FAA's LSA Crackdown

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So now comes the FAA to crack down on the light sport aircraft industry. (PDF) Just what's needed. Sales are in the tank, few companies are doing much volume and fewer yet are making any money in this oversaturated market. I've written about this before, questioning the reasoning behind the theory that additional regulation will somehow benefit the market.

Then again, this isn't additional regulation. At most, it's a tidying up of the non-compliance that we know has been going on in the industry for several years. The regulatory bodies, in establishing the LSA rule, agreed that manufacturers could adhere to the industry consensus standards established by ASTM through declaration, not via FAA direct inspection. The FAA reserved the right to audit LSA manufacturers to see how this process was working. It did and evidently didn't like what it found.

Here's the statement I found most worrying in the FAA's summary filing: "The FAA has determined that its original policy of reliance on manufacturers' Statements of Compliance for the issuance of airworthiness certificates for SLSA under the provisions of §21.190 should be reconsidered and that more FAA involvement in the airworthiness certification process for SLSA is warranted." Really? How much more? Are we headed for the kind of oversight manufacturers of certified airplanes must deal with it? If so, where's the benefit of LSA?

Will the FAA come up with the means to force the manufacturers to comply with what they agreed to do in the first place or will it impose burdensome inspection and reporting requirements? If the former, that strikes me as fair enough, if the latter, then what is, after all, a cottage industry, could get tangled up in meaningless I-dotting and T-crossing that makes for neatly filled out forms, but no real enhancement in safety.

Indeed, safety doesn't appear to be at issue here, just reporting, tracking and recordkeeping details that meet the FAA's definition of compliance. If the FAA believes any of these airplanes are built with shoddy materials or processes, it hasn't said as much. If it believes some airplanes aren't well designed, stable or built to acceptable standards, it hasn't offered any details. It just wants manufacturers to have a paper trail proving these claims. In our tests of various LSAs, we've found that some have such light control forces as to be of questionable stability and some are neutrally stable. That doesn't make them unsafe per se, but it also means they're not strictly compliant, either.

The LSA safety record is murky at best. We don't have enough hours-flown data to put valid numbers on the overall accident rate—at least I haven't seen such data. A back-of-the-envelope calculation of one manufacturer's accident pattern—Flight Design--reveals that of the 346 on the U.S. registry, 33 or 9.5 percent have been involved in accidents, none fatal. For the Remos line, some 14 percent of the U.S. fleet has had accident involvement, with four fatal accidents. For comparison, during the same period, 9 percent the Cessna's 172S fleet had accident involvement with 9 percent of those fatal. Some 3.5 percent of the Cirrus fleet has had accident involvement, 40 percent of them resulting in fatalities. This quick look suggests that a more in-depth investigation might be useful not as a basis for more regulation but as a means of grasping risk.

None of the LSA accidents I've seen appear to be related to non-compliance or poor construction, either or both of which may come to mind when the FAA says an airplane can't be proven to meet manufacturing standards. Two of the Remos accidents involved failure of the quick-connect hardware for the wings or tail, but it's not clear if these were human error or design/construction faults. Perhaps a more rigorous review would paint a different picture. Perhaps, for instance, light control forces do contribute to higher incidence of runway loss of control, which is an accident category that LSAs essentially own.

I would guess that the larger LSA manufacturers will welcome this new FAA involvement or at least tolerate it. They have the resources to chase the niggling details and jump through hoops that the FAA erects in the name of compliance. Smaller manufacturers don't have this luxury and might struggle if the FAA gets too difficult about this.

Then there's the bilateral complication. Some LSAs are manufactured in countries that don't have bilateral export arrangements with the U.S. These companies assemble or transship through countries that do have bilaterals, but the FAA seems to be calling foul on this practice. There may very well be some paperwork exercise that will make this problem go away. We'll just have to wait and see what develops. It may depend on how sticky the FAA wants to get about this.

Either way, the FAA's oversight efforts could lead to the long-awaited shakeout we have been expecting. I get the sense that the entire industry is so fragile that it won't take much regulatory pressure to chase some manufacturers from the market. That's not an entirely bad thing. If safety is really at issue, what I'd like to see the FAA do is revisit the 1320-pound weight limit. I just don't see how LSAs can be more crashworthy without benefit of more structure.

