[4910-13]

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Parts 1, 21, 43, 45, 61, 65, and 91

[Docket No.  FAA–2001–11133; Amendment No. 1-53; 21-85; 43-39; 45-24; 61-110; 65-45; 91-282]

RIN 2120–AH19

Certification of Aircraft and Airmen for the Operation of Light-Sport Aircraft

AGENCY:  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION:  Final rule.

SUMMARY:  The FAA is creating a new rule for the manufacture, certification, operation, and maintenance of light-sport aircraft.  Light-sport aircraft weigh less than 1,320 pounds (1,430 pounds for aircraft intended for operation on water) and are heavier and faster than ultralight vehicles and include airplanes, gliders, balloons, powered parachutes, weight-shift-control aircraft, and gyroplanes.  This action is necessary to address advances in sport and recreational aviation technology, lack of appropriate regulations for existing aircraft, several petitions for rulemaking, and petitions for exemptions from existing regulations.  The intended effect of this action is to provide for the manufacture of safe and economical certificated aircraft that exceed the limits currently allowed by ultralight regulation, and to allow operation of these aircraft by certificated pilots for sport and recreation, to carry a passenger, and to conduct flight training and towing in a safe manner.

DATES:  Effective September 1, 2004.     

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  For questions on airman certification and operational issues (parts 1, 61, and 91 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR)), contact Susan Gardner, Flight Standards Service, General Aviation and Commercial Division (AFS–800), Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone 907-271-2034 or 202-267-8212.  .  

For questions on aircraft certification and identification (14 CFR parts 21 and 45), contact Scott Sedgwick, Aircraft Certification Service, Small Airplane Directorate (ACE-100), Federal Aviation Administration, 901 Locust Street, Kansas City, MO 64106; telephone 816-329-2464; fax 816-329-4090; e-mail 9-ACE-AVR-SPORTPILOT-QUESTIONS@faa.gov.

            For questions on aircraft maintenance and repairman certification (14 CFR parts 43 and 65), contact Bill O’Brien, Aircraft Maintenance Division (AFS-305), Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267-3796.       

In addition, information on the implementation of this rule is available on http://AFS600.faa.gov.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability of Rulemaking Documents

You can get an electronic copy using the Internet by—

(1)  Searching the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) electronic Docket Management System (DMS) Web page (http://dms.dot.gov/search).

(2)  Visiting the FAA Office of Rulemaking’s Web page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/arm/index.cfn.

(3)  Accessing the Government Printing Office’s Web page at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html.

You can also get a copy by submitting a request to the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM–1, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267–9680.  Identify the amendment number or docket number of this rulemaking.

You may search the electronic form of all comments received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf of an association, business, or labor union, etc.).  You may review DOT’s complete Privacy Act statement in the April 11, 2000 Federal Register (65 FR 19477) or at http://dms.dot.gov.

 

Implementation Information

The FAA spent a considerable amount of time determining the effective date of the final rule. Based on a review of the planning and scheduling of the tasks necessary to support the development of the infrastructure to implement the final rule, the agency believes that it had two options in determining this date. The first option was to establish the effective date of the rule after all of the guidance, policy, and infrastructure was in place to implement the rule. The FAA considered the economic impact of delaying the implementation of the rule while waiting for all of this material to be completed and believes that such action would not be in the best interest of those persons affected by the rule.  Additionally, the complexity of the rule and the interrelationship among many of its new provisions makes the use of more than a single effective date for the rule difficult to implement.  The second option was to select an effective date shortly after publication of the rule in the Federal Register.   The FAA could then provide the public with many of the benefits of the rule while concurrently carrying out a plan for implementing other portions of the rule. The plan will contain milestones for completion of the specific guidance, policy, and infrastructure necessary for the public to conduct operations and seek certification under the new regulations. Selection of this option, for example, will permit currently certificated pilots to take advantage of many of the benefits of the new rule, such as those provisions relating to the exercise of sport pilot privileges without the necessity of holding an airman medical certificate. The infrastructure to implement other provisions of the rule can be developed during this period.

Due to the agency’s intent to provide the public with as many of the benefits of the rule as soon as possible, the agency has established a single effective date of September 1, 2004 for the final rule.  Shortly after publication of this rule, the FAA will post an implementation plan for the rule on the FAA Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft Website, http://www.faa.gov/avr/afs/ sportpilot or http://AFS600.faa.gov.  The FAA recognizes that persons seeking certification as airmen under the rule or seeking the certification of light-sport aircraft under the rule will not be able to obtain such certification immediately after the rule’s effective date. The FAA, however, will work closely with the sport aviation community and those organizations that support its members to ensure that each milestone on the FAA's implementation plan is met and that information regarding implementation of the rule is made available in a timely manner.

The FAA has also reissued exemptions to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the United States Ultralight Organization (USUA), and Aero Sports Connection (ASC) that address flight training in ultralight vehicles. These revised exemptions from certain provisions of 14 CFR part 103 contain an expiration date of January 31, 2008.  This date coincides with the date established to transition existing ultralight training vehicles, single and two-place ultralight-like aircraft, and ultralight operators and instructors to the provisions of the final rule. 

 

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996 requires the FAA to comply with small entity requests for information or advice about compliance with statutes and regulations within its jurisdiction.  Therefore, any small entity that has a question regarding this document may contact its local FAA official, or the person listed under “FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT” above.  You can find out more about SBREFA on the Internet at http://www.faa.gov/avr/arm/sbrefa.htm.

 

Guide to Terms and Acronyms Frequently Used in This Document 

 

AD—Airworthiness Directive

AGL—Above ground level

AME—Aviation Medical Examiner

ARAC—Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee

ASC-- Aero Sports Connection

ATC—Air traffic control

BAA-- Bilateral Airworthiness Agreement

BASA-- Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement

CAS—Calibrated airspeed

DAR—Designated Airworthiness Representative

DPE—Designated pilot examiner

EAA—Experimental Aircraft Association

Experimental light-sport aircraft—Aircraft issued an experimental

certificate under §21.191 (i)

IFR—Instrument flight rules

LTA—Lighter-than-air

MSL—Mean sea level

NAS—National Airspace System

NM—Nautical mile

NTSB—National Transportation Safety Board

PMA—Parts Manufacturer Approval

SFAR—Special Federal Aviation Regulation

Special light-sport aircraft—Aircraft issued a special

airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category (or, aircraft

issued a special airworthiness certificate under §21.190)

STC—Supplemental type certificate

TC—Type certificate

TSO—Technical Standard Order

Ultralight-like aircraft—An unregistered aircraft that exceeds the parameters of part 103

            and meets the definition of “light-sport aircraft”

USUA—United States Ultralight Association

VH—Maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power

VNE—Maximum never-exceed speed

VS0—Maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed in landing configuration

VS1—Maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of

lift-enhancing devices

 

 

Outline of This Document

I.  The Proposed Rule

            I.1.  NPRM and On-Line Public Forum

            I.2.  Public Comment Period

            I.3.  Ex Parte Communications

II.  Purpose of This Final Rule

III.  General Discussion of Changes in the Final Rule

III.1.  FAA Judgment and Discretion 

III.2.  Summary of Significant Issues Raised By Commenters

III.3.  Security Concerns Related to Pilot Identification and Certification

III.4.  SFAR No. 89

III.5.A.  Comments on Ultralight Vehicles

III.5.B.  Future Rulemaking on Ultralight Vehicles

IV.  Comparative Tables

V.  Section–by-Section Discussion of Comments and Changes Incorporated Into the Final

Rule

V.1. Part 1

V.2. Part 21

V.3. Part 43

            V.3.A. Part 43--General Issues

            V.3.B. Part 43--Section-by-Section Discussion

V.4. Part 45

V.5. Part 61

            V.5.A.  Part 61--General Issues

                        V.5.A.i.  SFAR No. 89 Conversion Table

                        V.5.A.ii. Medical Provisions

                                    V.5.A.iii. Flight Training and Proficiency Requirements

V.5.A.iv. Make and Model Logbook Endorsements, and Sets

of Aircraft

                                    V.5.A.v. Changes to Airspace Restrictions

                                    V.5.A.vi. Changes to Altitude Limitations                               

                                    V.5.A.vii. Gyroplanes

                                    V.5.A.viii. Demonstration of Aircraft to Perspective Buyers

                                    V.5.A.ix. Category and Class Discussion: FAA Form 8710-11

Submission

                        V.5.B. Part 61 Section-by-Section Discussion

            V.6. Part 65

            V.7. Part 91

V.7.A. Part 91--General Issues

                        V.7.B.  Part 91--Section-by-Section Discussion

VI.  Plain Language

VII.  Paperwork Reduction Act

VIII.  International Compatibility

IX.  Economic Assessment

X.  Regulatory Flexibility Determination

XI.  Trade Impact Analysis

XII.  Unfunded Mandates Assessment

XIII. Executive Order 3132, Federalism

XIV.  Environmental Analysis

XV.  Energy Impact

XVI.  List of Subjects

 

           

 

I.  The Proposed Rule

I.1.  NPRM and On-Line Public Forum

On February 5, 2002 the FAA published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), “Certification of Aircraft and Airmen for the Operation of Light-Sport Aircraft” (67 FR 5368; Feb. 5, 2002), and requested comments by May 6, 2002.  In addition, the FAA held an on-line public forum from April 1, 2002, until April 19, 2002, during which time the FAA posed 15 questions on the Internet.  For a description of the on-line public forum and a list of the 15 questions, see the FAA’s announcement published in the Federal Register on March 19, 2002 (67 FR 12826; March 19, 2002).  The NPRM and the announcement of the on-line public forum are in the public docket for this rulemaking.

I.2. Public Comment Period

The FAA received over 4,700 comments to the NPRM.  Of those, 2,913 were in response to the publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register, and approximately 1,800 additional comments came through the on-line forum.  To read the on-line forum comments, go to the electronic docket address given above in the section entitled “Availability of Rulemaking Documents” and view item number 2676 in Docket No. FAA–2001–11133.  A detailed discussion of the public’s comments and the FAA’s responses are in “V. Section-by-Section Discussion of Comments and Changes Incorporated Into the Final Rule.

Most commenters expressed fundamental agreement with the FAA’s intent in proposing the rule.  While there were many comments containing specific criticisms of the proposed rule and suggestions for how the rule could be improved, few of the commenters expressed a complete disagreement with the FAA’s goal of providing for the manufacture of safe and economical aircraft and to allow operation of these aircraft by the public in a safe manner.  Some comments contained numerous specific suggestions and criticisms, yet were prefaced by a statement of support for the FAA’s efforts to make aviation more accessible to the general public.  It should be noted that, while not substantial in number, several commenters expressed a fundamental disagreement with the FAA’s proposed action, based upon a lack of confidence in the ultralight community.  The commenters did not support these concerns with accompanying data.

