Many have asked about progress on FAA’s proposed rewrite of the Light-Sport Aircraft regulations. Following a lengthy teleconference at the end of June 2019, LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, provided another update. The update to industry covered a lot of ground but here we’ve tried to make it a quicker read. Two key points: First, FAA is in the early stages of this rulemaking; at least minor changes are certain. FAA itself does not know all the specific details of the proposed rule at this time. Secondly, the steps reported here come from actual rule writers but their effort has support from top FAA leadership. Driven by a Congressional mandate we know this will go forward. LSA Is a Success Story For 15 years Light-Sport Aircraft and their producers have proven themselves, LAMA argued. FAA concurred; the agency has often referred to the safety record as “acceptable,” reasonably high praise from regulators.
LSA Is a Success StoryFor 15 years Light-Sport Aircraft and their producers have proven themselves, LAMA argued. FAA concurred; the agency has often referred to the safety record as "acceptable," reasonably high praise from regulators. “A lot of [the rule change] is based on the [generally positive] experience with LSA,” FAA noted. They also said the revised regulation will be “less prescriptive, more performance-based.” This is seen as a deregulatory effort by the agency. Regarding the much-anticipated max weight increase, FAA refers to a "Power Index." This term means a formula-based method to replace maximum takeoff weight in the definition of a LSA, involving wing area, horsepower, and takeoff weight. FAA is also looking at up to four seats, “for personal use and for flight training.” Airspeeds — referring to maximum horizontal and never-to-exceed speeds (Vh and Vne) — may be higher than in the current rule, but will still be limited. Neither will FAA be prescriptive about (that is, tightly defining) powerplants. The 2004 version of the LSA rule prohibited electric motors because rule writers wanted to discourage turbine power and therefore specified reciprocating engines, which knocked out electric. FAA will now consider both electric and hybrid. Yet FAA was clear, “Movement of people for hire (such as the multicopter air taxis proposed by numerous companies) is not part of this.” FAA is also reviewing what type of mechanics (LSR-M or A&P) can do what kind of work on specific systems of aircraft (examples: in-flight adjustable prop or electric propulsion systems).
When Will the New Rule Emerge?One of the most-asked questions is when will this rule be announced, meaning when will an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) be published for public comment. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes a deadline of 2023 for implementing a key mandate that suggests the longest it should take. Once an NPRM is published, a comment period follows to hear from the public after which FAA needs time to address the concerns raised during that comment period. After closure of that comment period, the FAA has 16 months to publish the Final Rule. Throughout the LAMA/FAA teleconference some ideas were repeated by FAA personnel…
- “The former (current) regulation “was unnecessarily restrictive.“
- FAA wants the revised regulation to “allow the industry to do more.”