Comments (42)

Hoped you would weigh in on this Paul.

It should not be surprise that an audit can find “non-compliance”. A good auditor can flunk anyone.

One of the issues in the FAA’s assessment is that many of the LSAs did not fully substantiate that the product met the consensus standards. This is an issue aeronautical products as there is subjectivity involved in what constitutes adequate substantiation. Regardless, a good report does not always equal a compliant design. This is one area where the FAA needs to help the manufacturers work towards an acceptable reasonable standard.

The lack of ability to support continued airworthiness does bother me. Clearly the manufacturers of these products have an obligation to support and notify users of safety issues found in the field. I hope the LSA industry embraces correcting this item.

I can’t say that over the years I’ve been impressed by light aircraft manufacturer’s ability to champion compliance or safety. However, further investment in safety oversite will likely have little to no real gain in true safety. So what disappoints me the most is the FAA workforce is threatened by self-certification and this will add fuel to the fire. At the end of the day all government agencies are expected to be good stewards of tax payer dollars. Spending millions on this very narrow segment of the population for little to no real gain in safety certainly must be questioned. Or as you ask Paul, is this really a safety issue.

Posted by: Rob "daSlob" Schaffer | July 1, 2012 3:28 PM    Report this comment

Not long after the LSA rule took effect, another pilot and I bought a used (dealer demo) of an SLSA. I won't mention the brand because so much has changed since then that they my now be in compliance. The airplane was a good performer and fun to fly with great payload, but its blatant non-conformance to the maintenance documentation and very poor airframe specific parts delivery support was a deal killer for me, so we sold it.

To me and anyone with much experience with human beings, the initial plan to permit self-declaration of compliance was a huge mistake. I believe that an initial FAA inspection of the aircraft itself, the manufacturer's operator and maintenance documentation, and its ability to support the aircraft in the field would be sufficient to make the ASTM standards work. Once the systems are in place the manufacturer will have done most of the hard work and will most likely try to maintain the conformance afterwards. Occasional random follow-up checks afterward should also help to keep them honest.

I really believe that the FAA wants the SLSA rules to work and I believe they can without resorting to onerous type certificate style of regulation.

Posted by: Thom Riddle | July 2, 2012 5:52 AM    Report this comment

Wow, so many issues and such a small limit on comment length. I may break with precedence and split my comments into multiple small ones.

First I want to comment on the compliance issue. SLSA are certified individually rather than the way part 23 planes are done. Part 23 planes must comply with a "Type Certificate" which defines exactly what that plane must be. (I think) SLSA planes can actually be different from every other similar plane but each must be certified by the manufacturer to comply with the standards. So the documents required for each plane can be a problem if they are not properly maintained. This becomes a real nightmare when a design problem arises and it becomes difficult to determine which actual planes need inspections or updates and which ones don't.

When the FAA starts poking around any manufacturer's history it seems to bring to question the existing aircraft that are already in the field. So far it seems this is not a real problem and the only thing the FAA wants to do is get some manufacturers to be more rigid in their certification that their planes are compliant to the standards. Stated differently, it doesn't seem to be the case that this process threatens the certificates already issued which could change SLSA airplanes in customer's hands into lawn ornaments.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | July 2, 2012 6:19 AM    Report this comment

Paul B. I agree with you that this is more of an issue for small manufacturers than large ones. The larger ones are in a position to have the documentation systems in place so each SLSA plane can be properly certified to comply with the standards. Smaller manufacturers, who might only make one or two planes per year or even one or two in the entire history of a plane, have a much heavier administrative load for each plane.

Does this mean only the larger manufacturers are in a position to comply with all the requirements for SLSA manufacture and certification? I don't know. Perhaps another approach that allows for FAA inspectors or DARs to certify SLSA planes would help but there doesn't seem to be any provision for that approach.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | July 2, 2012 6:24 AM    Report this comment

I don't think there is any chance at all of the FAA reconsidering the 1320 pound limit for LSA. We could get a different path to flight without a 3rd class medical certificate from the current AOPA/EAA proposal, but that is a whole different discussion.

