Plane & Pilot
Friday, October 1, 2004

The New Sport-Pilot License Is Here!

Landmark changes from the FAA have just made Flying cheaper and easier

The New Sport-Pilot License Is Here!It took more than 2 ½ years to review the more than 4,700 comments on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2002 proposal to simplify pilot training and make the sport more affordable and accessible. After a tremendous amount of debate, research and consideration (and a certain amount of suspense), the FAA made its announcement on September 1, 2004: The new sport-pilot license became official, and with it came an entirely new category of planes, the light-sport aircraft (LSA).
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While only a handful of currently certified aircraft can qualify as LSA (including Aeronca Chiefs and Champs, Piper Cubs, Luscombes and Taylorcraft), the new ruling is expected to bring a gaggle of new airplanes to the market. One reason is the revolutionary shift of the LSA certification process. Rather than going through the hugely expensive FAA type certification that’s required of private aircraft for a normal category airworthiness certificate, the process will now adhere to industry consensus standards as put forward by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This will allow the LSA manufacturers to certify aircraft much quicker and with less expense.

The consensus standards were created through a continuous debate between the manufacturers, government, potential users and affiliated organizations. They addressed issues regarding design and performance, quality assurance, production acceptance and safety monitoring for LSA. Several panel members expressed that the cooperation and harmony that existed on the panel was unprecedented.

Ram Pattisapu, president of IndUS Aviation, was one of the manufacturers who was involved, and he said that “this process created a much more sensible standard than if the government alone had created it. It’s simple and compact, yet everything was addressed. And any future modifications to the rule will be much easier to handle.”

Pattisapu continues, “It’ll also enable more interplay between the U.S. and other parts of the world in terms of aircraft manufacturing that was impossible with the bureaucracy involved with the previous small aircraft rules.” IndUS Aviation holds the type certificate for the Thorpe T211 and will now manufacture parts of the aircraft in India.

Many established kit aircraft builders are jumping headfirst into certifying sport aircraft. Rans Aircraft’s S-7S is already certified, and the company has a dozen airplanes that qualify under the new rules.

“We’re making the paradigm shift from kit airplanes to the certified market,” says Randy Schlitter, the president and founder of Rans. “We think that there’s a healthy market for the sport-pilot planes and expect to sell between 300 and 600 planes a year.”

Price tags on the category of aircraft will vary, but they’ll be more in line now with the cost of an automobile. Many of the new, certified fixed-wing aircraft are expected to cost between $20,000 and $60,000.

And for those who re looking to save even more money, the sport-pilot rules have added a completely new airworthiness certificate for experimental LSA. These do-it-yourself kits will be even less expensive than the ready-to-fly versions.


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