FAA tightening LSA inspection rules

New models in limbo as confusion reins

October 22, 2012

FAA inspectors and designated inspectors are now required to notify FAA headquarters when a new light sport aircraft (LSA) make or model is presented for approval, or when a new company issues its first model. The notification is to allow the FAA’s aircraft certification group, called AIR-200, to determine if an aircraft conformity inspection is required.

Some in the LSA industry have complained that the requirement constitutes a speed-up in FAA plans to inspect all new LSA models starting in March 2013. That order, now delayed, will detail how the inspections are to be done. Industry officials said they are concerned that the introduction of new models—especially those built overseas—will be delayed by the inspections.

Renegade Light Sport owner Christopher “Doc” Bailey of Lee’s Summit, Mo., said he has $450,000 worth of LSAs, paid for by customers, waiting for FAA approval. An air safety inspector drove from Arkansas to Missouri to complete inspections on a Century, Comet FK-12 aerobatic light sport, and a new BOT Speed Cruiser. As the inspector was preparing to hand Bailey his certificates showing compliance with ASTM standards, FAA officials called and stopped the transaction.

“These aircraft are in verifiable, lockdown limbo,” Bailey said. “In two months I will have to return [the customers’] money, and I’m out of business.” He said he has been in business seven years and has never had an inspector find any variance with ASTM industry standards in any of his aircraft, including the Falcon LS most commonly associated with Renegade. He was selling the Century as a favor to a friend who wanted to be sure paperwork was done correctly.

An FAA statement said concerns over speeding inspection requirements prior to a promised public comment period stems from confusion created by two separate orders. One, FAA Order 8130.2G Change 1 (which received public comment in November 2011), required FAA headquarters to be notified of all new models and took effect in July. The other order detailing how the inspections will be conducted has been delayed.

The delayed order is called the FAA LSA Manufacturer Oversight Order that provides specific guidance for FAA personnel who conduct audits of LSA manufacturers. “Prototype” or practice audits have been completed at some manufacturers using a draft order prior to issuing the final version. The LSA Manufacturer Oversight order was scheduled for public comment in September 2012 and tentatively scheduled for implementation in March 2013. It is now expected to be published for public comment in October with the final version to be released in May 2013. It will be open for comment.

The end result is that new models are on hold, per the wording in FAA Order 8130.2G Change 1. It states: “AIR-200 must be contacted prior to issuing the first airworthiness certificate to any new manufacturer’s LSA or to a new LSA model from existing manufacturers…DARs must not issue the first special LSA category airworthiness certificate for any new manufacturer’s LSA or to a new LSA model from existing manufacturers. Only an assigned ASI can perform the first issuance. [ref: 4039 a. (3)].” (A DAR is a designated airworthiness representative. An ASI is an FAA air safety inspector.)

“Development of the LSA Manufacturer Oversight Order is consistent with a recommendation from the May 17, 2010, LSA manufacturer assessment report,” an FAA spokesman said. “Among many recommendations, the report recommended that the FAA develop a process to perform initial conformity checks and continuous oversight evaluations of LSA manufacturers. Both orders have been extensively discussed with the LSA community during ASTM F37 committee meetings.”

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

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.