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Monday, August 1, 2005

Light Sport Aircraft Are Here And Flying!

Now, there’s no argument whether or not LSA designs will become a reality

As some pilots may have heard, the FAA finally handed down its completed rulemaking regarding light sport aircraft (LSA) and sport pilots this past April 15 (perhaps, more than coincidentally, tax day) at the Sun ’n Fun Air Show in Lakeland, Fla. The LSA regulations were several years in the making, the consummation of extensive lobbying efforts by virtually all of aviation’s alphabet groups. In fact, the final rules reflect extensive input by the EAA and AOPA, an example of what can happen in that rare instance when the government actually listens to the people it represents. " />

The whole concept of the sport-pilot license and LSA certification is to bring flying to the little guy. Little, in this case, is a relative term. Pricing for most fixed-wing, powered aircraft in the LSA class typically falls between $50,000 and $125,000, not exactly little, but at least a few companies have plans to rent LSAs at locations around the U.S. Rental rates haven’t been defined yet, but you can bet that they’ll be lower than comparable hourly fees for a Cessna Skyhawk or Piper Cherokee.

Sportsplanes.com of Draper, Utah, is one of the companies planning to offer a variety of LSAs for rent and for sale. The Utah company already has appointed 24 regional centers and is working with a number of domestic and international manufacturers to sell, service and rent a selection of two-seat, LSA aircraft, many of them formerly pure kitplanes and many others imported from Europe.

Sportsplanes.com’s director, Joss Foss, has been preparing for the certified light sport aircraft by offering training in the AMD Alarus. While the FAR 23-certified two-seater is a wee bit heavy for qualification as a LSA, the trainer emulates an LSA extremely well. Foss has used the Alarus as the workhouse of his training fleet and will continue flying the aircraft even after LSA deliveries begin.

Predictably, the sport-pilot license allows operating a variety of other predominately sport aircraft—gliders, lighter-than-air vehicles, gyroplanes, powered parachutes and weight-shift trikes—but the majority of LSAs probably will be fixed-wing airplanes. In addition to purpose-built LSAs, existing aircraft that fit the legal definition above may be flown by holders of a sport-pilot certificate.

I recently flew three of the new LSAs in conjunction with the Sun ’n Fun Air Show in Lakeland. The first was the American Legend Cub, a new variation on a theme by Piper. The Legend Cub looks identical to the original, but it incorporates a number of upgrades and improvements.


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