August 27, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
Earl Lawrence, manager of the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate that in turn falls under the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service, has told Icon Aircraft CEO and Founder Kirk Hawkins that a decision on his request for an exemption to the light sport aircraft weight limit must wait until the end of 2012. The weight limit is 1,320 pounds for land-based LSAs and 1,430 pounds for amphibious LSAs. Hawkins asked for an exemption in May to increase the higher limit of 1,430 pounds by another 250 pounds, to 1,680 pounds, for the Icon A5.
A decision had been due by early September.
In return, the FAA would be approving a spin resistant aircraft, Hawkins said in his request. The benefit was stated to be “safety” and “public interests.” A cuffed wing that is aerodynamically spin resistant accounts for the requested weight exemption.
Hawkins phrased the original exemption request as follows: “Therefore, within the spirit of the original rulemaking, which explicitly states the LSA weight limit was NOT intended to reduce safety, ICON seeks an exemption to allow gross weight to be increased from 1430 to 1680 lbs for the ICON A5 S-LSA amphibious aircraft. Additionally, since this technology is especially beneficial to sport pilots, ICON seeks that this exemption allow the increased gross-weight ICON A5 to be flown by sport pilots and maintained by LSA repairman like any other S-LSA. ICON believes this exemption unequivocally serves both safety and public interests and thereby represents the responsible regulatory decision.”
An important part of that request is the stipulation that the heavier vehicle can be flown by sport pilots. Manufacturers of the Maverick flying car in Florida recently won an exemption to operate their land vehicle, essentially a dune buggy flown beneath a powered parachute, at the amphibious weight of 1,430 pounds. That was to allow for the weight of the transmission needed for land travel. However, the FAA in approving the exemption stated that only private pilots could operate the Maverick at the higher weight. Beyond Roads, the company formed to develop the Maverick for jungle travel by missionaries, has asked the FAA to allow sport pilots to fly the Maverick at the higher weight of 1,430 pounds.
Lawrence said on Aug. 23 that the request seeks an exemption from FAR Parts 21, 61, and 43, “…which will require coordination with several offices within the Aircraft Certification Service and the Flight Standards Service.” The decision has the potential to establish precedence for future policy and rulemaking “…regarding safety innovation for all light-sport aircraft,” Lawrence said in a letter. He said the FAA is taking time to cover all the issues identified in the petition for an exemption.
The weight exemption request drew comments from AOPA, EAA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, corporations, and others.
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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