I do think there was a basic mistake made by the FAA and other organizations when thinking about the LSA standard. The idea was to define a simple aircraft that a pilot with minimal training could safely operate. This was accomplished with regard to aircraft systems, but the light weight was a big mistake. My experience flying a couple of different planes that meet the LSA definition is that they are significantly harder to fly than heavier planes rather than easier. This may account for the accident records. I certainly think the weight is a bigger problem than the light control pressures. With such low weight and required light wing loading these planes are much more susceptible to crosswinds, turbulence, and other such problems.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | July 2, 2012 6:32 AM    Report this comment

Excellent analysis, as always, Paul.

I'd like to emphasize the difference between the FAA acceding to standards promulgated by others, and the FAA's insistence upon manufacturers' demonstration of initial and continued adherence to those standards.

Those two actions are so different in nature, that any perceived linkage (or outright conflation) between them invites trouble.

Though it may sound heretical, the most reliable way to ensure the latter would be for the FAA to institute a universal on-line paradigm of compliance-documentation. And though the design & manufacturing standards differ across segments, the mechanisms for demonstration of compliance could (and should?) be identical. Hell, in theory, the METHOD would work for everything from Boeings to ultralights.

An OKC-based compliance-demonstration database would provide the additional benefit of perpetuity, in the face of uncertainty about the endurance of the various manufacturers.

The Agency is headed toward on-line records of all sorts, anyway. In my worthless opinion, it won’t be long before the “official” records of manufacturing, maintenance, and pilot logbooks are maintained exclusively on Agency servers. Just look to the new on-line Medical Certificate process, to see the model manifesting itself. Ibid, “Wings.”

The Libertarian in me resists Big Brother, but the software engineer in me embraces the simplicity, reliability, and verifiability of it all. Schizophrenia bites.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | July 2, 2012 6:47 AM    Report this comment

Standards are standards..when they FAA invented the class, they put forth this idea that if you want to build in this class you must meet a certain standard, which the FAA didn't even set by the way...the FAA didn't say show me a piece of paper saying you meet standards..they said build it to standard..why do we have such a problem with standards?? Can't pass a medical? Why not reduce the standards? Having problems passing a practical test? Let's just lobby together to get rid of the standards?building an airplane that has a snowballs chance in hell of meeting part 23....lower the standard...and when that doesn't work??? Lower it again......if these manufacturers can't build an airplane that meets the proverbial GED of aircraft certification..they should be to blame for selling you $130,000 beer cans with wings...not the FAA...we all love to hate on the boogeyman but really? Blame the FAA cause light sport can't meet sub par 23 standards...the category has allowed many with known medical deficiencies to simply go light sport in direct violation of the regs I might add...keep up the complaining and see what happens...the category could go the way of the dodo if it keeps getting abused by pilots and manufacturers alike

Posted by: rob haschat | July 2, 2012 7:00 AM    Report this comment

"go the way of the dodo if it keeps getting abused by pilots and manufacturers alike"

Give an example of abuse by pilots and manufacturers.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 2, 2012 7:14 AM    Report this comment

Robert,

I have a problem with your characterization of LSA as being inferior to part 23 aircraft. I don't think this is true. What is true is that SLSA are built to a completely different set of standards from Part 23.

Part 23 is oriented toward commercial aircraft and commercial flight operations. SLSA are oriented toward recreational flight. For the most part, commercial operations are forbidden for SLSA - just as they are for Experimental aircraft. The big exception is commercial use for flight training.

The current issue is unique to the documentation required for SLSA. Since the approach to standards and the standards themselves are utterly different the documentation requirements for compliance to the standards are also utterly different. Again it is not about better or worse, just different.

I personally like the reduced bureaucracy and lower cost to certify SLSA than part 23 aircraft. Still, the bureaucrats at FAA must be satisfied that the process has been properly followed even though it is a different process from TC'd aircraft.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | July 2, 2012 7:24 AM    Report this comment

In some respects this could be considered politics as usual. Certian SLSA manufacturers would stand to gain by the elimination of their "non-conforming" competitors and the small companies would be out of business. Pipistrel in particular, if eliminated from the US market would be a boon for the larger us based SLSA makers. Experience has shown that the FAA rarely moves on anything without prodding by someone such as politicians, the NTSB, or lobbying groups. I can easily see this as a move to eliminate competition by the larger makers without regard to safety issues.

