Sport Pilot/Light Sport In Effect Sept. 1

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Manufacturers Getting Ready...

First there's the rule, then there's the reality. A longtime builder of what will now be called Light Sport aircraft (LSA) says it will take him at least six months to build a finished airplane that he's confident meets all the criteria set out in the new Light Sport/Sport Pilot classification finally announced on Tuesday. Sebastien Heintz, of Zenith Aircraft, told AVweb that even though there are hundreds of Zenith 601 and 701 aircraft happily flying all over the world, the paper trail and organizational structures necessary to support them as factory-built, ready-to-fly aircraft will take his company time to develop. "It will be at least six months. It would be nice if it was sooner but I think realistically anything sooner than that is not possible," Heintz said. However, he expects other manufacturers, particularly Europeans, will be selling finished planes Sept. 1, the day the rule takes effect. The Light Sport/Sport Pilot rule puts the full onus on manufacturers to develop the quality control, maintenance and ongoing airworthiness standards that are the responsibility of the FAA in all other classes of aircraft. The manufacturer of an LSA simply signs a declaration that all the infrastructure and documentation is in place and he's in business. Although the FAA will audit for compliance, Heintz said that could be difficult for offshore manufacturers. In the meantime, the manufacturers are essentially on their own to set up the systems according to some guidelines laid out in the rule. "It's more of an outline, not a program that is in place," he said.