January 26, 2009
By Alton K. Marsh
The FAA briefed members of the light sport aircraft industry on its assessment of manufacturers during the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, an effort that will continue for several more months. FAA officials are careful to use the word “assessment” rather than “audit.” It is merely an effort to aid a fledgling industry, one industry source said.
Thus far, the main problems seem to concern paperwork. There are experienced companies that are doing very well with the required documentation, and those that need improvement, the assessment shows. As far as safety problems, none were reported. The worst problem found concerned a manufacturer that completed aircraft approval paperwork while the aircraft was still under construction.
The National Transportation Safety Board has a concurrent assessment in progress that in some cases not only parallels the FAA investigation, but also monitors it. NTSB officials have indicated in the past that they are more comfortable with FAA certification of aircraft. Light sport aircraft are built to an industry-agreed-upon set of standards, and manufacturers certify to the FAA that the standards have been met.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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