Posted by: RODNEY HALL | July 2, 2012 8:18 AM    Report this comment

There are many reports that have been made by the GAO (that no one seems to pay attention to) that have pointed out many astonishing failings of FAA regulation: that general aviation aircraft certification standards are too complex and FAA employees themselves do not apply them consistently district to district, employee by employee; other reports have criticized the FAA for not having data and expertise needed to get the job done. The fact that we are only allowed to guess, that the FAA has not had the competence or integrity to have already posted LSA accident statistics should be strongly condemned by those who expect the agency to look our for our welfare. Part 23 regulators complain they find it difficult to get cooperation in the agency to obtain data they need. If you scratch the surface you'll find the FAA is not up to the job and each day this continues the deeper the industry will decline in the same way as all those defunct Soviet industries that failed in a socialist economy. As long as pilots do not demand that the FAA get out of the way, that aircraft development be allowed the same freedoms to manufacture and market as in other modes of transportation, the piston engine plane manufacturing business will go the way of the Trebant (or Mooney or Piper or Beechcraft....)

Posted by: RICHARD MILES | July 2, 2012 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Good discussion. Aren't most of these same aircraft certified by EASA and individual European agencies? Is the FAA in touch with EASA authorities, which I suspect are no less rigorous on such standards. The ASTM approach has been used with great success in a wide variety of industries, and in the case of LSAs has resulted in a veritable explosion of new aircraft, and that's good. Some of the best of these companies are now moving into the Part 23 realm with four-place singles and twins, and that's good too. Companies need to follow the rules though, and the FAA needs to be careful not to stifle the creativity of this nascent industry over a matter of paperwork.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 2, 2012 10:18 AM    Report this comment

The FAA has discovered and is working to gradually implement their foolproof 100% safety plan. If we can regulate all airplanes out of compliance by starting with the smallest and working our way up the ladder we can 100% eliminate aircraft accidents. Aircraft that are never built or never leave the ground will NEVER CRASH.

Posted by: Roy Zesch | July 2, 2012 11:25 AM    Report this comment

This discussion seems to have veered away from the original topic, NON-COMPLIANCE by some MANUFACTURERS. Based on my experience with more than one SLSA, a significant portion of the non-conformance is in the maintenance documentation and safety issues tracking and communication. As a mechanic, I can tell you that the SLSAs that I have worked on or inspected, had woefully inadequate maintenance documentation. As an ex-owner of one, I can tell you that the safety issue tracking system was nonexistent and the manufacturer was deaf to any complaints about either. Both of these (critical in my opinion) are covered in the ASTM standards. I believe that FAA's efforts are focusing on getting all the SLSA manufacturers to conform to the existing ASTM standards, not change the regs, merely to get them to do what they promised to do. Nobody, not the FAA, pilots, nor the non-flying public, benefit from these manufacturers getting away with non-conformance. Self policing has not worked for many (not all) of them so the FAA has the right and responsibility to step in to make every effort to get them to comply or cull those who do/can/will not.

Posted by: Thom Riddle | July 2, 2012 4:16 PM    Report this comment

Well said Voldemort. People complain about the FAA and over regulating yet they can't comply with existing laxed guidelines. Abuse the system, and the system will abuse back. It's that simple. People forget that regulations are there to protect the dumb, not hinder the smart.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | July 2, 2012 4:25 PM    Report this comment

"People forget that regulations are there to protect the dumb, not hinder the smart."

And the road to hell is paved with you know what. The problem is not or has rarely been the regulations themselves, but the adjudication of them by regulators who don't have a consistent view of what compliance with same actually means.

Everyone I talk to in the industry agrees that Part 23 is a great framework for building an airplane. Even some of the LSA makers follow its guidance. When I'm asked rhetorically if I've ever known the FAA to exercise restraint in initiatives like the one described here, the question is usually answered for me with a bitter "no."

So, whether this is a good thing or not depends on how deeply the FAA gets tangled up in the details. If it succeeds in cleaning up the record keeping and maintenance record methods and addresses continuing airworthiness documentation, that's a good thing.

But if it goes overboard and imposes new requirements, the entire point of LSA will be lost. And this is an industry segment that needs all the help it can get. All too often the agency doesn't look for ways to say yes, but works hard to justify saying no.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 2, 2012 6:33 PM    Report this comment

"Spending millions on this very narrow segment of the population for little to no real gain in safety certainly must be questioned. Or as you ask Paul, is this really a safety issue."