 

I.3.  Ex Parte Communications

The FAA worked closely with industry associations on this rulemaking in a number of ways.  FAA staff conducted informational sessions with interested groups to determine how these rules, if adopted, should best be implemented.  The FAA also assisted manufacturers in the development of consensus standards for light-sport aircraft.  The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and others met with the FAA repeatedly to urge the completion of this rulemaking as quickly as possible so as to meet the public need for authority to engage in activities permitted under this rule.

On occasion, FAA personnel met with interested organizations to discuss specific aspects of the NPRM and to determine, based on information received from these groups, how the NPRM should be modified.  The issues discussed, however, were also set out in numerous comments to the public docket.  These discussions, while of an ex parte nature, have helped to develop a final rule that is responsive to the comments.  The revisions to the NPRM, as adopted in this final rule, respond to written and oral concerns raised by individuals and organizations.  This final rule reflects the FAA’s independent judgment as to the appropriate level of safety for the manufacture and operation of light-sport aircraft.

II.  Purpose of This Rule

The FAA intends this rule to--

·        Increase safety in the light-sport aircraft community by closing the gaps in existing regulations and by accommodating new advances in technology.

·        Provide for the manufacture of light-sport aircraft that are safe for their intended operations.

·        Allow operation of light-sport aircraft exceeding the limits of ultralight vehicles operated under 14 CFR part 103, with a passenger and for flight training, rental, and towing.

·        Establish training and certification requirements for repairman (light-sport aircraft) to maintain and inspect light-sport aircraft.

 

The rule is designed to allow individuals to experience sport and recreational aviation in a manner that is safe for the intended operations, but not overly burdensome.  By bringing these individuals under a new regulatory framework, the FAA believes this rule lays the groundwork for enhancing safety in the light-sport aircraft category.

This rule does not change existing aircraft certification or maintenance regulations for aircraft already issued an airworthiness certificate, such as a standard, primary, or special certificate (e.g., experimental amateur-built and experimental exhibition aircraft).  However, as discussed in the section-by-section preamble discussion for §1.1, Definition of Light-Sport Aircraft, a sport pilot can operate an aircraft meeting the light-sport aircraft definition in §1.1, regardless of the airworthiness certificate issued.  In addition, this rule does not change existing part 103 requirements. 

A more detailed discussion and justification for the rule can be found in the preamble to the NPRM published in the Federal Register on February 5, 2002.  On page 5370 of that Federal Register publication, is a section entitled “Effects of the Proposal on the Public and Industry” that gives answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).  These questions and answers have been updated on the FAA’s website (http://faa.gov/avr/afs/sportpilot and click on FAQs) to reflect the changes being adopted in this final rule.

 

III.  General Discussion of Changes in the Final Rule

 

III.1.  FAA Judgment and Discretion

            As the following summary reflects, commenters provided a variety of suggestions for the rule.  As discussed more completely in the section-by-section discussions that follow, the FAA carefully considered the comments.  Besides the specific issues in the comments, the FAA weighed two factors in adopting, modifying, or rejecting the comments. 

First, the FAA is making decisions in a new area for regulation.  Although some experience exists in similar aircraft, the rule anticipates growth and change in the industry.  There are areas where only time and experience will determine whether these regulatory provisions meet the FAA’s expectations or require modification.  There is room for debate and disagreement, and the FAA is prepared to make changes when appropriate.  But in the FAA’s judgment, these standards strike a balance in favor of safety while allowing freedom to operate. 

Second, there are situations where a line must be drawn.  For example, the case can be made that the maximum weight or speed could be somewhat higher or lower than what is being adopted.  In these situations, the FAA is not establishing this rule with the intent of including or excluding specific aircraft.  Instead, the FAA is trying to objectively determine where the line should be drawn while considering the appropriate level of safety and the complexity of the operation.

 

III.2.  Summary of Significant Issues Raised By Commenters

While most commenters expressed a desire to see some aspect of the proposed rule revised, they either agreed with the proposed regulation overall or agreed with the intent of the proposal.  Most commenters believed the proposal would succeed if revised to address the issues they identified.

            Significant issues raised by commenters are listed below, with reference to the corresponding proposal.  These issues account for approximately 80 percent of the comments.  They, and other comments on the NPRM, are discussed in detail under “V. Section-by-Section Discussion of Comments and Changes Incorporated Into the Final Rule.”

·        Towing: 1,298 comments

a.            Prohibition of towing of hangliders and paragliders by ultralight pilots; part 103--691 comments

b.            Prohibition of towing of hangliders and paragliders by light-sport aircraft; SFAR No. 89 section 73(b)(12)--607 comments

·        Section 1.1 definition of “light-sport aircraft”--122 comments

·        Maximum weight limits for light-sport aircraft; §1.1 definition of “light-sport aircraft” paragraph (1)--489 comments

·        Maximum speed in level flight under maximum continuous power for light-sport aircraft; §1.1 definition of “light-sport aircraft” paragraph (2)--141 comments

·        Maximum stall speed limits for light-sport aircraft; §1.1 definition of “light-sport aircraft” paragraph (4)--62 comments

·        Fixed or ground-adjustable propellers and repositionable landing gear on light-sport aircraft; §1.1 definition of “light-sport aircraft” paragraphs (8) and (11)--116 comments

·        Sport pilot certification (general comments on SFAR No. 89)--653 comments

·        Maximum speed limit on student pilot operation of light-sport aircraft; SFAR No. 89 section 35(e)--57 comments

·        Altitude limits on operation of light-sport aircraft; SFAR No. 89 section 73(b)(6)--55 comments

·        Logbook endorsement requirement for each make and model of light-sport aircraft; SFAR No. 89 section 61--129 comments.

·        Repairman certification; §65.107--159 comments

·        Existing exemptions for two-seat ultralight vehicles; part 103--288 comments.

·        Operation of ultralights that would be issued an experimental certificate;
§21.191 (i)--116 comments

·        Use of a U.S. driver’s license to establish medical eligibility; SFAR 89,
sections 15 and 111--230 comments

 

III.3. Security Concerns Related to Pilot Identification and Certification

 

One State’s Department of Transportation’s aeronautical division expressed concern that allowing persons with a driver’s license as a sole form of identification to have access to airports and the airspace system would reduce pilot identification standards and would lead to reduced security.  The commenter said that since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, airport security identification, as well as pilot identification, are under greater scrutiny, and that higher standards must be established to prevent unauthorized access to airports and aircraft.  The commenter went on to say that additional scrutiny provided by the process of obtaining a pilot certificate, an airman medical certificate, and passing an FAA practical test is a welcome safety enhancement at this time and must not be eliminated.

The FAA agrees that the additional scrutiny provided by the process of obtaining a pilot certificate, an airman medical certificate, and passing an FAA practical test enhances safety.  The FAA is not eliminating any of these certificate or testing requirements for holders of currently issued pilot certificates.  All persons operating an aircraft are required to possess a pilot certificate and pass a practical test.  All persons issued at least a recreational pilot certificate (except those operating gliders and balloons) are also required to possess an airman medical certificate.   This rulemaking action will bring persons who were formerly operating as ultralight pilots into an existing certification system that will provide further scrutiny of these individuals.  These ultralight pilots have not been required to have pilot certificates, possess airman medical certificates or driver’s licenses, or been required to take practical tests.  Therefore, they have not been subject to any level of government scrutiny.  Only sport pilots, or those seeking to exercise sport pilot privileges will be afforded the opportunity to exercise certificate privileges with either an airman medical certificate or a U.S. driver’s license.  These persons will be required to possess a pilot certificate and pass a practical test. 

Sport pilots, like all pilots, will have to hold and possess their sport or student pilot certificates at all times when operating light-sport aircraft.  Recent FAA rulemaking requires all pilots to carry photo identification when exercising the privileges of a pilot certificate and to present it, if requested by the FAA, an authorized representative of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or a law enforcement officer (67 FR 65858; Oct. 28, 2002).  That rule will apply to all sport pilots. 

Additionally, the FAA is creating FAA Form 8710-11 “Sport Pilot Certificate and/or Rating Application.”  Information from the applicant’s U.S. driver’s license or airman medical certificate will be recorded on the form.

As a result of this new regulatory action, an estimated 15,000 persons operating ultralight-like aircraft now will be required to hold pilot certificates.  In addition, persons performing work on light-sport aircraft will be required to hold repairman (light-sport aircraft) certificates.  According to new security procedures, their names will be entered into the FAA airman registry.  In addition, all existing unregistered ultralight-like aircraft and two-place utralight training vehicles will now, as certificated aircraft, be required to display an “N” registration number.  These numbers will also be entered into the FAA aircraft registry.  This will enable the TSA to conduct any necessary security screening for certificated airmen and registered aircraft operating in the National Airspace System (NAS).

These new sport pilots will now be required to make themselves aware of safety- and security-related information contained in notices to airmen (NOTAMs). Currently, operators of ultralight vehicles are not required to review these NOTAMs; although those who receive voluntary training and participate in industry-provided ultralight programs are encouraged to access this information that is made available through their organizations.

 

III.4.  SFAR No. 89

The FAA proposed most of the sport pilot certification requirements as a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR).  After further consideration, the FAA decided not to use the SFAR, but to codify most of the requirements as new subparts J and K of part 61, and the remainder in the existing structure of part 61.  The SFAR format is appropriate to regulate operations in a very narrow set of circumstances, to address a temporary situation, or both.  However, light-sport aircraft and their operation will be a significant segment of aviation and will require long-term regulatory oversight.

For the convenience of the user, a table showing how the sections of SFAR No. 89 were incorporated into part 61 is provided under “V. Section-by-Section Discussion of Comments and Changes Incorporated Into the Final Rule.”

 

III.5.A. Comments on Ultralight Vehicles 

The comments regarding ultralight vehicles were so significant, that, except for towing issues, a response is presented here, rather than in the section-by-section analysis below.  A total of 1,586 comments were related to the operation of ultralights under the proposed rule.  Of those, 1,298 comments addressed ultralight towing, specifically—

·        The prohibition on towing hangliders and paragliders by ultralight pilots; part 103--691 comments; and

·        The prohibition on towing hangliders and paragliders by light-sport aircraft; SFAR No. 89 section 73 (b)(12)--607 comments. 

 

Towing issues are discussed in the section-by-section analysis for §61.69.

Four hundred and four comments addressed--(1) eliminating existing exemptions from part 103 (288 comments) and (2) reclassifying aircraft operating under exemptions to part 103 as light-sport aircraft under §21.191 (i) (116 comments).  The commenters were nearly uniform in their opposition to eliminating existing exemptions from part 103 and codifying the exemptions into parts 21 and 61.  The majority of commenters opposed including ultralights in the proposed regulation.  Almost all commenters suggested keeping ultralight regulation as it is, but incorporating existing exemptions from part 103 into that part. 

