Happy, Sad Milestones For Sport Pilot/Light Sport

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The implementation of the Light Sport Aircraft category passed a significant milestone last week, but you still can't buy one. The FAA signed off on the industry-developed consensus standards for S-LSA aircraft (which are factory-built and ready to fly) and E-LSA aircraft (which require at least a token amount of construction by the owner). A Notice of Availability will be published in the Federal Register this week. "Manufacturers can begin finalizing their designs and production plans," said FAA official Scott Sedgwick. However, there are still other standards, including maintenance and assembly instructions, that have to be passed before the aircraft classification is fully implemented (and you can actually buy one). Meanwhile, as these latest "firsts" were being celebrated, a Muskogee, Okla., family is grieving what may be a sad but inevitable first for the new flight category. It appears that Dr. Jack Nolen may have been the first pilot to die in a crash while flying under Sport Pilot rules. Nolen's Kitfox went down near Holdenville, Okla., on a flight from Texas on Jan. 14, but the wreckage wasn't found until a month later. Media reports played up the fact that Nolen didn't have a valid medical but did have a pilot's certificate. As long as Nolen had a driver's license and his flight medical hadn't been revoked for any reason, then he would have been flying under the Sport Pilot category because the Kitfox meets the weight and performance requirements.