A good point and one hopes, perhaps futilely, that it's a winning argument for restraint. LSA was sold and designed to be a bit of regulatory backwater and absent any documentable safety issues that aren't just paperwork fades, perhaps it should be left that way,

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 2, 2012 6:36 PM    Report this comment

"Some LSAs are manufactured in countries that don't have bilateral export arrangements with the U.S. These companies—Flight Design and Pipistrel are two—assemble or transship through countries that do have bilaterals, but the FAA seems to be calling foul on this practice."

I would ask you to fix the error you have made in your article about Pipistrel. Pipistrel LSA aircraft are manufactured in Italy, they are certified in Italy, they are shipped from Italy they are not just assembled or paperwork shuffled for compliance (like some manufacturers). The importance of having the truth in reporting is critical to accompany success, incorrect reporting as this article suggested only floods me with hundreds of e-mails.

You have a great information service but it needs to be correct!

Posted by: Michael Coates | July 2, 2012 7:15 PM    Report this comment

The two companies mentioned make some of the best planes. Especially Pipistrel. Their trainer is 50,000 less than the SkyCatcher and for quality I'd fly a Slovenian or Italian over a Chinese. I just don't think they're up to the quality coming out of Europe right now.

Posted by: Dave Bowman | July 2, 2012 9:47 PM    Report this comment

Good discussion and interesting comments. That said, I need to point out the FAA did not write the standards. They were written by an ASTM committee the FAA supports (one vote). The Standards were written to be accepted by international Civil Aviation groups - including EASA.

From what I've been told, the FAA is not trying to rewrite the standards or force aircraft OEMs to do unnecessary paperwork. They are working toward ensuring the aircraft OEMs are doing what they say they are doing when then certify (sign off) each SLSA - the aircraft was built according to the standards.

On-site FAA visits a couple years ago) showed them there were serious gaps in compliance: distributors assembling aircraft without the necessary tools and/or signing certificates without ever seeing the standards.

I've also heard complaints from owners and mechanics about the poor quality of most of the maintenance manuals for SLSA.

To date self-certification has had, at best, limited success due to a multitude of reasons. Some third party (FAA now) has to step in to certify the stanards are being met before the SLSA is signed off.

Posted by: Richard Norris | July 3, 2012 6:18 AM    Report this comment

"I would ask you to fix the error you have made in your article about Pipistrel. Pipistrel LSA aircraft are manufactured in Italy, they are certified in Italy, they are shipped from Italy "

I would beg to differ, Michael. When I was at Pipistrel in March, they told me the factory in Italy is not complete and would not be for quite some time. I see the arrangement as similar to Flight Design, which manufactures in Ukraine--no bilateral--and assembles and ships from Germany.

If *primary* manufacture is done in Italy, then that is a new development. This is the point the FAA was raising.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 3, 2012 6:59 AM    Report this comment

Paul, You have misunderstood the information about the Italian factories, you are talking about the new Panthera factory and fixing your error is appreciated.

Pipistrel have a facility in Italy for manufacture of the LSA compliant aircraft, It was at Nova Goriza airport where the new Panthera factory is to be built. The existing LSA facility was demolished in May for development of the new 10,000 m2 factory http://www.pipistrel-usa.com/newsletters/newsletter-65/newsletter-65.html When they knocked down the original 'old' buildings they moved the LSA manufacture to Udine where they share the manufacturing facility with Fly Synthesis, a company who Pipistrel have a 15-20 year relationship with.

The LSA aircraft (for the USA market)are built in Italy, the rest are built in Slovenia. This is NOT a new development, its what has been happening since Pipistrel entered the LSA market with aircraft manufactured for the USA, but unfortunately i say... never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Posted by: Michael Coates | July 3, 2012 7:17 AM    Report this comment

I had some links to the newsletters section of our website with all the information about the factories in Italy but when posted in the message above it was stripped out ??

Posted by: Michael Coates | July 3, 2012 7:19 AM    Report this comment

" i say... never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

Hurling this gratuitous insult does you no favors, Michael. The simple correction would do fine. I accept that as posted. My apologies for the error.