Part 103 defines an ultralight vehicle and prescribes the operating rules for these vehicles. An ultralight vehicle is either an unpowered or powered vehicle with certain weight, speed, and other limits, as prescribed in §103.1.  An ultralight vehicle can carry only one occupant and be used for sport and recreational purposes.  The ultralight industry has established voluntary training programs and recommended maintenance practices.  In an effort to encourage the use of these voluntary training programs, the FAA has granted exemptions to part 103 that allow—

·      Training and proficiency flights to be conducted in a two-place ultralight vehicle operated by an ultralight flight instructor or ultralight student.

·      Tandem training operations for hang gliders and powered paragliders conducted by an ultralight flight instructor or ultralight student.

·        Towing operations in a single-seat and two‑seat ultralight-like aircraft to facilitate operations and training in an ultralight vehicle that is a hang glider, glider, or paraglider.

 

The FAA has granted these exemptions to part 103 to gather data and to temporarily meet the training needs for persons operating ultralight vehicles and to resolve operational issues such as towing. 

Commenters contended that eliminating existing training exemptions from part 103 would--

·        Force unregistered two-place training ultralights to be classified as experimental light-sport aircraft, which would prevent their use for compensation or hire and increase the operating costs of these aircraft; and

·        Place unregistered single-place and two-place ultralight-like aircraft and standard category aircraft under the same regulation.

 

Many of these commenters specifically referred to the United States Ultralight Association (USUA)’s comprehensive suggestion for a two-tiered approach for the regulation of ultralight vehicles and light-sport aircraft.  USUA recommended that the FAA not only retain the proposed regulations for light-sport aircraft, but also adopt additional regulations codifying long-standing FAA exemptions for two-place ultralight training.  One set of regulations (Tier I) would address single- and two-place ultralight-like aircraft.  Single-place aircraft would be limited to 360 pounds empty weight (662 pounds maximum gross weight), 10 gallons maximum fuel capacity, 32 knots maximum power-off stall speed, and 72 knots VH.  Two-place aircraft under Tier I would be limited to 496 pounds empty weight (992 pounds maximum gross weight), 10 gallons maximum fuel capacity, 35 knots maximum power-off stall speed, and 75 knots VH.  Another set of regulations (Tier II) would address light-sport airplanes, using the weight and performance limits as proposed in the NPRM. 

USUA’s suggested regulations for ultralight vehicles would accommodate both “fat single- and two-place ultralight aircraft.”  USUA stated that this regulation could require registration of these aircraft.  This action would enable the FAA to provide safety information to the owners and permit training for compensation, as permitted under current exemptions.  USUA noted that these ultralight vehicles would have more restrictions than light-sport aircraft.  For example, they would not be permitted to operate over congested areas, and would require prior air traffic control (ATC) permission for flight in controlled airspace. 

USUA was unequivocal in its comments on the proposed rule, stating that the FAA must update ultralight regulations to better reflect the manner in which ultralights are currently flown in the United States.  USUA stated that two-place ultralights have become heavier since part 103 was established in 1980, and that two-seat ultralight training has become common as a result of the training exemptions.  The USUA stated that its suggested regulatory approach would include two‑seat and single-seat unregistered ultralight-like aircraft, allowing for a permanent solution to the ongoing problem of how to regulate ultralights that do not comply with part 103.

USUA clearly stated that ultralight pilots want the part 103 training exemption provisions used by USUA and other ultralight associations incorporated in the regulations.  USUA noted that its recommendation to expand the parameters of ultralight vehicles currently regulated by part 103 has an international precedent in Europe.  USUA also noted that the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), the world governing body of air sports activities, has defined microlights as weighing up to 450 kg (992 pounds) gross weight, with a stall speed no greater than 65 kilometers per hour (kph) (35 knots), and the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) have accepted this definition.

Regarding airspeed, the rule allows a sport pilot to fly only a light-sport aircraft that has a maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (VH) of 87 knots CAS or less, unless he or she receives additional training and a one-time endorsement to operate a light-sport aircraft with a VH up to 120 knots CAS. 

On the weight criterion, the FAA proposed a weight limit of 1,232 pounds, which is increased to 1,320 pounds in the final rule for aircraft not intended for operation on water.  This weight is maximum gross takeoff weight and is essentially equivalent to the empty weight suggested by USUA.  The gross takeoff weight includes the added weight of two passengers, ten or more gallons of fuel, one or more pieces of luggage, and a ballistic parachute carried on an aircraft.  This weight allows the aircraft to be constructed with stronger materials, to use stronger landing gear, and to use a heavier and more powerful four-stroke engine.  All of these items were specifically requested by industry and other commenters, most often in the interest of safety.  The consensus standards will address a minimum weight for design standards for a single-place light-sport aircraft.   

USUA’s recommendation was influential on the ultralight community.  Most commenters addressing the subject of ultralights simply recommended that the FAA adopt the USUA’s two-tiered approach; however, many of these commenters did not supply any analysis to support their recommendation. 

Concerning the aircraft certification component of the USUA’s proposed two-tiered concept, the FAA believes that the use of consensus standards is appropriate for aircraft that exceed the parameters of ultralight vehicles as specified in part 103, yet do not exceed the parameters of a light-sport aircraft.  The FAA believes that the operating characteristics of these aircraft necessitate their certification.  However, their characteristics and the operations that they will be used to conduct do not warrant the more extensive certification standards applied to primary or standard category aircraft.  The FAA believes that the use of consensus standards provides a level of safety appropriate for the operation of the aircraft. 

Concerning the regulation of airmen and flight operations, FAA does not completely agree with USUA’s proposal.  The FAA does not agree that the part 103 operating environment is appropriate for the larger, heavier, higher performance aircraft USUA’s proposal identifies as “Tier 1– Ultralight Aircraft.”  The FAA acknowledges the safety benefits for aircraft design and manufacturing and airman training that have resulted from the exemption process; however, the FAA believes that the operational characteristics of these aircraft are of such a degree that a more comprehensive regulatory structure should be applicable to their operation.

Like USUA, most commenters who are ultralight pilots stated that ultralights fundamentally differ from standard category aircraft, and that the FAA should continue to regulate ultralights, regardless of their size, under part 103.  For two reasons, the FAA disagrees with the suggestion that all ultralight-like aircraft should be regulated under part 103, either with incorporations of the existing training exemptions or with a continuation of the current exemptions. 

First, that approach would not provide the solution recommended specifically by the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC).  USUA chaired the ARAC working group that addressed the regulation of ultralight vehicles.  That working group of the committee was made up of members of the ultralight industry and produced a comprehensive recommendation to the FAA regarding ultralight regulation.  The FAA notes that the ARAC recommendation did not include USUA’s proposal to expand part 103 to include larger aircraft.  The ARAC recommendation did, however, include the USUA’s position as a dissenting opinion.  ARAC’s recommendation to focus on appropriate training for sport pilots served as the basis for the FAA’s proposed rule.  ARAC’s recommendation did not propose either the continuation of existing part 103 exemptions, or the codification of those exemptions into part 103.  See the discussion in the preamble of the NPRM, “Section V.  The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC).”

Second, the FAA issued exemptions to temporarily resolve training issues and operational issues such as towing.  In the preamble to the rule establishing part 103 (47 FR 38776; Sept. 2, 1982), the FAA explained its rationale for permitting no more than a single occupant in an ultralight vehicle.  The FAA noted that the general public might incorrectly assume that an ultralight operator possesses certain minimum qualifications and has met specific requirements resulting in the issuance of a pilot certificate.  The public would be unaware of the risks that an ultralight pilot assumes with the operation of an uncertificated ultralight vehicle.  The FAA still believes that it would be inappropriate to permit the operation of larger and more capable ultralight-like aircraft without the benefits afforded by the certification of these aircraft and their pilots.  In addition, extending current training exemptions on a long-term basis would be an inappropriate use of the exemption process.  It would not allow the FAA to address the many other regulatory changes contemplated in this rulemaking. 

This rule is intended to provide a comprehensive regulatory approach that extends beyond the ultralight community.  A significant purpose of the rule is to certificate those two-seat ultralight-like aircraft previously operated under part 103 training exemptions and those two-seat and single-seat unregistered ultralight-like aircraft operating outside of the regulations. 

Several commenters noted that the speed differential between ultralights and standard category aircraft makes their operation in the same airspace dangerous.  However, USUA recommended a continuation of the current practice allowed under part 103, which permits flights in controlled airspace (Class A, B, C, D, and surface-based Class E) with prior ATC permission.  These flights may occur at any altitude, with no equipment requirements for communication, navigation, or identification, and with no required pilot training.

The FAA has considered the comments on the issue of speed differentials and operations in controlled airspace.  As adopted, a sport pilot operating a light-sport aircraft will be prohibited from operating in Class A airspace and from operating above 10,000 feet mean sea level (MSL).  A sport pilot is authorized to operate in Class G and E airspace.  With training on airspace requirements and communications equivalent to the training requirements for a private pilot, and a one-time endorsement from an authorized instructor, a sport pilot can operate in Class B, C, and D airspace and to, from, through, or at an airport having an operational control tower.  A sport pilot can only do so, however, if the light-sport aircraft he or she is operating is properly equipped and authorized for that operation.  The FAA is also providing that, like a student pilot, a sport pilot will not be authorized to take off or land at any of the airports listed in part 91, appendix D, section 4.  For a complete discussion, see “V.5.A.v. Changes to Airspace Restrictions” and the discussion of §91.131 below.

The FAA notes that many of USUA’s suggestions were incorporated in the FAA’s proposal.  The FAA agreed with the recommendation that it not permit flight at night.  However, the rule will permit special light-sport aircraft to fly over cities.  The use of light-sport aircraft engines that meet consensus standards for powerplant performance and reliability will make any prohibition of flight over cities unnecessary.  Experimental light-sport aircraft (the existing fleet of ultralight-like aircraft) will continue to be restricted to flight over uncongested areas.  The rule provides more privileges than the two-tier system suggested by USUA.  The rule allows the carriage of a passenger for purposes other than flight training, which has never been allowed under part 103 or the part 103 training exemptions.  The rule establishes new categories of airman ratings and two new classes of aircraft—(1) weight-shift-control, and (2) powered parachute.  The rule allows a special light-sport aircraft owner to accept compensation for the use of the aircraft for flight training or towing a glider or unpowered ultralight vehicle.  It also allows a light-sport aircraft owner to accept compensation for rental of the aircraft.  Neither of these privileges had been allowed under the part 103 exemptions.  The rule establishes the requirements for repairmen (light-sport aircraft) to maintain and inspect the newly certificated experimental and special light-sport aircraft.  Finally, the final rule addresses the concern that it will limit or prevent the use of currently unregistered ultralight-like aircraft.  The FAA revised the final rule to assist those who have been operating two-seat ultralight-like aircraft under the part 103 training exemptions.  The rule provides a 5-year period during which persons may continue to operate their two-place ultralight-like aircraft and receive compensation for flight training, provided those aircraft are certificated as experimental light-sport aircraft.  The FAA expects that in the long term, instructors operating light-sport aircraft previously classified as two-seat ultralight-like aircraft will provide instruction at a lower cost and with greater safety.

