Light-Sport Making Headway

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Quality-Control Standards Approved...

The enormously complicated task of creating the paperwork for a whole new class of aircraft took a major step forward last week. The quality-control language for the new light-sport category was completed during a consensus standard session hosted by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The ASTM is facilitating the standards process for light sport in advance of the final rule expected from the FAA in July. Under the process, industry representatives provide input to the standards document and then get a vote in approving the final document. Further tweaking can be done later to ensure letter-perfect compliance with the new rule. The quality-control standards just passed can be used as a blueprint by manufacturers to set up their own programs. The standards process appears to be winding down, with predictions that it will be essentially wrapped up in July, just in time for the FAA to announce the final rule at EAA AirVenture. Among the standards categories still under review are design, performance and engine specs and it's expected the balloting will be complete in July. The powered parachute standards are already complete. EAA VP Earl Lawrence, who chairs the standards process, said light-sport is a model for cooperation between government and industry. "Light-sport aircraft standards are a whole new way of establishing safe, consistent manufacturing standards for this category," he said. "Creating safe, fun aircraft in which people can have confidence is the goal of this enormous industry and FAA effort."

...New Planes In The Wings

One of the light-sport standards that is causing compliance problems is the relatively low top speed of 115 knots that is allowed. Plenty of kitplanes out there can do that without breathing hard and the challenge of many designers seeking Light Sport category compliance is to rein them in. Take, for example, the Jabiru USA Flight Center at EAA AirVenture starting July 29. The Esqual's biggest engine option is a 120-horsepower Jabiru that will pull it to 200 mph -- even with the smallest engine offered, an 80-horsepower Jabiru 2200, it's still a shade fast for the light-sport rule. It meets all the other criteria, including the 38-mph, flaps-out stall speed. It might be faster to build one, rather than wait for the technical revisions, however. Esqual's designers claim the plane can be completed under the 51-percent rule in 500 hours or less by an inexperienced builder. The fuselage comes in one piece and the wings are together in the kit and include some pre-installed hardware. All the other parts are vacuum-molded and oven-cured. Finished, the Esqual has a wingspan of 29 feet, 10 inches and is 19 feet, 3 inches long. Engine options include a six-cylinder Jabiru 3300, a four-cylinder Jabiru 2200 and a four-cylinder Rotax 912. It can weigh less than 600 pounds empty and grosses out at 1,150 pounds.