Behold the rapidly beating heart of light-sport aviation: A YouTube video chronicles a pilot’s dead-stick takeoff. Not landing...takeoff. He points his engine-off LSA down a 35-degree mountain slope, rolls into a hang glider–style launch and lands—still dead stick—on a sandbar 1,500 feet below and two miles away.
A young journalist who has never flown in a light plane gets his sport pilot license in seven days and 34 hours in a composite LSA that cruises at 120 knots and lands at 45.
Fully recovered from open-heart surgery, a retired 35,000-hour airline pilot spends a week in his new Piper Cub LSA deep in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, shooting landings and takeoffs from some of the most rugged dirt strips in the world.
An LSA gyrocopter leaps from a narrow dirt road in a huge swirl of sand. The pilot is halfway through her weeklong photographic exploration of remote, off-road Indian archaeological sites in the desert Southwest. Crank Up The Flivver, Betsy!
These snapshots of light-sport aviation reveal the real-world face of the revolution in personal general aviation known as light-sport aircraft, LSA for short.
Thanks to the new sport pilot rule—which makes it easier than ever to get your wings without having to fly a well-used plane that smells like old gym socks soaked in stale gas—student pilots are now learning in sharp, shiny new airplanes with roomy cockpits and superb visibility. Welcome to the new wave of personal flight!
Of course, there are limits to what you can do with the ticket and these birds. You can’t go 200 knots or upside down at night in a thunderstorm in an LSA. After all, you’re not insane. Which brings us to P&P study hall: What are the sport pilot rule and LSA all about? A Kinder, Gentler Way To Fly
By FAA decree, an LSA must:
• carry a maximum of two occupants. Sorry, no sumo wrestlers in the backseat; there aren’t backseats except in two-seat tandems anyway.
• have a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds (seaplanes: 1,430 pounds). That means a useful load of two people and light baggage. See sumo comment above.
• fly no faster than 120 knots at maximum continuous power and stall no faster than 45 knots clean. Fighter pilots need not apply.
• be powered by one nonturbine engine.
• have a fixed or ground-adjustable propeller only.
• operate on fixed landing gear. Amphibious floatplanes with retractable wheels are allowed.
• be a ready-to-fly special LSA (S-LSA) or an experimental homebuilt LSA (E-LSA).
• have N-number registration.
• fall within these categories and sets: airplane single-engine (land/sea subsets), glider, lighter-than-air, rotorcraft (gyroplanes only, no helicopters), weight-shift-control (land/sea subsets) and powered parachute. Foot-launched hang gliders and powered parachutes without undercarriages aren’t considered LSA.
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