In some cases, the rule is more restrictive than USUA’s recommendation, but the FAA is using a building-block approach in extending privileges to sport pilots.  The rule permits a sport pilot to obtain additional training to permit the exercise of additional privileges at a later time.  In the proposed rule, the FAA stated that there would be many safety benefits to certificating sport pilots, light-sport aircraft, and the repairman who would maintain these aircraft that would not be realized under the USUA proposal.  For a complete discussion of these safety benefits and alternatives refer to the discussion in the preamble of the NPRM, “IV. Background--B. The FAA’s Reason for This Proposal.”   

 

III.5.B. Future Rulemaking on Ultralight Vehicles

The NPRM did not address, nor does the final rule address, the use of hangliders, paragliders and powered paragliders in tandem operations and training.  There is a need to address these issues, but the FAA did not examine questions in this area for this rule.  Rather than delay this rule to include these issues, the FAA intends to initiate a separate rulemaking action.  Until that can be completed, the FAA intends to maintain the status quo for these operations by continuing or reissuing training exemptions as necessary. 

 

IV.  Comparative Tables

The following tables provide a quick comparison of regulations governing light-sport aircraft and other aircraft.

Abbreviations Used In Tables

A&P—Airframe and powerplant

CFI—Certificated flight instructor

CTD—Computer Testing Designee

DPE—Designated Pilot Examiner

ELSA--Experimental light-sport aircraft

EW—Empty weight

IFR—Instrument flight rules

LS-I—Light-sport—Inspection

LS-M—Light-sport—Maintenance

M/M—Make and model

MTOW—Maximum takeoff weight

PIC—Pilot in command

PMA—Parts Manufacturer Approval

SLSA—Special light-sport aircraft

SP—Sport pilot

STC—Supplemental Type Certificate

TC—Type Certificate

TSO—Technical Standard Order

VFR—Visual flight rules


 

Light-Sport Aircraft Maintenance and Certification Requirements

 

 

Ultralights, part

103--254 pounds EW

 

ELSA under §21.191 (i)-- 1,320 pounds MTOW

SLSA under  §21.190--1,320 pounds MTOW

Amateur-built under §21.191 (g)--No MTOW

Primary aircraft under §21.24--2,700 pounds MTOW

Standard aircraft under §21.21--No MTOW

Regist-ration “N” number

 

None

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Airworth-iness

Certificate

None

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Operating

privileges and limits (may be restricted by pilot certificate or aircraft operating limitations)

·       Day

·       VFR

·       Uncong-ested areas only

·       Class A, B, C, D, and surface-based E airspace; ATC permission required (no equipment required)

·       Class E and G airspace

·       No passengers

·       Flight training (under part 103 two-place training exemption)

·       Towing (under part 103 towing exemption)

·       Day/night

·       VFR/IFR

·       Congested and uncongested areas

·       Class A, B, C, D, E and G airspace; (with part 91 equipment)

·       One passenger

·       Limited flight training (5 years under §91.319 (e)(2))

·       Towing existing fleet (under §91.319 (e)(1))

·       Day/night

·       VFR/IFR

·       Congested and uncongested areas

·       Class A, B, C, D, E and G airspace;  (with part 91 equipment)

·       One passenger

·       Flight training and rental

·       Towing

 

·       Day/night

·       VFR/IFR

·       Congested and uncongested areas

·       Class A, B, C, D, E and G airspace;  (with part 91 equipment)

·       Day/night

·       VFR/IFR

·       Congested and uncongested areas

·       Class A, B, C, D, E and G airspace;  (with part 91 equipment)

·       Flight training and rental

·       Towing

·       Day/night

·       VFR/IFR

·       Congested and uncongested areas

·       Class A, B, C, D, E and G airspace;  (with part 91 equipment)

·       Flight training and rental

·       Com-

mercial operations

Mainten-ance

None

Owner- maintained

Maintenance--

·       Repairman (LS-M)

·       Mechanic (A&P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

Preventive maintenance--

·       Sport pilot or higher

Owner-maintained

 

Maintenance--

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

 

 

Preventive maintenance--

·       Recreation-al pilot or higher 

Maintenance --

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

 

 

Preventive maintenance –

·       Recreation-al pilot or higher

Inspect-ions

None (1)

Annual con-

dition--

·       Repairman LS –I and LS-M

·       Mechanic

(A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

100-hour condition (2)--

·       Repairman LS-M

·       Mechanic

(A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

Annual condition--

·       Repairman LS - M

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

 

 

100-hour condition (3)--

·       Repairman LS-M

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

Annual condition--

·       Repairman (experimental aircraft builder)

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 repair station

 

 

 

 

Annual condition--

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 repair station

 

 

 

 

100-hour condition (4)--

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

Annual condition--

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 Repair station

 

 

 

 

100-hour condition (4)--

·       Mechanic (A & P)

·       Part 145 repair station

Airworth-iness

Directives

None

None issued against ELSA

Yes – Type certificated TC/STC/PMA/TSO-approved products, if installed

None issued against amateur-built aircraft

Yes

Yes

Safety Directives

None

None

Yes

None

None

None

FAA Type or Product-ion

Certificate

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Consensus Standard

No

No (5)

Yes

No

No

No

 

 

(1)     For two-place ultralight training vehicles operating under an exemption and registered with an FAA-recognized ultralight organization – 100-hour condition inspection done by ultralight instructor registered with an FAA-recognized ultralight organization.

(2)     Applies to training aircraft used for compensation until January 31, 2010 , and tow aircraft used for compensation

(3)     Applies to aircraft used for flight training or towing for compensation

(4)     Applies to aircraft used for flight instruction for hire – §91.409

(5)     ELSA – Kit-built (§21.191(i)(2)(ii)) or aircraft that have been previously issued a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category (§21.191 (i)(3)) meet consensus standards


 

Aircraft Authorized That May Be Operated By Pilots

 

 

Part 103 Ultralight

 

Weight:

(254 EW)

 

(496 EW–2-place trainer operating under part 103 exemption)

 

Aircraft Certification:

None - Ultralight Vehicle

Light-Sport Aircraft

 

Weight:

(1,320/1,430 Floats and amphibious MTOW)

 

 

 

 

Aircraft Certification:

ELSA, SLSA, Limited, Restricted, Primary, Standard

Small Aircraft

 

 

Weight:

(< 12, 500 MTOW)

 

 

 

 

 

Aircraft Certification:

ELSA, SLSA, Limited, Restricted, Primary, Standard

Ultralight pilot

 

Ultralight instructor

 

Yes

No

No

Sport Pilot

Yes

Yes

Yes, if aircraft meets the definition of “light-sport aircraft” in §1.1

Recreational Pilot

Yes

Yes

Yes – 4-place/2 passengers;

180 horsepower, single-engine, non-complex

rotorcraft/airplane

Private Pilot

Yes

Yes

Yes

CFI – Sport Pilot

Yes

Yes

Yes, if aircraft meets the definition of “light-sport aircraft” in §1.1

CFI

Yes

Yes

Yes

 


 

Pilot Certification Eligibility, Training and Testing Requirements

 

 

 

 

Medical Eligibility

Training Requirements

Testing Requirements

Add-On Privileges or Ratings

Ultralight Pilot

 

None

None

None

No

Ultralight Instructor

None

None

None

None

Sport Pilot

Current and valid U.S. driver’s license unless §61.303(b) applies

 

Or

 

Valid medical certificate issued under part 67

 

Gliders and balloons—Airman medical certificate not required

Airplane, Gyro, weight-shift-control,

and airships

 

20 Hours – Total

15 Hours – Flight training

5 Hours – Solo

2 Hours – Dual Cross Country

1 Solo Cross Country

3 Hours – Prep

(Registered ultralight pilots with FAA-recognized ultralight

organizations may be given credit until January 31, 2007

 

Other requirements for powered parachutes, gliders, balloons

CFI or CFI-SP Recommendation –

 

Knowledge test

 

Practical test

 

Cat/Class Privileges–

Training – CFI or CFI-SP

 

Recommendation –CFI or CFI-SP

 

Proficiency Check –Different CFI or CFI-SP

 

Endorsement/Form 8710-11

 

Make and model (to operate aircraft within a set of aircraft)

 

Class B, C, D

 

VH> 87 Knots CAS--

 

Training –CFI or CFI-SP

 

Endorsement - CFI or CFI-SP

 

Recreational Pilot

Third-class medical certificate issued under part 67

 

Except for gliders and balloons  - Medical eligibility not required

Airplane and Rotorcraft

 

30 Hours – Total

15 Hours – Flight training

3 Hours – Solo

2 Hours – Flight training cross country-(limited 50 NM range from departure airport, permitted with additional training (see §61.101 (c))

3 Hours – Prep

CFI Recommendation -

 

Knowledge test 

 

Practical test 

 

 

Cat/Class Rating –

Training – CFI

 

Recommendation – CFI

 

Practical test -

Cat/class rating Issued

 

(Make and model – training recommended)

 

Class B, C, D

 

Training – CFI

 

Endorsement - CFI

 

Private Pilot

Third-class medical issued under part 67

 

Except for gliders and balloons -- Medical eligibility not required

For airplanes:

40 Hours – Total

20 Hours – Flight training

10 Hours – Solo

3 Hours – Flight training cross country

5 Hours – Solo cross country

3 Hours – Prep

3 Hours—Night

3 Hours—Instrument training

CFI Recommendation –

 

Knowledge test –

 

Practical Test –

 

Cat/Class Rating –

Training – CFI

 

Recommendation – CFI

 

Practical Test

 

 

Commercial Pilot

Second-class Medical certificate Issued under part 67

 

Except for gliders and balloons --Medical eligibility not required

For airplanes:

250 Hours – Total

 

Additional flight training requirements for each category and class

 

 

CFI Recommendation –

 

Knowledge test –

 

Practical Test –

 

 

 

Cat/Class Rating –

Training – CFI

 

Recommendation – CFI

 

Practical Test

 

CFI – Sport Pilot

Current and valid U.S. driver’s license unless §61.303(b) applies

 

 Or

 

Valid airman medical certificate issued under part 67---Only required when acting as pilot in command

 

 

Gliders and balloons—Airman medical certificate not required

 

150 Hours – Total

 

Additional flight training requirements for each category and class

 

 

Sport Pilot certificate or higher

 

Category and class privileges or rating

 

 

 

CFI Recommendation –

 

Knowledge test –

 

