... But Apples May Not Be Oranges, Anyway

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The confusion seems to have arisen from two separate provisions in the expected Sport Pilot rule. While only the FAA can designate a DPE, the major ultralight organizations -- ASC, USUA, and EAA -- may endorse applicants, and that endorsement, although it is not required, will add to the value of the application. It was that endorsement process that the ASC was trying to get a jump-start on, Stephenson said, so it would have a pool of qualified applicants ready to go when the gate opens. USUA Director Jim Sweeney said that his organization also encourages its registered flight instructors to consider becoming a Sport Pilot DPE or CFI. "It is critical that we have as many Light Sport DPEs and CFIs that are knowledgeable and competent with ultralight aircraft as possible [to] participate in these programs," Sweeney said in a e-mail to AVweb yesterday. The USUA also said it will provide its members with "accurate information regarding Sport Pilot and the regulatory process as it becomes available." In the teleconference, the FAA said all applications from DPEs must be made on FAA application forms, which are to be available in due time on the FAA AFS-610 Web site. There will be no fees charged by the FAA, nor is there any plan to require a potential applicant to work through any organization.

The confusion is not completely unexpected -- some in the ultralight community have long been somewhat dubious whether the complex Sport Pilot rules will make flying in any way better for them, with the instructor issues high on the list of concerns. Nonetheless, both the ASC and the USUA are actively supporting the rule. "Giving our pilots and instructors more options, an FAA certificate, and the ability to fly for fun and recreation in the planes that they want to fly has always made sense," Stephenson says on the ASC Web site. The USUA, on its Web site, acknowledges that the transition for some ultralight flyers may be "difficult and expensive," especially if they don't act quickly enough to take advantage of transition provisions in the new rule, but nonetheless supports the rule overall. EAA has always been a staunch advocate for the proposal.