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FAA Review Raises Issues With LSA System

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The FAA has released its final report on its assessment of the light sport aircraft industry, and it identifies four areas that need improvement (executive summary here; PDF of the full report here). The FAA team found that most of the 30 LSA facilities they visited couldn't fully support their assertion that their aircraft meet industry consensus standards. The report suggests that "relying solely on the manufacturer's statements of compliance, for the issuance of airworthiness certificates, should be reconsidered." Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, said in his blog this week that the report is "tough love" for the industry. "Top FAA and NTSB officials have publicly and repeatedly said they are generally satisfied with the safety record of this five-year-old industry," he said. But the report "shows many ways the industry must improve... with an implied 'or else' lurking in the margins," Johnson said.

The FAA team also said distributors who import and assemble the LSAs need to be more systematic in their procedures and recordkeeping; the industry and the FAA both need a better grasp of the regulations and policies that apply to LSAs, and there needs to be a better system for ensuring that the consensus standards are complied with and updated as necessary. The report concludes that the industry should review the current consensus standards to be sure they're adequate and come up with a way to create new standards if needed. Also, the report concludes the FAA needs to continue its oversight of the LSA manufacturers and update its training of Designated Airworthiness Representatives and others who interact with the industry. Johnson told AVweb this week that LAMA has already been working hard over the last year and a half to address all of the FAA concerns. "We're hopeful [that effort] -- all of it during a vicious downturn in the aviation market -- will bear fruit in helping the LSA industry meet the demands of FAA," he said.

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