Practical test –

 

 

 

 

Cat/Class Privilege–

Training –CFI or CFI-SP

 

Recommendation –CFI or CFI-SP

 

Proficiency check – Different -CFI or CFI-SP

 

Endorsement/Form 8710-11

 

Make and model

  5 hours PIC

Endorsements—Must have those endorsements required to exercise pilot privileges in the aircraft

 

CFI

Valid airman medical certificate issued under part 67--Only required when acting as pilot in command

 

 

Gliders and balloons—Airman medical certificate not required

 

ATP or Commercial certificate

(with Instrument Rating if appropriate)

Category/Class Rating

 

Additional flight training requirements for each category and class

CFI Recommendation –

 

Knowledge test –

 

Practical test –

 

 

 

 

Cat/Class Rating –

Training – CFI

 

Recommendation – CFI

 

Practical Test

 

 


 

Airman Certification – Operating Privileges and Limitations

 

 

Ultralight

Pilot

 

Sport Pilot

Recreational Pilot

Private Pilot

CFI – Sport Pilot

CFI

Day

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Night

No

No

No

Yes

No if exercising sport or recreational pilot privileges

Yes

VFR—visibility 3 miles or more

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

VFR—visibility less than 3 miles

Yes

No

No

Yes

No if exercising sport or recreational pilot privileges

Yes

IFR

No

No

No

Yes with instrument rating

No without an instrument rating

Yes with instrument rating

Passenger carriage

No

Yes – One Passenger

Yes – One Passenger

Yes

Yes

Yes

Compensation

No

No

No

Limited

Limited if exercising sport or recreational pilot privileges; Yes otherwise

Yes

Class A airspace

Yes with ATC authorization

No

No

Yes with instrument rating

No if exercising sport or recreational pilot privileges; Yes otherwise

Yes with instrument rating

Class B, C, D airspace

Yes with ATC authorization

Yes with training

Yes with training

Yes

Yes (additional training may be required)

Yes

Class E, G airspace

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

> 10, 000 MSL

Yes

No

No

Yes

No if exercising sport or recreational pilot privileges. Yes otherwise

Yes

< 10, 000 MSL

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Cross country

Yes

Yes

Yes with training

Yes

Yes (for recreational pilot additional training is required)

Yes

> 120 knots CAS

No

No

Yes

Yes

No if exercising sport pilot privileges. Yes otherwise

Yes

<  87 knots CAS

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

>  87 knots CAS

Yes

Yes with training

Yes

Yes

Yes (additional training may be required)

Yes

 

Airman Certification—Privileges for Which Additional Training Is Required

 

 

Ultralight

Pilot

 

Sport Pilot

Recreational Pilot

Private Pilot

CFI – Sport Pilot

CFI

Added Cat/Class Privilege

N/A

Yes

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Make and Model

Privilege

N/A

Yes

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Added Cat/Class Rating

N/A

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Yes

Class B, C, and D

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes if exercising sport or recreational pilot privileges

No

> 87 knots CAS

No

Yes

No

No

Yes if exercising sport or recreational pilot privileges

No

Cross country

No

No

Yes

No

Yes if exercising recreational pilot privileges

No

IFR

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

N/A

Yes

Tail wheel

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

High- Performance

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

N/A

Yes

Complex

No

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Yes

High Altitude

No

N/A

N/A

Yes

N/A

Yes

Type

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

N/A

Yes

Towing

No (additional training required if operating under Part 103 exemption)

N/A

N/A

Yes (additional experience required)

N/A

N/A

Sales demo

No

No (N/A if aircraft salesman)

No (N/A if aircraft salesman)

Yes (additional experience required)

N/A

N/A

Agricultural (non-commercial)

N/A

No

No

No

N/A

N/A

Charitable Flights

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes (additional experience required)

N/A

N/A

Provide Flight Training

No (additional training required if operating under part 103 exemption)

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

Yes

 

 

V.  Section–by-Section Discussion of Comments and Changes Incorporated Into Final Rule

The following is a summary of comments for each section of rule text, with a description of any changes the FAA is making to the final rule.  Because of the large number of comments received on the proposed rule, it is not possible to discuss each commenter’s remarks individually.  Some of the changes are being made as the result of public comments, and others are being made after further review within the FAA.  As discussed previously in this preamble, the requirements proposed as SFAR No. 89 are being moved into part 61, and a conversion table is included for the reader’s convenience in the discussion of comments to part 61.  All comments to proposed SFAR No. 89 therefore are located under the discussion of changes to part 61.

 

V.1. Part 1—Definitions And Abbreviations

Section 1.1 General definitions

Definition of “consensus standard”

The FAA received numerous comments on the topic of consensus standards.  Most commenters expressed support for the concept of airworthiness standards developed by a consensus of industry and the FAA.  However, some commenters expressed concern that they could not review any actual consensus standards, as the standards were nonexistent at the time of the NPRM comment period.  These standards would be developed either concurrent with, or subsequent to, the adoption of the rule.  The FAA understands the commenters’ concern, but notes that the consensus standards development process will include adequate opportunity for public participation and comment.  The FAA further notes that the consensus standards process will not replace, but rather will supplement, existing design, manufacturing, and airworthiness certification procedures, and that alternative consensus standards may be found acceptable.   

Since the publication of the proposal, a number of aviation organizations have chosen to work with ASTM International to develop light-sport aircraft consensus standards.  ASTM International has established Committee F37 – Light-Sport Aircraft for this standards development task.  Anyone who desires to comment on the consensus standards may participate in their development by ASTM International.  Also, when an acceptable standard is developed, the FAA will publish a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register.   This notification will include a statement that the FAA has found the standard acceptable for certification of the specified aircraft under the provisions of this rule.  This statement will assert that:

·        The FAA has participated in the development process for this consensus standard;

·        The FAA has reviewed the standard for compliance with the regulatory requirements of the rule; and

·         Any light-sport aircraft designed, manufactured, and operated in accordance with that consensus standard provides the public with an appropriate level of safety.

 

 

If comments from the public are received as a result of the Notice of Availability, the FAA will address them during its recurring review of the consensus standards and participation in the consensus standards revision process.  Refer to the comment below from NTSB concerning FAA participation in the revision of consensus standards.    

Several commenters recommended delaying the effective date of the rule until the consensus standards were issued.  The FAA recognizes that consensus standards may not be completed by the effective date of the rule, and has therefore revised the rule to permit existing two-seat ultralights to be used for many of the operations that are intended for aircraft manufactured to a consensus standard.

Some commenters were concerned that the consensus standards process would only represent viewpoints of particular manufacturers, and would not assure adequate representation of small manufacturers or aircraft operators.  Other commenters believed the consensus standards should not be set only by the aircraft manufacturers and ASTM International.  Another proposed that a committee of pilots, aircraft owners, manufacturers, standards organizations, and regulators should formulate the consensus standards.  The FAA agrees that broad representation of all affected parties is necessary for the FAA to accept a consensus standard.  Any and all interested parties can participate in the development of consensus standards.  In fact, OMB Circular A-119 requires balanced participation and voting.  The FAA believes that the ASTM process balances the representation of product manufacturers, product users, and the interests of other affected persons.  The FAA notes that the current ASTM consensus standard committees are comprised of individuals representing all the perspectives recommended by the commenter.  The FAA believes that the ASTM standards development procedures satisfy the other attributes (openness, due process, and appeals process) set forth in OMB Circular A-119 for an acceptable consensus standard body.  The OMB Circular permits FAA to make this determination.  If necessary, the FAA will participate with other standards development organizations in the development of alternative consensus standards.  The FAA would refer to paragraphs 2, 6.e. and f. of OMB Circular A-119 in making this determination.  These paragraphs describe the goals of the government in using consensus standards and the considerations the FAA should make when considering the use of a consensus standard. 

The FAA received a comment from the NTSB saying that the NPRM lacked sufficient information for it to determine to what extent the FAA will be involved in the review of consensus standards after they have been issued.  As stated in the NPRM, the FAA will participate in the development of and any revision to the consensus standards, in accordance with OMB Circular A-119.  In the preamble of the NPRM, the FAA stated that it expected a suitable consensus standard to be reviewed every two years.  As a member of the consensus standard body, the FAA can call for revisions to the consensus standard when the agency determines such revisions are necessary.  The FAA, as all other participants, may propose changes to amend the consensus standard to address new technology, applications, or deficiencies.  As part of the FAA’s participation in the consensus standards development, the FAA will review proposed consensus standards prior to the issuance of a Notice of Availability.  The FAA will not issue a Notice of Availability for a consensus standard it considers unacceptable.  The FAA will notify the public, through a Notice of Availability, of its acceptance of a consensus standard or any revision to a consensus standard.  The FAA will continue to participate in revising the consensus standard at an interval no longer than every 2 years.  The FAA will respond to comments on the consensus standards in this revision process.   

One commenter proposed that the term “industry developed consensus airworthiness standard” be changed to “industry developed airworthiness standard.”  The FAA prefers that the word “consensus” be included to emphasize that these standards are developed in accordance OMB A-119.  Use of the term “consensus” will also distinguish consensus standards from airworthiness standards that are developed by the FAA through the normal rulemaking process and are specifically contained in other parts of 14 CFR subchapter C.  Within the definition, the FAA is removing the modifier “airworthiness” from the phrase “industry developed consensus airworthiness standard.”  This change is to permit the consensus standards body to develop light-sport aircraft and sport pilot safety standards that may encompass more standards than those affecting airworthiness.

A commenter stated that FAA involvement in developing the criteria for certificating light-sport aircraft should be minimal to keep aircraft design and manufacturing costs down.  As noted above, the FAA has chosen to use consensus standards developed in accordance with the criteria in OMB Circular A-119 for these aircraft.  The use of the consensus standard process assures government and industry discussion and agreement on appropriate standards for the required level of safety.  The FAA believes that the consensus standards process will minimize costs while meeting the level of safety appropriate for these aircraft. 

Several commenters expressed concern that the consensus standards would result in excessive increases to the price of light-sport aircraft.  A commenter expressed concern over insurance costs for light-sport aircraft, and expressed the opinion that general aviation revitalization depends on the availability of factory-built aircraft priced under $40,000.  The FAA has discussed the certification process for these aircraft in both the NPRM and this final rule.  How the public will interact with insurance companies and legal professionals, as well as the pricing of these aircraft are matters of commercial interest.  The FAA, however, believes that this rule may significantly decrease the cost of purchasing and operating light-sport aircraft.  See the full economic analysis in the public docket for this rulemaking. 