Our software strips out URLs to avoid spamming.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 3, 2012 8:05 AM    Report this comment

Self-certified airplanes are a bit like self-enforced speed limits on the hiways. Most of the people will adhere to the rules, but a certain percentage won't. It might not even be a huge safety problem, but it does seem to work smoother if everyone is playing by the same rules. The FAA and traffic cops serve the same purpose. By busting a few occaisionally it keeps the system from turning into anarchy.

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | July 3, 2012 3:01 PM    Report this comment

The problem I see is that some manufactures are using the LSA rules to avoid certification of products that really should be certified.

Quarter Million Dollar Amphibious aircraft with retractable, excuse me, “re-positionable” landing gear and electric folding wings, roadworthy “flying cars” and “Cubs” with 180HP are not what I envisioned when the LSA rules were announced.

The LSA rules were meant to be a legal way for “fat” ultra-light aircraft to be flown legally. Not as a way for sexy “hot-rod” aircraft to avoid the scrutiny of a FAA certification to be flown by pilots who know that they aren’t in good enough health to pass a III Class medical.

The LSA envelope is getting pushed a bit too far and something is likely to break (most likely an airframe). I just hope that the 1320lb weight limit is low enough to keep people on the ground from getting hurt when it does.

Posted by: KRIS LARSON | July 3, 2012 4:30 PM    Report this comment

" i say... never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

Sorry Paul, this was not meant to be an insult to you.... its just a saying I have used forever when people don't fully investigate what they are talking or writing about. I do however welcome your interest in Pipistrel and am happy to provide information you request.

Posted by: Michael Coates | July 3, 2012 5:09 PM    Report this comment

Michael:

Maybe it's just a second-language issue. But our native use of the idiom always has it that the author of the story exhibits disregard for the truth - not mere ignorance therof.

Paul Bertorelli is honest, intelligent, and very inquisitive. His work comprises the gold standard of this industry, and we all are lucky to have him.

Heat is a waste product where your objective is light.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | July 3, 2012 5:26 PM    Report this comment

"But if it goes overboard and imposes new requirements, the entire point of LSA will be lost. And this is an industry segment that needs all the help it can get. All too often the agency doesn't look for ways to say yes, but works hard to justify saying no."

Thank you for stating this Paul. LSA/SP is still routinely criticized by many who know little about it. I see its impact in my large EAA chapter, providing a lower-cost means for young people to learn to fly, offering great-looking aircraft with the panels and interiors that rival sports cars compared to the old Spam Cans used for training in the past, and as a means to keep pilots flying longer when minor medical issues would make this impossible.

If you know the details, could you please comment on how the FAA has nearly destroyed the UL industry in recent years, and still opposes sales of two-seat factory-built gyrocopters which were so popular at this year's AERO show? I understand from industry insiders that someone within the FAA has actively worked to destroy the UL and gyrocopter industry, for reasons I do not understand. These are not my words but from people who would know.

It is also said that the UAT-ARC adamantly opposes the STC approach to a new unleaded fuel certification as a means to keep the FAA's Engine and Propeller Directorate (Burlington, MA) busy.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 4, 2012 9:07 AM    Report this comment

It's hard to believe that a LSA manufacturer can even operate without a parts list, assembly instructions, standard repair procedures, a drawing and configuration management system, and a detailed maintenance manual; but apparently too many LSA manufacturers fail in many of these categories. I'm sure Cessna keeps its design and production data fully documented, but look at the price of that.

Clearly, many LSA buyers are on their own. The experience reported by Riddle in the second post is an example. Worse, the arbitrary low weight limit assures minimal durability and high airframe maintenance, as well as kite-like ground handling and no real crash protection.

The rules indirectly(?) require a LSA manufacturer to approve all repairs in order to maintain each airplane's certificate. Failing that (and most manufacturers fail), I suppose an owner can make whatever mods he wants and apply as the new manufacturer.

I can see why the FAA has a problem with the way things are.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | July 4, 2012 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Maybe third time is the charm...

Kris, i understand your concerns about SLSA when the original intent was a simple, basic aircraft instead of the high-tech aircraft being sold. The simple answer is those are the SLSAs that are selling.

The 'expected' rush of new sport pilots anxious to buy and fly a basic, entry-level aircraft never really got off the ground. Why probably the economy and price of the aircraft. Excluding flight schools, the biggest private market is typically an older private pilot who has sold their complex, high-performance aircraft and want to buy a 'simple' but high-quality aircraft. And yes I'm reasonably sure some of them are doing this to avoid a third class medical.

