircraft as follows:

On the apples side of the argument the A&P is trained to work on a broad spectrum of aircraft ranging from J-3-cubs to B-747-400. This FAA-required training covers hundreds of hours of training on such systems as APU repair and trouble shooting, radial and jet engine overhauls, autopilots, helicopter maintenance, fire suppression systems, controllable pitch propellers, retractable landing gear, and deicing and anti-icing systems.

On the oranges side of the argument, the light-sport repairman is trained on one particular "class" of light-sport aircraft whose very name indicates that we are dealing with an aircraft with limited design and performance capabilities.

In addition, the light-sport repairman cannot do major repairs or major alterations unless the manufacturer determines that he or she has additional training to perform the work, including engine overhauls. So what we have is a repairman who can inspect, troubleshoot, remove, and replace parts on one class of light-sport aircraft not a fleet of aircraft.

As a bureaucrat, I have to factor into the problem that I am required to meet Title 49, section 44701 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This rule mandates that the FAA set minimum, not maximum, standards for safety. So listed above are minimum training standards for light-sport repairmen. But as a mechanic I know Mr. Murphy's Law oh too well. That is why on page 304 of the preamble language to the rule I added: "FAA may amend the regulations if the numbers of training hours or subjects taught are found insufficient to ensure aviation safety."

Can an A&P perform inspections and maintenance on light-sport aircraft in both experimental and special light-sport category? The answer is yes. However, please remember that when you are working on special light-sport aircraft, instead of TC data you are held to the aircraft's consensus standard, maintenance manual, and instructions for continued airworthiness. Furthermore, on special light-sport aircraft both Part 43 and Part 65; section 65.81 General privileges and limitations still apply to A&P mechanics.

To satisfy section 65.81, you need to make sure that you can prove to an FAA inspector that you did the work on the light-sport aircraft before at an earlier date, or had been trained to do the work, or were supervised by another mechanic or repairman. If you cannot show that you did at least one of the items listed above you can always take a practical test administered by a FAA inspector to prove your ability to perform the task. If I was you, and I was planning to make some money in this new marketplace, just to be sure, I would take one of the FAA accepted courses for the class of light-sport aircraft I was interested in.

In closing, I hope that I have convinced you that the light-sport pilot rule repairman certification does not steal hard-earned rights and privileges from our A&P. In reality there will be at least 14,000 new aircraft in the marketplace that an A&P can work on.

Because of limitations on the length of this article I did not cover how the training providers for the repairman, inspection, and maintenance ratings will get their courses "accepted" by the FAA. Nor, did I cover the FAA's need for light-sport Designated Airworthiness Representatives. As soon as the FAA Orders on these subjects are signed, I will write an article covering these important subjects.

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