 

Consensus Standards Topics

In the notice, the FAA proposed that consensus standards address airworthiness certification and continued airworthiness.  In the NPRM, the proposed definition for consensus standard specified that the standard address “… aircraft design and performance, quality assurance system requirements, production acceptance test specifications, and continued operational safety monitoring system characteristics.”  Based on comments received from the public on the proposed rule and as a result of FAA review of the NPRM, the FAA has determined that the consensus standard definition should be expanded to include additional topics.  These additional topics are related to aircraft maintenance and operations, or subjects that should be more appropriately addressed as separate topics rather than as subsections within the four topics listed in the FAA’s proposed definition. 

In view of this consideration, the consensus standards definition is being revised to specifically require the consensus standards to address topics other than the four specified in the proposed rule.  The revised definition sets forth a broader approach. It generally specifies that the consensus standards must address the three subjects of aircraft design, production and airworthiness.  Additional specific topics the consensus standards must address are set forth in the revised definition.  Consensus standards may address additional topics, as determined by the consensus standards body.  As a result of FAA’s review of questions from commenters to the NPRM, and as a result of FAA’s participation in the ongoing development of consensus standards, the FAA has determined that the consensus standards must address the following topics so that appropriate information and procedures are provided for manufacturers and operators of light-sport aircraft.  

 

Design and Performance:  The consensus standard includes a design and performance section, which should address the following:

(1)  Methodology for determining parameters associated with the definition of light-sport aircraft.  The consensus standard should provide methodologies for determining definition parameters such as: maximum takeoff weight; maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (VH); maximum never-exceed speed (VNE) for gliders; maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices (VS1).

 

(2)  Methodology for distinguishing different make and model aircraft from the same manufacturer and for updating and recording information that may change during the course of the production of the make and model aircraft. 

 

Required Equipment:  The FAA did not expressly propose to require the consensus standard to address or include minimum equipment in the NPRM.  However, the FAA notes that certain aircraft equipment is required by part 91 to operate in the NAS.  The FAA notes that, because the requirements of §91.205 do not apply to these aircraft, the FAA has revised the definition of consensus standard to specifically indicate that a consensus standard must address required equipment. The design and performance portion of the consensus standard, therefore, should indicate standards for performance for equipment that is required for specific authorized operations.  The FAA recognizes that the operator of a light-sport aircraft may have a variety of privileges based on differing certificate privileges or individual logbook endorsements.  However, a person may not exercise those privileges, unless the aircraft is appropriately equipped.

 

Quality Assurance:  Commenters recommended that instructors functioning also as dealers, be allowed to continue to assemble weight-shift-control and powered parachutes kits for their clients.  They did not believe that this privilege should be limited to the factory (manufacturer).  The commenters also expressed an interest in assembling, demonstrating, and selling the aircraft.  They cite that they were already providing these distributor-type services.  They further stated that costs to ship a completed aircraft are much more than shipping a kit-built aircraft that can be assembled at the final destination.  The FAA agrees that persons other than the manufacturer may complete the assembly of light-sport aircraft subject to this rule.  This may be permitted provided the consensus standard addresses how the manufacturer will control these outside entities under its quality assurance system.  The consensus standard should address how the manufacturer maintains oversight of the persons and the processes of assembly, and, if the aircraft is delivered to a dealer for assembly, procedures for the dealer to issue a statement of compliance on behalf of the manufacturer.  The manufacturer that issues the statement of compliance is responsible for the quality of the end product, and this includes material supplied by, or assembly work performed by, a person or other entity.

In the proposed definition, the term “quality assurance system requirements” has been revised to read “manufacturer quality assurance systems” to emphasize that the aircraft manufacturer has the overall responsibility to assure that safe aircraft are delivered to its customers.  

Production Acceptance Tests:  The production acceptance tests should include all tests needed to prove the aircraft’s reliability and functionality.  These tests may be accomplished at different stages of assembly and at final completion.  The tests verify the aircraft’s proper function on the ground and in the air, as required by §21.190 (c)(7).  The consensus standard should include tests that demonstrate that the aircraft is in a condition for safe operation.  As a minimum, these ground and flight tests show that the aircraft--

·        Has been assembled in accordance with the manufacturer’s criteria and specifications.

·        Can be operated normally throughout all ranges of capability, as defined in the consensus standard.

 

In the proposed definition, the term “production acceptance test specifications” has been revised to read “production acceptance test procedures.”  The FAA believes that use of the word “specifications” is not consistent with performance-based standards, which are preferable to prescriptive standards for aircraft built to consensus standards.  

 

Aircraft Operating Instructions:  In the proposal, the FAA stated that the consensus standards must address aircraft design and performance.  The proposal did not include a specific requirement for the consensus standards to address aircraft operating instructions.  Proposed §21.186, however, required the manufacturer to identify, and the applicant to present, the applicable “Pilot Operating Handbook.”

In the final rule the FAA is revising the consensus standard definition to specifically address aircraft operating instructions.  Although the FAA believed that the proposed consensus standards definition would require aircraft operating instructions to be addressed in the standards for aircraft design and performance, the FAA has determined that standards for aircraft operating instructions should be developed specifically as part of the consensus standards process.

The FAA also notes that rather than using the term “Pilot Operating Handbook” in the definition of consensus standards it is using the term “Aircraft Operating Instructions.”  The term “Pilot Operating Handbook” is normally associated with type- certificated general aviation aircraft and may include information approved by the FAA.  “Aircraft Operating Instructions,” however, will not require FAA approval.  “Aircraft Operating Instructions” provide methods and procedures to safely operate the aircraft. Additionally, the aircraft operating instructions specify those parameters (e.g. weight, stall speed, maximum speed) that show the aircraft make and model meets the light-sport aircraft definition.

 

Maintenance and Inspection Procedures:  The proposal did not include a specific requirement for the consensus standards to address maintenance and inspection procedures.  Proposed §21.186, however, required the manufacturer to identify, and the applicant to present, the applicable maintenance and inspection procedures.  In the final rule the FAA is revising the consensus standard definition to specifically address maintenance and inspection procedures.  The FAA has determined that standards for maintenance and inspection procedures should be developed specifically as part of the consensus standards process.

Through the consensus standards process the rule requires the development of maintenance and inspection procedures for the entire aircraft.  This includes the engine, propeller, and accessories, such as ballistic parachutes, floats, and skis.  These maintenance and inspection procedures can be developed solely by the airframe manufacturer or with other manufacturers that supply engines, propellers, or other products for the aircraft.  The purpose of requiring maintenance and inspection procedures is to ensure the continued airworthiness of the aircraft throughout its useful life.  Maintenance and inspection procedures should contain at least two parts, one part for inspection and one for maintenance. 

The inspection section should include inspection requirements and a checklist for conducting the annual condition inspection, the 100-hour inspection, or any other inspection, as needed.  The inspection section should also identify any checks needed to verify adequate limits for items subject to wear or replacement due to age or time in use. 

The maintenance section should specifically address major aircraft systems and components such as the engine, propeller, fuel system, flight controls, lubrication system, instrumentation, airframe, and landing gear.  Each part of this maintenance section should identify the maintenance that a certificated repairman, mechanic, or repair station can perform, and those preventive maintenance tasks that a pilot can perform.  For each major system, instructions should be provided that detail the service and maintenance requirements for that system, including removal and replacement instructions for components, repair and overhaul instructions for those products that can be repaired and overhauled, and how Airworthiness Directives (ADs) and Safety Directives should be addressed. 

The maintenance and inspection procedures also should include a section that addresses major repairs and major alterations.  This section should include the training requirements for a person to perform a major repair for each aircraft system (e.g., overhaul an engine), what data should be used to perform a major repair or major alteration, and describe the process used to notify the manufacturer that a major repair or major alteration has been accomplished on its product.  While a parts manual is not required to be developed as part of the required maintenance and inspection procedures, the FAA recommends that manufacturers develop these manuals to ensure the proper parts are installed.

 

Identification and Recording of Major Repairs and Major Alterations:  The proposal did not include a specific requirement for the consensus standards to address major repairs and major alterations, and procedures to record them, for each class of light-sport aircraft.  The FAA has revised the proposal to require maintenance on special light-sport aircraft to be performed in accordance with part 43, except for those requirements that apply to the performance and recording of major repairs and major alterations.  In the final rule, therefore, the FAA is revising the consensus standard definition to specifically address major repairs and major alterations.  The FAA has determined that standards for defining, performing, and recording major repairs and major alterations should be developed specifically as part of the consensus standards process.  The consensus standard also should address the level of training a person must have before performing a major repair.  Refer to the discussions of part 43 and §91.327 for more explanation of this topic.  

 

Continued Airworthiness:  

The FAA specifically requested comments from the public on its proposal that the consensus standards include provisions for defining minimum characteristics for a manufacturer’s continued operational safety monitoring system.  The FAA received comments both for and against the use of the FAA’s existing AD process for correcting unsafe conditions in light-sport aircraft.  These comments are addressed in item (2) below.  The FAA discussed the expectations for a continued airworthiness system in the section-by-section analysis of the NPRM under “Definition of ‘Consensus Standard’” under §1.1, and also in §21.186 (c)(6).  In response to comments received concerning continued airworthiness, the following clarifies the processes that should be followed for the continued airworthiness of special light-sport aircraft.

 

The consensus standard should address the following:

 

(1)  The types of occurrences or events or incidents that the aircraft owner is to report back to the manufacturer.

(2)  How the manufacturer will issue Safety Directives to correct unsafe conditions, including a process for how the determination of an unsafe condition will be made.  Examples of unsafe conditions include, but may not be limited to:

(a)  Structural failures that reduce the aircraft ability to carry flight or ground loads;

(b)  Structural failures affecting the attachment of high mass items to the aircraft;

(c)  Structural failures affecting flight or powerplant control systems; or

(d)  Failures that might result in occurrence of a fire in flight.

 

A commenter stated that for light-sport aircraft, the AD system should be used because the aviation community is familiar with it, and it helps to assure that the owners of light-sport aircraft can be found regardless of changes of ownership of the aircraft manufacturer.  A different commenter questioned if Safety Directives issued by the aircraft manufacturer would be any better quality than ADs, which the commenter believes are sometimes issued in haste and may be ineffective or burdensome.  Another commenter agreed with not using the AD system, believing that the AD system can be used in the event that a manufacturer no longer exists or is no longer able to issue safety-of-flight information. 

The FAA maintains the position it took in the proposed rule.  The FAA does not intend to issue ADs on the special light-sport aircraft, but will issue them on type-certificated products incorporated into special light-sport aircraft, and may, if necessary, issue them on products having other forms of FAA approval.  Therefore, as proposed, the final rule requires development of corrective actions for unsafe conditions in special light-sport aircraft by the aircraft manufacturer, or a group or individual that has assumed that responsibility.  As described in the discussion of proposed §21.186 (c)(6), the FAA intended for the rule to provide for persons other than the manufacturer to assume continued airworthiness responsibilities in the event that the special light-sport aircraft manufacturer would cease to exist, or cease to provide safety-of-flight information.

