Approved for Flight
Certification of Light-Sport Aircraft Through the Use of Consensus Standards
by Scott L. Sedgwick
Light-sport aircraft are basic, uncomplicated aircraft intended for general aviation use. Many of these aircraft are registered (i.e., have N numbers), have U.S. Federal Aviation Administration-issued airworthiness certificates, and are flown by FAA certificated pilots. However, some are being operated as ultralight vehicles without these certifications. Ultralight vehicles cannot legally carry a second occupant. However, many light-sport aircraft that exceed the occupant and/or weight limitations of ultralight vehicles are operated under an FAA exemption that allows for use as ultralight training vehicles. While the exact number of these unregistered ultralight-like aircraft is not precisely known, it is estimated to be as high as 30, 000.
For aircraft certification, the proposed rule contains provisions for the issuance of Airworthiness Certificates to two groups of light-sport aircraft. The first addresses the unregistered ultralight-like aircraft currently in use as ultralight-training vehicles. The second involves creating the regulatory structure to provide for the use of consensus airworthiness standards for the design and manufacture of ready-to-fly and kit aircraft. The consensus standards would provide for an appropriate level of safety for newly manufactured light-sport aircraft. The FAA considers this to be an increase in the level of safety, as current unregistered ultralight-like aircraft are not required to meet design and manufacturing standards.
The proposed rule provides a regulatory structure that allows an individual to be issued an FAA Airworthiness Certificate for their light-sport aircraft based largely upon a manufacturers certification of compliance to consensus standards. This new path to airworthiness certification is an additional pathno current rules are eliminated. Because it is an additional option, a manufacturer may also use any...