FAA plans greater role in LSA certification

July 5, 2012

The FAA is requesting comments on a plan to increase the agency’s involvement in special light sport aircraft (SLSA) certification.

In issuing airworthiness certificates for SLSAs, the FAA relies on a manufacturer’s Statement of Compliance, which asserts that it meets the provisions of industry-developed consensus standards. Manufacturers should be prepared to demonstrate that compliance to the FAA—and, if they cannot, could no longer be considered an SLSA manufacturer, the FAA said in a notice of policy published June 28.

The light sport rule, published in 2004, established procedures for LSA manufacturers to conform with industry consensus standards--a path that was intended to ensure safety while reducing the cost and regulatory burden of more extensive FAA oversight. But an FAA assessment of SLSA manufacturers in 2008 and 2009 found that “the majority of the manufacturing facilities evaluated could not fully substantiate that the aircraft for which they had issued Statements of Compliance did, in fact, meet the consensus standards” they were affirming they met, according to the notice.

“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,” it said. The notice laid out the requirements for a Statement of Compliance and directed LSA manufacturers to an online resource to help ensure they are in compliance.

The notice applies to domestic manufacturers as well as aircraft manufactured outside the United States; the FAA said it found anomalies involving foreign-manufactured aircraft in its recent assessment, and noted that it does not consider a U.S. person who assembles an aircraft manufactured in another country to be the manufacturer of the aircraft.

The FAA has previously said it will begin audits of SLSA manufacturers in an effort to ensure all are adhering to established standards. AOPA is evaluating the new policy notice and plans to comment, with an eye toward balancing the need for ensuring consumers’ interest while preserving the limited oversight role the FAA exercises in light sport aircraft.

The FAA is accepting comments on the notice through July 30.