EAA Hopes To Smooth Sport Pilot Transition

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EAA is asking the FAA for some flexibility to smooth the transition of ultralight aircraft and pilots into the new Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft regime. As it stands, pilots who try to follow the rules could find themselves grounded for months because the system hasn't quite caught up to the demands that need to be placed on it. Of particular concern are the rules that apply to two-place ultralights and so-called "fat" ultralights. As it stands, planes must make the transition by Jan. 31, 2008, and pilots must be certificated by Jan. 31, 2007, if they want their flight experience counted while qualifying for the certificate. The problem is that once an airplane is registered, it must have an airworthiness certificate. Also, sport pilot flight tests must be done on registered aircraft. Because the system is so new, there aren't many Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DARs) or Sport Pilot Examiners to handle the initial influx. The U.S. Ultralight Association has asked for a two-year extension on both deadlines but EAA says there's a better way. EAA is asking that the FAA allow planes to be registered immediately but allowed to fly under the old Part 103 rules (i.e., no airworthiness inspection) until the Sport Pilot system catches up with the transition. EAA is also asking that pilots be allowed to take their Sport Pilot practical exams on two-place aircraft that are registered but do not yet have an airworthiness certificate. Despite the hiccup, EAA remains upbeat on the process, saying "impressive progress" has been made in implementing the new rules in the year since their adoption.