FAA Fixes LSA Rule For Amphibians, Lighter-Than-Air Aircraft

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The FAA has issued a direct-to-final rule that fixes two unforeseen glitches from its complex light sport aircraft rule. The original rule prohibited retractable landing gear, which caused a problem for amphibious aircraft. Under the rule, pilots who took off from the water weren't allowed to lower their landing gear in flight for a runway landing. Two models were given exemptions -- the Czech Aircraft Works Mermaid and LSA-Aero's S100 Freedom -- but the consensus was that the rule should be changed. Under the revised rule, no exemptions will be needed. "We're very pleased this has been done," said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. The other change affects lighter-than-air balloons and airships, which were restricted to 660 pounds under the original rule.

That limit was found to be too low, and no lighter than air (LTA) aircraft have been developed that could qualify as an LSA. Under the revised rule, LTA aircraft will be held to the same 1,320-pound max takeoff weight limit as other LSAs. This weight includes the structure, uninflated envelope, engine, burner system, fuel, installed equipment and systems and two occupants. This increased weight limit permits LTA aircraft designers to provide better integrity for the structure that carries the sport pilot and passenger, the FAA said. "This is great news," said Paul Stumpf, of Stumpf Balloons in Andover, Vt. "At 660 pounds, it was virtually impossible to build a Light Sport category airship." The final rule’s effective date is June 4, and the FAA will accept comments through May 21.