Enter the LSA Era

April 8, 2004


Enter the LSA Era

Sport pilots and light sport aircraft will be here before you know it. Barring any unexpected action by the Office of Management & Budget, it will be law by this summer. Rumor has it that the announcement may come at Sun ‘N Fun. This has been long awaited by many as being the best thing since sliced bread for new pilots starting out and old pilots winding down. Several issues, however, must be worked out in the marketplace.

To recap, this means that LSA —light aircraft meeting certain requirements as to speed, weight, and power, among other things — can be flown by sport pilots with no medical required. (Specs for pilots and aircraft can be studied online at www.eaa.org.)

Some of these LSA are old familiars like certain Cubs, Champions, and Taylorcraft. Others will be made for this market. Mooney is rumored to be among the OEMs tooling up to produce LSA. There will be kits, manufactured aircraft, and made-from-scratch homebuilts. There will be powered parachutes and aircraft controlled by weight shifting. Some will be experimental; some standard.

Who will teach people to fly these aircraft? Will anyone rent them to sport pilots? And, most importantly, who is going to insure them?

I started looking for the answer to the insurance question months ago, but got no answers. Some carriers weren’t interested, some thought the market would be too small, others adopted a “let’s wait and see” attitude. Today, the situation is different. EAA, Falcon Insurance Agency, and Global Aerospace have teamed up to address the insurance question.

(For those who doubted that the insurance industry would cover anything flown without a medical, remember that glider pilots have flown for years without medicals but with insurance. Their record has been good, and no doubt helped get the sport pilot/LSA movement past the guvmint.)

Bob Mackey, vice president of Falcon ([email protected]), assures me that insurance will be available when sport pilots and LSA become legal, but some questions do remain.

Coverage will soon become available for personal usage of most LSA by sport pilots — likewise for instruction and rental. However, as of this writing, the insurance market is not yet clarified for powered parachutes and LSA controlled by weight shifting (“trikes”). Industry is still building data on those, and a study of LSA at Sun ‘N Fun will play a not-insignificant role in the pool of knowledge.

It should be noted that, like all coverage, it will be subject to underwriting. All risks are not equal, and thus rates, limits, and availability will vary. A high-time pilot in a qualifying Cub will earn one rate; a brand new pilot in a brand new, built-from-scratch, experimental homebuilt will no doubt earn another. Insurance will not be available for some.

The good news is that LSA and insurance will be available. The aviation industry will have new opportunities. Let’s make the best of ‘em.

Ralph Hood is a Certified Speaking Professional who has addressed aviation groups throughout North America. A pilot since 1969, he’s insured and sold airplanes at retail and distributor levels and taught aviation management for Southern Illinois University. Reach him at [email protected]