I do know the high-level SLSAs you mentioned either meet or will meet the ASTM Standards. From what I have heard the 'cub' is selling really well; time will tell how the market will ultimately accept the others.

Posted by: Richard Norris | July 4, 2012 11:29 AM    Report this comment

S. Lanchester, your comments point out several of the reasons the FAA is 'concerned' about SLSAs. With few exceptions, these conditions are typically throughout the industry.

I've been told by more than one manufacturer these are simple aircraft and don't need all these requirements. One told me a parts list isn't needed -just call me and I'll give you the part.

LSA manufacturers MUST approve any maintenance to their SLSA that is not in their maintenance manual and it must be done in WRITING. Any maintenance or modification to an SLSA not done in this manner can result in the SLSA no longer being legal to fly.

If an owner wants to perform maintenance or modifications to their LSA the manufacturer will not approve (in writing) they have to conver the SLSA to an ELSA.

Another reality most people do not understand, in many ways the ASTM standards are actually more restrictive than FAR 23 requirements. The maintenance and modification issues noted above are a good example.

Posted by: Richard Norris | July 4, 2012 11:40 AM    Report this comment

I agree, Paul. Thirteen hundred and twenty pounds? Where did that come from? Too bad the J3 Cub didn,t gross out at more than that. SLSA's need to be allowed to be bigger (heavier), more capable and with more performance than they are now to be more competent - and safer - than they are currently.

Posted by: William Guthrie | July 4, 2012 4:33 PM    Report this comment

I recently saw an FAA audit, it took a week and 8 or so people that were there to "help you". When they asked how the rulers were calibrated...I used to work in the nuclear weapons industry and calibrated lots of things but never a ruler. SLSA's are not atom bombs. This audit was not about bi-lateral agreements. The feds do not seem to like the ASTM standards they(at least someone in power) agreed to and are about to change the game. The larger companies may have enough resources to survive but choices and prices will suffer.

Posted by: Bruce Drinnen | July 4, 2012 8:44 PM    Report this comment

Beyond Dick Norris' comments above, here's another item a lot of LSA buyers don't "get." In a certificated airplane, the FAA 'owns' the type design and allows manufacturers to build to that TC via the production certificate - PC. The PC certificates the manufacturers process and quality, etc. As a result, Cessna -- for example -- cannot write a manadatory AD without FAA approval (although they likely heavily influence FAA thinkings). In essence, the FAA has legal control. In an LSA, this responsibility has been transferred to the manufacturer which doesn't necessarily bode well for buyers. The CofC is the only guarantee a buyer has and it ain't worth much as far as I am concerned.

Finally, I am GLAD to see comments about the 1320 MGTOW crashworthiness question. It's about time to recognize this IS an issue.

I'd like to see the FAA tighten up the CofC issues and then allow increasing MGTOW to say 1,800 pounds...then we'd have a real LSA segment with airplane's that'd be useful and justify their costs.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | July 5, 2012 10:41 AM    Report this comment

"1320 MGTOW crashworthiness question. It's about time to recognize this IS an issue."

In addition to safety, it's also a practical issue for durability. Some of the LSAs aren't holding up well in the training environment. Perhaps a little more structure would help.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2012 12:44 PM    Report this comment

Paul, there is no question that airframe durability would be greatly improved with a bit more structural weight -- as would crash safety. The lack of a decent crash cage in most light airplanes is truly sad, especially given the design work done long ago to show how easy it is to do.

Very few LSA landing or takeoff accidents should be fatal. But when the FAA says weu have to build a super light spam can, fatalities are what we get.

I've never understood why this simple fact gets no traction in the FAA or industry.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | July 9, 2012 12:19 AM    Report this comment

Regarding the weight limit, keep in mind it does not only apply to NEW SLSA, but also to existing GA aircraft. If the weight was increased to say 1500-1600 pounds, it would include Cessna 140s, 150s, and 152s as well as other two-seat aircraft. These could then be flown with a Sport Pilot license.

Setting aside the arguments for and against new SLSA at $110K plus versus an older aircraft at $10-40K, what do you think that would do to sales of new SLSA?

Posted by: Richard Norris | July 9, 2012 5:24 AM    Report this comment

"In addition to safety, it's also a practical issue for durability. Some of the LSAs aren't holding up well in the training environment. Perhaps a little more structure would help."