The FAA, in discussing the intended advantages of the proposed rule, referred to the safety benefits of “…safety-of-flight bulletins, similar to airworthiness directives and service bulletins…” that would be issued by the manufacturer to correct problems that might exist on aircraft in service.  A commenter recommended that the FAA change the term “safety-of-flight” to a different term such as “safety directive,” since the military already uses the term “safety-of-flight” and this may cause confusion.  The FAA agrees and has revised the term to  “Safety Directive” in the final rule.  The FAA uses the term “Safety Directive” to identify the documents that a special light-sport aircraft manufacturer issues to make changes that are needed to correct conditions that may adversely affect safety of flight for aircraft that are in service.

One commenter recommended that proposed corrective actions by individual manufacturers should be subject to industry review and acceptance within a two- or three-month time period.  The FAA recognizes that this proposal would provide for a balance of manufacturer and operator interests in assuring effective continued airworthiness support of special light-sport aircraft.  As the consensus standards process develops procedures for continued airworthiness, the FAA will present the commenter’s proposal to the appropriate technical committee for consideration.

 

(3)  Operator actions that will be addressed by a service publication other than a Safety Directive.  This discussion addresses a comment expressing concern that manufacturers might issue mandatory part replacement or maintenance instructions that would be not be justified by any corresponding safety concern.  The consensus standard should identify those situations for which the manufacturer’s Safety Directives should not be issued.  Those situations include, but are not limited to, circumstances in which service publications are issued to improve or enhance the following:

(a)  Spare part sales;

(b)  Aircraft performance, capability, or efficiency, unless the change is needed for the aircraft to meet the minimum design and performance standards identified in the consensus standard and the manufacturer’s statement of compliance;

(c)  Aircraft appearance;

(d)  Aircraft maintainability; or

(e)  Any other aircraft characteristic when the action called for does not remedy an unsafe condition, including those related to reliability which do not have an impact on safety of flight. 

 

(4)  A process for responding to requests for methods of correcting unsafe conditions that differ from those prescribed in Safety Directives.  This section addresses comments recommending that the owner of a special light-sport aircraft be able to correct an unsafe condition using methods other than specified by a Safety Directive.  Refer also to the discussion in §91.327, “Safety-of-Flight Issues.”  The FAA notes that owner-developed alterations and repairs are permitted for experimental light-sport aircraft where compliance with Safety Directives is not mandatory.

 

(5)  A process for permitting successor organizations to assume responsibility for providing continued airworthiness support.  Adding this section to the consensus standard addresses comments recommending the consensus standard contain provisions for assuming or transferring continued airworthiness responsibilities if the original manufacturer of a light-sport aircraft goes out of business.  The FAA, in the NPRM, intended to allow for this.  This was discussed in the proposal in  §§21.186 (b)(1)(iv), (b)(1)(v), and (c)(6), in which the FAA allowed for a person other than the original aircraft manufacturer to assume continued airworthiness responsibilities for in-service aircraft.  (The phrase “manufacturer or a person acceptable to the FAA” in proposed §21.186 (b)(1)(iv) and (v) allowed for this possibility.)  A person acceptable to the FAA may include persons other than the original manufacturer, such as a licensee, designee, successor, or a person other than the manufacturer or licensee who built a product or part that was not part of the original design, (i.e., a third-party modifier).  In the current rule, these provisions are in §91.327 (b), since continued airworthiness of light-sport aircraft will be controlled by the operating limitations of the aircraft airworthiness certificate.

 

(6)  An process for qualification of third-party alterations or replacement parts, if a manufacturer chooses to permit this.  In the proposed rule, alterations, repairs, design modifications, or replacement parts manufactured by third parties (distinct from the manufacturer or the airplane owner) were not addressed.  The FAA’s assumption at the time of the NPRM was that each manufacturer would determine if it intended to permit third-party aircraft support, such as the manufacture of replacement parts, or the alteration of aircraft in service.  If a manufacturer chooses to permit this, the standard should address how oversight and control of the third parties performing this service will be accomplished by the manufacturer. 

The FAA also notes that the operating limitations for aircraft having the special light-sport aircraft airworthiness certificate require that all changes to an aircraft after its original manufacture be authorized by the manufacturer or other acceptable person.  Aircraft modifiers, manufacturers of replacement parts for light-sport aircraft, and manufacturers of products used to modify light-sport aircraft also must comply with the provisions of the applicable consensus standard in order to be considered a person acceptable to the FAA.      

 

(7)  A process for responding to an aircraft owner’s assertion that a Safety Directive was issued for reasons other than to correct an unsafe condition.   Providing this process also responds to the previously stated concern that manufacturers might require the operator to purchase expensive parts and make changes to the aircraft that do not correct an unsafe condition.  By developing guidelines through an appropriate consensus standard, the balanced representation of interests will help to minimize the possibility of a manufacturer issuing a safety directive for an inappropriate reason.  If an aircraft owner believes a Safety Directive was issued for reasons other than to correct an unsafe condition, the owner should raise this issue to the manufacturer.  The consensus standard process should address how the manufacturer reviews the request, and how it responds to the aircraft owner by justifying its position that the Safety Directive addresses an existing unsafe condition affecting the aircraft.  The FAA notes that a manufacturer may permit an alternative means of compliance to the Safety Directive.  In the event that the aircraft owner does not accept the manufacturer’s response and chooses not to correct the condition in a manner permitted by the manufacturer, the aircraft owner may request a waiver from the FAA to operate his or her aircraft without following the Safety Directive.  See the discussion of the “waiver” process under §91.327, “Safety-of-flight issues.”

 

(8)  A process for reviewing ADs issued on FAA-approved products used in special light-sport aircraft.  Upon further internal review, the FAA recognized that special light-sport aircraft may embody equipment that has its own FAA approval (e.g., engines, propellers, communications equipment, instruments).  Owners of special light-sport aircraft will be required to comply with applicable ADs issued against FAA-approved products installed on special light-sport aircraft.  For details, see the discussion under §91.327 “Safety-of-flight issues.”

In addition, the FAA believes that the consensus standards should also address —

 

Manufacturer’s Assembly Instructions.  In proposed §21.193 (e)(5), the FAA stated an expectation that kit-built experimental light-sport aircraft would be assembled following detailed instructions provided by the manufacturer.  This was stated in the section-by-section analysis of the NPRM.  However, the FAA did not establish any requirements with regard to the quality of those assembly instructions.  In the final rule, a requirement is being added to §21.193 (e)(4) for the assembly instructions to meet the consensus standard.  Also, there is a change to §21.191 (i)(2) requiring that the assembler provide evidence that he or she assembled the aircraft according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

The manufacturer should prescribe the details of an individual aircraft assembly process.  The objective is for the assembly instructions to provide the detailed instructions to build and safely flight test the product.  Any necessary mechanical skills or training should be defined.  The instructions should prescribe the tooling, fixtures, inspections, measurements, and other pertinent items that must be recorded by the assembler and presented to the FAA or the FAA representative, such as, the Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR), as evidence that the manufacturer’s assembly instructions were followed.

In the proposed definition, the term “continued operational safety monitoring system characteristics” is revised to read “continued airworthiness.”  The changed language requires the consensus standard to address continued airworthiness subjects that may be considered outside the scope of a continued operational safety monitoring system.

 

Changes

            The definition of “consensus standard” is changed in the final rule as follows:

The words “consensus airworthiness standard” are changed to “consensus standard.” 

The word “governs” is changed to “applies to.”

The words “aircraft design and performance” are changed to “aircraft design, production, and airworthiness.”

The four topics that a consensus standard would govern have been revised and additional specific items have been added to the list of items that a consensus standard must address.

The definition now lists the items that a consensus standard “includes but is not limited to.  The topics specified in the definition now include “standards for aircraft design and performance, required equipment, manufacturer quality assurance systems, production acceptance test procedures, operating instructions, maintenance and inspection procedures, identification and recording of major repairs and major alterations, and continued airworthiness.”

 

Definition of “Light-sport aircraft”

Overview

            The FAA believes that there might be confusion concerning what airworthiness certificates apply to light-sport aircraft.  Therefore, the FAA is clarifying this issue.  A sport pilot may operate any aircraft that meets the definition in §1.1 of a light-sport aircraft, regardless of the airworthiness certificate issued for the aircraft.  An aircraft that meets the light-sport aircraft definition may have any airworthiness certificate that may be issued for an aircraft, such as standard, special, primary, or experimental amateur-built aircraft.  An aircraft that meets the light-sport aircraft definition and holds a standard airworthiness certificate must be operated and maintained in accordance with the limitations of that airworthiness certificate.  For example, the sport pilot must operate the aircraft within the limits of the aircraft’s flight manual and type certificate data sheet.  Also, maintenance will still need to be done in accordance with part 43 by an appropriately rated mechanic, repairman, or repair station.  A repairman (light-sport aircraft) is not authorized to conduct any maintenance on an aircraft issued a standard airworthiness certificate or a special airworthiness certificate in a category other than light-sport.

Numerous commenters raised issues pertaining to the design attributes associated with the definition of light-sport aircraft.  A majority recommended expanding the design attributes in one or more areas, such as maximum weight, stall speed, or cruise speed.  The design attributes associated with the definition are discussed individually later in this section.

As stated in the proposal, the FAA intended to limit the definition of light-sport aircraft to primarily address the population of ultralight-like aircraft that are being operated under exemptions to part 103 to conduct flight training.  The rule was not primarily intended to address type-certificated and vintage aircraft where there were not significant regulatory, certification, or operational issues.  The FAA recognizes that any aircraft that meets the light-sport aircraft definition may be operated by a sport pilot.  However, it is necessary for the FAA to use its judgment and discretion in setting limits on aircraft to be flown by sport pilots.

The most frequently cited justification to increasing one or more design attributes associated with the light-sport aircraft definition was to enable existing aircraft designs to be operated as light-sport aircraft.  A majority of these comments contended that the light-sport aircraft definition should be expanded to accept these additional aircraft simply because these larger or higher performance aircraft could be safely operated as light-sport aircraft.

While some changes were made to the design attributes of the definition, there was only one change made to the definition as a result of comments pertaining to operating type-certificated aircraft as light-sport aircraft.  The change prohibits aircraft modified to meet the parameters of the definition from being operated as light-sport aircraft.  The reasoning for this change is explained below.   

One commenter noted that the FAA’s proposal is unique in attempting to address aircraft for used for recreation rather than transportation purposes.  Some commenters expressed concern that the light-sport aircraft definition did not describe how a given constraint would be shown to be satisfied.  Neither a §1.1 definition nor an operating rule definition is normally so complete as to establish how compliance with the definition is determined.

