Hightower On Weight Increase, New Pilots

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The FAA has opened "a dialogue" about increasing the maximum weight for light sport aircraft as a safety measure, Rod Hightower, the president of EAA, said Thursday. In answer to a question following a speech at the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, Hightower stressed the preliminary nature of the FAA's consideration of the idea but he did acknowledge the idea is being floated internally at the FAA. In a later podcast interview, he called it an "interesting" opportunity to possibly enhance flight safety but he also said it hadn't reached the "discussion" stage. In the speech he told about 200 LAMA members that EAA is refocusing to concentrate on its core mandates, including renewed energy at the chapter level and encouraging new pilot starts.

Among the initiatives on pilot starts is a new relationship with Boy Scouts of America to get more involvement in the Young Eagles program. He also called the current system of private pilot flight training a failure in that 80 percent of student pilots don't get their pilot certificates. He said the new Eagle Flight program for adults will target those who have long harbored the dream of flying and now have the personal circumstances to pursue it. He said the average late-bloomer student is certificated within 18 months and buys an airplane within 24 months.