Why stop at structure for safety, how about airbags? They would certainly make things safer.

Then how about parachutes (whole airplane or otherwise), why isn't there an "allowance" for additional weight for parachutes?

Oh, let’s not forget about collision avoidance equipment and datalink weather and gyros (just in case you happen upon IFR conditions) and autopilots, wouldn't they all "enhance safety". Oh, and let’s not forget the (redundant) electrical systems need to run all the "safety" equipment. Besides making things "safer", it's what the market is demanding and what is selling (pilots do so love their toys).

But now the plane can't meet the 1320lb limit and be strong enough to be "safe" (because of the weight of all the "safety" equipment).

Clearly the LSA rules are flawed (sarcasm intended).

LSA were not meant to make cheap mini-Cirrus, they were meant to make cheap modern Cubs (65hp not 180hp).

The "we need more weight to be safe" argument is flawed. Take a look at the Cirrus. It is effectively only a 2 place aircraft after you add all the "safety" equipment.

Now look at the J3. Hasn't it proven to be a safe, durable design?

Posted by: KRIS LARSON | July 9, 2012 12:38 PM    Report this comment

Unless I'm confused about how it works (quite likely), the new medical exemption, if implemented by the FAA, will most likely destroy the LSA industry. One, there seems to be a widespread perception that LSAs are too light and therefore overly "manueverable" in turbulence. Two, the 1320-lb limit (derived from Europe's 600kg?) leaves very little margin for useful payload--full tanks, or a passenger, not both. Three, pricing indicates (to me, at least) that LSA manufacturers definitely count on a "captive market" of older, existing pilots concerned about the "don't ask don't tell" medical, who also possess the wherewithal to purchase a $150k glass-paneled Cub. (I'm not against that; every businessman has the right, even the obligation, to maximize profits--while maintaining standards, of course. In fact, it may be impossible now, given regulatory and labor costs, to combine reasonable performance and reasonable cost in the same airframe.)

If the medical exemption goes through, a lot of these companies will go out of business, or move on to much more sophisticated aircraft (if they can). No way they can handle that 10x difference between their asking price and the price of a used Cessna.

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | July 10, 2012 2:11 PM    Report this comment

LSAs wouldn't be $150,000+ if manufactures didn't try to make them do something that they aren't supposed to be doing. LSAs aren't meant to:

Fly IFR Fly long cross country Fly Fast Carry allot To be part-time Cars Be Amphibious

The best analogy I found was that LSA are the flying equivalent of motorcycles. While some people insist on trying to make a motorcycle into something it isn't (all weather transportation or a cross country machine), they really are primarily for fun in fair weather, dare I say "Sport".

View LSAs in the same context as motorcycles and stop trying to make them do more than was intended.

And just like some will spend more money on a motorcycle than a car, some will spend more on LSAs than Pt23 certified aircraft and if they have the means to do it, Great! But let's not forget what the "S" in LSA stands for... (hint: it's not "serious")

I owned a SLSA and it was fun and sporty, just like my motorcycle.

Posted by: KRIS LARSON | July 10, 2012 5:25 PM    Report this comment

I own an Evektor Sportstar and have owned it since 2006. I have owned airplanes since 1990. I bought the Evektor because I was older, flew only recreationally, and did not want to fight the FAA to maintain a medical.

First, LSAs are fine for cross country trips. I fly mine all over the country. My last cross-country was from Denver to Houston. You just need to understand that it will do 110 kts and that is it. Since my first airplane was a Beech Musketeer and it would max cruise at 113 kts, really not much different.

Secondly, where LSAs differ is on landing. They are light. This means you have to be precise in your speed control and you HAVE to hold the nose off until the speed has bled down. In many respects, they are similar to Musketeers which had the notorious "hockey puck" suspension system and tend to bounce. They, too, had a lot of landing accidents. These type of accidents usually only injury one's pride since they are about 30 mph on ground. They are, however, hard on the planes. Being light, you also have to know how to handle and anticipate cross winds.

Thirdly, the construction and quality of my Evektor is first rate. Furthermore, the Rotax engine has been reliable. You do fly it a little different, but that is a matter of training.

Posted by: David Norris | March 20, 2014 11:51 AM    Report this comment

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