FAA Makes Room For LSA

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Rolling Out The Red ... Tape...

Further proof that Light Sport/Sport Pilot, which will create a new category of lower-performance aircraft and a new certificate for pilots with lower training and medical requirements, may not be but a dream: The FAA has begun creating the bureaucracy to administer it. The agency announced recently that it is establishing the Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) Operations Program Office. It will be a branch within the Regulatory Support Division, based in Oklahoma City, Okla. "We have ... approval to start setting up this operation and we are looking at the best ways of doing that," Joseph Tintara, manager of the Regulatory Support Division Aeronautical Center, told EAA. "We intend to meet with the industry people and their FAA counterparts to make sure it's successful." Presumably that's going to be done soon and the FAA has a plan for that, too. The FAA is sticking with its latest agenda to announce the final rulemaking for the new category of aircraft and certificates at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2003, which starts July 29. That gives Tintara and his crew just three months to hire (or transfer) the staff, move the furniture and hook up the phones, not to mention come up with policies and procedures that will dictate a whole new way of doing business. Perhaps they'll have more time. Tintara claims to have his eye on the ball, however. "A lot of this right now is getting ourselves prepared with the intent that the rule will be put out sometime in July," he said. "We want to be prepared when the rule rolls out."

...No Shortage Of Things To Do...

The FAA estimates there will be 10,000 aircraft (currently "illegal" ultralights) and their pilots waiting to be certificated when the rule becomes effective. There are also about 1,300 instructors waiting for their tickets. It's not clear what, if any, grace period will be allowed, nor is there any indication of the resources that will be available to the new LSA office. But even after the initial backlog is cleared, it's going to be a busy place by the FAA's own forecast. The agency predicts another 12,000 people and planes will be certificated under the new rules in the following decade. It's also expecting 9,000 people to get repairman's certificates that will be issued under the new rule. Somehow, this is supposed to be done without creating extra work for FAA inspectors. Theoretically, the industry is going to ensure that the aircraft are safely and properly built and that pilots, instructors and repairmen are properly trained. Issues of liability and insurance remain, in the eyes of some manufacturers, discouragingly unclear. The FAA sees its role as developing the rules, tests and standards, and making sure they are met and followed at all levels of the process. And, since the industry is always evolving, the new LSA office will have to stay on top of technology and trends to make sure the rules and policies remain up-to-date. Even with that 90-day deadline looming, the FAA's Tintara is upbeat, if not exactly offering guarantees. "We think we really have a good chance to be successful," he told EAA. "[We] want to have some preliminary meetings to lay out a reasonable plan of attack."

...EAA Embraces LSA In New Magazine

With the FAA doing a makeover, EAA is keeping up with the times with a new magazine, to replace its current publication called The Experimenter. The new magazine will include coverage aimed at the Sport Pilot/Light Sport category. The prototype of the new magazine, called EAA Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft, was shown to aviation industry officials May 8. EAA president Tom Poberezny said the new category fits EAA's grass-roots mandate. "For 50 years, EAA's focus has been on keeping aviation affordable," he said. The new publication will feature coverage of powered parachutes, trikes, fixed-wing ultralights and homebuilt and kit aircraft, including the "how-to" information The Experimenter was noted for. But while EAA would like nothing better than to have the FAA announcement at its big event in Oshkosh, it's not betting the start date of the new magazine on it. The publication will be sent out "within three months of FAA's announcement of the final Sport Pilot/Light-Sport rules."