The FAA is considering making some major changes in the way special light sport aircraft are approved, Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, said on Wednesday. FAA officials told LAMA that in the future, LSA manufacturers may have to pass a compliance audit conducted by a specially trained cadre of FAA inspectors. The FAA staffers would also inspect the first production airplane for each LSA model produced. "Airworthiness certificates will not be issued until after both the audit and inspection are successfully completed," the FAA said. If the FAA follows through on this plan, it would be a major change from the current practice, which allows manufacturers to certify on their own that consensus standards have been met.
Although the FAA has not yet taken any formal action to change the status quo, Johnson said the industry should start now to be prepared for possible changes. FAA officials, including Administrator Randy Babbitt, have said frequently that they have found no cause for alarm in the safety record of LSAs, but a recent FAA assessment of the industry led regulators to believe that many companies are not in full compliance with the ASTM standards, according to Johnson. "Therefore, it is in your best interest to review your compliance," Johnson said in a letter to LAMA members. On Wednesday, Johnson told AVweb that it's too soon to consider the impact of these possible changes on aircraft owners and buyers. "All of it is tentative," he said. "LAMA just wanted to get the word out now to manufacturers, to be prepared." He said he doesn't expect the FAA would start to review LSAs that are already in the market, but would focus their efforts on proposed new models.