Although Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) have been around since the 2004 FAA acceptance of the ASTM consensus standards under which they are designed, manufactured, maintained, repaired, and altered, most A&Ps trained and experienced in aircraft with standard airworthiness certificates have been reluctant to venture into this new world. With 125 models now in production around the world, most of which are fixed wing aircraft, and 2,235 fixed-wing LSA already on the FAA registry as of the end of 2011, this newest aircraft industry segment offers growth potential for any maintenance shop willing to tackle the initially steep, but potentially rewarding learning curve.
Eric Paradis, of AeroParadise LLC, is proof positive of this proposition. A traditionally trained A&P/IA with previous experience running from Piper J-3s to Boeing 747s, Paradis and his wife, Karla, settled down a few years ago at the Reedsburg, WI, municipal airport to develop a general aviation maintenance shop catering to standard category airplanes as well as Experimental Amateur-built aircraft, including a custom aircraft interior shop. Paradis was well poised to take advantage of the LSA rules. According to Paradis, this new focus on LSA maintenance services now accounts for about half of their maintenance business.
Paradis has been especially aggressive in his expansion efforts, attending many manufacturers’ training courses, and securing service center designations from Remos, Tecnam, Sting Sport, and Rotax. Clearly he is one A&P/IA who has not been daunted by these new challenges, but chose instead to embrace the opportunities.
ASTM consensus standards
Following a federal mandate to promote the use of industry-developed consensus (voluntary) standards in government regulation and procurement, the ASTM Light Sport Committee F37 was created, comprised of industry members and overseen by the FAA, which “accepts,” rather than “approves” the individual standards as they are developed and amended.
The five most important standards concerning Light Sport fixed wing aircraft are F2626 Standard Terminology; F2245 Standard Specification for Design and Performance; F2279 Standard Practice for Quality Assurance in the Manufacture of Fixed Wing LSAs; F2295 Standard Practice for Continued Operational Safety Monitoring of LSAs; and F2483 Standard Practice for Maintenance and the Development of Maintenance Manuals for LSAs. These last two standards, F2295 and F2483, along with a few definitions out of F2626, are probably the most important provisions to maintenance professionals.
The Sport Pilot/LSA rules created two new categories of Airworthiness Certificates (Figure 1). These are Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) and Experimental Light Sport Aircraft (E-LSA), as detailed in FARs 21.190, 21.191, and 21.193. The airworthiness certificates for both are pink, like the Experimental Amateur-built certificates for homebuilts.
S-LSA are the fully manufactured, fly-away aircraft such as the Flight Design CTLS; Czech Sport Aircraft SportCruiser; American Legend Cub; Cubcrafters Sport Cub; Tecnam P2008; and Remos GX NXT.
E-LSA are either: (1) kitted versions of an S-LSA; (2) aircraft that have been down-graded from an original S-LSA airworthiness certificate to an E-LSA; or (3) aircraft of various descriptions that were brought into the system during a brief window following the adoption of the new rules, usually two-place ultralights. Our primary focus here is the S-LSAs.
Airworthiness certificates issued under LSA regulations come with operating limitations which must be scrupulously adhered to in maintaining these aircraft. For instance, these limitations typically include an express statement of what the logbook entries concerning the annual condition inspection must recite, and it varies from the more familiar language most often used in signing off an aircraft with a Standard Airworthiness Certificate for return to service. If the precise language is not used, the S-LSA will not be “in a condition for safe flight.”