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LSA changes on the horizonLSA changes on the horizon

Industrywide efforts to expand the capabilities of light sport aircraft are gaining traction. During AOPA’s Oct. 6 Regional Fly-In at Carbondale, Illinois, EAA Chairman and CEO Jack Pelton announced that more details of its work with the FAA on broadening the LSA category will be available in the coming months.

Van's Aircraft RV–12. Photo by Chris Rose.

Meanwhile, for more than two years, AOPA and other industry representatives have been actively engaged with the FAA and working on improvements and reforms through the ASTM International Committee F37 on LSAs. While specifics including timing and other details are not official yet, AOPA Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs David Oord, who has served on F37’s executive committee since 2009, expects significant and positive changes are coming.

“There are still a lot of details to be worked out, but we’re hopeful that the agency will be soon be able to begin the process to formally act on and implement these reforms over the next few years,” Oord said.

“The Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates (MOSAIC), is part of Aircraft Certification Service’s comprehensive approach to becoming more efficient and effective,” FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell told AOPA. “It represents a move away from prescriptive standards toward performance and risk-based measures.”

The current maximum takeoff weight for LSAs, set at 1,320 pounds, was established in the original 2004 sport pilot/light sport rule. But, with a future revision to the definition, LSA limits may be performance-based and incorporate new systems and technologies—including electric propulsion, which is currently prohibited. With any change to the definition, additional aircraft would be expected to become eligible for sport pilot operation.

LSA reforms and standards have been primarily developed through the ASTM process. The committee was established in 2002 and consists of more than 210 members from 19 countries. Aircraft manufacturers; civil aviation authorities; and associations including AOPA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the United States Ultralight Association are a few of the groups that are active on the ASTM committee.

The FAA has been in discussions for more than two years and has been briefing and seeking input from stakeholders, including AOPA and F37 committee members as well as others not on the committee.

In addition to LSAs, the effort is expected to touch on additional categories of aircraft, including unmanned and manned aircraft under 14 CFR Part 21. AOPA is hopeful that changes could add provisions for new and novel aircraft such as hoverboards, jet packs, and others that don’t currently have a defined certification path. The FAA has indicated that it is looking to establish new operating limitations for aircraft that are based on risk rather than a common set for all.

“This will take time and we don’t know all the details yet, but we believe the FAA is moving in the right direction," AOPA President Mark Baker said. "This is all about ongoing efforts to right-size regulations for GA and a risk-based approach for growing GA while maintaining or improving its safety.”

AOPA Communications staff

Topics: Advocacy, Aircraft Regulation, Aircraft

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