Another commenter noted that the definition of an aircraft category is usually established in the applicability section of the appropriate airworthiness standard, rather than in §1.1.  The FAA agrees with this observation.  However, there will not be airworthiness standards set forth in specific parts of the Code of Federal Regulations, and the definition of light-sport aircraft will be applicable to a variety of different kinds of aircraft.  Also, the definition is significant both for aircraft and airman certification purposes.  For these reasons, it is appropriate for the FAA to establish these limits for the light-sport aircraft in the general definitions section of part 1.

Many commenters wanted various existing airplanes to be included in the light-sport aircraft definition.  Many of these commenters believe that the existing service record of these airplanes makes them safe and more affordable than a new airplane.  The FAA recognizes that certain aircraft that do not meet the definition of light-sport aircraft may have operating characteristics that are similar to aircraft that meet the definition.  The FAA determined that the values used in the definition strike an appropriate balance between safety and public interest.  Refer to the discussion under “III.1. FAA Judgment and Discretion.”  The FAA has revised the light-sport aircraft definition without the intent to include or exclude specific aircraft.  

 

General Comments on the Design Attributes in the Light-Sport Aircraft Definition

There was considerable interest in changing the design attributes that control the definition of light-sport aircraft.  The FAA received numerous general questions and comments on aircraft currently certificated.  Some commenters operating aircraft with a standard or an experimental certificate stated that their aircraft nearly met the definition of light-sport aircraft.  Many of these commenters expressed their desire that the light-sport aircraft definition be changed to include their aircraft, whether it be an airplane with a standard airworthiness certificate, an amateur-built aircraft, or a vintage aircraft with a standard airworthiness certificate.  Several commenters stated a desire that the FAA revise the light-sport aircraft definition to permit them to obtain the perceived advantages of the sport pilot certificate’s medical provisions when operating their aircraft. 

Commenters also requested clarification as to how compliance with some of the parameters used to define light-sport aircraft will be determined.  The most frequently cited parameters were maximum takeoff weight, maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power VH, and stall speeds VS1 (without lift enhancing devices) and VS0 (landing configuration).  As discussed under §1.1, the consensus standards will address details on methods of demonstrating compliance.

A commenter stated that the light-sport aircraft definition should require ballistic parachute recovery systems as protection in case of inadvertent encounter of instrument flight rule (IFR) weather conditions.  The FAA disagrees.  This rule does not directly prescribe design or equipment standards, those are contained in the consensus standards.     

 

Modifications of Aircraft to Meet the Light-Sport Aircraft Definition 

Some commenters stated that aircraft with quite high payload and performance characteristics that far exceed the stated definition of light-sport aircraft could be modified to meet the definition of light-sport aircraft.  The FAA has revised the definition of light-sport aircraft in the rule to prevent these modifications.  The FAA notes that these types of modified aircraft are outside the stated purpose of the proposal.  The proposal identified light-sport aircraft as aircraft that exceed the limits set in §103.1, and are compatible with the skills and training required to obtain a sport pilot certificate.  Light-sport aircraft are simple low-performance aircraft that are distinct from small aircraft that can be designed and built to existing airworthiness standards.  In the proposal, the FAA permitted sport pilots to fly any aircraft that meets the light-sport aircraft definition.   In prohibiting modifications to aircraft to meet the light-sport aircraft definition, the FAA seeks to ensure that the light-sport aircraft operating characteristics are consistent with the skills and training for the sport pilot.  The FAA is concerned that modifications to an aircraft to meet the light-sport aircraft definition may increase its complexity to a level that is inappropriate for the capabilities of the sport pilot.   This is the FAA’s rationale for excluding these modified aircraft from the light-sport aircraft definition.

The FAA notes that compliance with light-sport aircraft parameters can be more readily verified for type-certificated aircraft than for amateur-built aircraft certificated under existing §21.191 (g).  Amateur-built aircraft do not have a TC, a flight manual, or a type certificate data sheet.  Because of this, it may be difficult to determine if aircraft with other than a standard airworthiness certificate meet the limits listed for a light-sport aircraft and can be operated by a sport pilot.  The FAA anticipates that the aircraft design consensus standard will include methodologies that will readily enable a determination that an aircraft design meets the light-sport aircraft definition. 

 

Requests for Light-Sport Aircraft Definition to Include Additional Kinds of Aircraft 

A number of commenters wanted “light” helicopters and gyroplanes to be included in the definition of light-sport aircraft.  They believed that these aircraft are suited for the sport and recreation that the proposed rule addresses.

As stated in the proposal, the FAA did not include helicopters because their complex design, manufacture, and operation is beyond what the FAA envisioned for light-sport aircraft.  The FAA included gyroplanes in the light-sport aircraft definition, but does not intend to issue the special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category for gyroplanes.  See the discussion of paragraph (9) of the definition of light-sport aircraft below.

Several comments recommended that the light-sport aircraft definition include individual unique aircraft designs, such as flying platforms or tandem wing aircraft.  The FAA disagrees.  The light-sport aircraft definition does not need to address every possible variation of aircraft.  The FAA believes that the unique nature of these aircraft precludes the development of consensus standards for these aircraft at this time.  However, these aircraft remain eligible for the experimental certificate for operating amateur-built aircraft, under existing §21.191 (g).  A few commenters requested that aircraft with standard airworthiness certificates not be included in the sport pilot program.  As stated in the proposed rule, a sport pilot may fly an aircraft with a standard airworthiness certificate, if it meets the definition of light-sport aircraft.  See also §21.175 discussion on airworthiness certificates.  As stated above in the section titled “Modifications of Aircraft to Meet the Light-Sport Aircraft Definition,” a sport pilot may not fly an aircraft with a standard airworthiness certificate that has been modified to meet the light-sport aircraft definition.

Comments Concerning the Limits Established by the Light-Sport Aircraft Definition 

Many commenters suggested alternatives to the maximum speed as limiting factors for the light-sport aircraft definition.  The alternatives proposed included wing loading (airplane weight divided by airplane wing area); horsepower (ranging from 80 to 180 horsepower); fuel capacity; aircraft payload; kinetic energy of the airplane at cruise speed; weight of the drive train package.  One commenter proposed to base the light-sport aircraft definition on the weights and aerodynamic performance of the J-3 Cub airplane.  The FAA disagrees that the light-sport aircraft definition should be changed to replace the maximum speed limit with a different limiting design condition.  The FAA does not believe that any of the alternatives suggested will be a better, more readily determined method of assuring that light-sport aircraft are simple, low performance aircraft.  The FAA has not eliminated a maximum speed in the light-sport aircraft definition.  However, the light-sport aircraft definition has been revised to increase the maximum speed limit.  The FAA has not adopted an alternative approach to setting an upper limit to the power or performance of a light-sport aircraft.  However the FAA decided that the light-sport aircraft definition should set an upper limit for aircraft power to assure that the aircraft is suitable for the sport pilot.  The FAA believes that the maximum airspeed limit, combined with a maximum takeoff weight, acceptably serves this purpose, for the reasons originally stated in the proposed rule.  The FAA discusses each of the attributes of the light-sport aircraft definition elsewhere in this section.

Some commenters believed that the limits in the FAA’s definition of light-sport aircraft would limit innovation, or lead to the development of unsafe aircraft.  The FAA disagrees with this opinion, and believes that the consensus standards process and the FAA’s participation in that process will lead to an acceptable balance between innovation and safety.

A few commenters requested that the FAA use the definition of microlight aircraft established by the International Aeronautical Federation (FAI).  The FAA did consider this definition in developing its proposal.  The microlight aircraft definition primarily addresses weight, seating capacity, and stall speed.  The FAA notes that the light-sport aircraft definition addresses significantly more parameters than the definition of microlight aircraft.  The FAA developed this definition to provide for the development of an aircraft that matches the capabilities of the sport pilot.

A few commenters believed that the FAA’s definition of light-sport aircraft was too broad.  Alternatives suggested included three different weight limits for light sport-aircraft, and the two-tiered system proposed by USUA and discussed in detail under “III.5.A. Comments on Ultralight Vehicles.”  The FAA disagrees that the light-sport aircraft definition should be changed to address different weight limits for different kinds of light-sport aircraft.  The FAA believes that the use of a broad definition for light-sport aircraft, along with the development of consensus standards appropriate for each class of aircraft, will result in safe and economical aircraft for the wide range of products in recreational aviation.

One commenter suggested eliminating the word “light” from the definition, to prevent the implication that there might be medium- and heavy- sport aircraft to follow.  Another commenter suggested “Class III aircraft” as an alternative, stating that the public might form an impression that light-sport aircraft “…are frivolous toys.”  The FAA disagrees with these opinions and believes that the words used to describe “light-sport aircraft” are adequate to distinguish this category of aircraft.

Several commenters stated that the cost of new aircraft would be prohibitive with the goals of the proposed rule.  The FAA disagrees.  The aircraft certification process that uses industry consensus standards and a manufacturer’s statement of compliance is a lower-cost approach than type and production certification.  Refer to the full regulatory evaluation that is in the rulemaking docket for a detailed discussion on the estimated cost to the end user.

A commenter suggested that light-sport aircraft should have a maximum noise limit established and verified by a simple protocol to be defined in the consensus standard for aircraft performance.  The commenter believed that including a noise limit would prevent adverse public impressions of light-sport aircraft.  Current amateur-built aircraft do not require compliance with a maximum noise limit.  Presently, part 36 noise standards are applicable only to aircraft with a type certificate or a standard airworthiness certificate.  See “XIV. Environmental Analysis” below.

 

Paragraph (1) Maximum certificated takeoff weight

Some commenters stated that lacking a definition of maximum takeoff weight, aircraft with fairly high performance characteristics could meet the definition of light-sport aircraft by limiting the approved weight and payload of the airplane.  The FAA considers this a valid concern and has provided some additional constraints on the weight as detailed below.  The maximum weight of a light-sport aircraft is the sum of:

(1)  Aircraft empty weight;

(2)  Weight of the passenger for each seat installed;

(3)  Baggage allowance for each passenger; and

(4)  Full fuel, including a minimum of the half-hour fuel reserve required for day visual flight rules in §91.151 (a)(1).

 

Some commenters wanted the weight increased to permit stronger aircraft structures, use of four-stroke or type-certificated engines, electrical systems for avionics, starters for engines, or ballistic recovery systems.  The FAA is increasing the weight limitation of the light-sport aircraft from the proposed 1,232 pounds (560 kilograms) to 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms).  The originally proposed weight limitation was based on the 1,200-pound weight limitation proposed by the ARAC’s light-sport aircraft working group.  The FAA agrees that there may be a safety benefit to light-sport aircraft designs to include provisions for currently produced type-certificated four-stroke engines and ballistic parachute recovery systems.  Commenters submitted data that indicated that an additional 60 to 70 pounds would accommodate four-stroke aviation powerplants, and that an additional 30 to 40 pounds would accommodate the ballistic parachute recovery systems.  For these reasons, the FAA has revised its proposed maximum takeoff weight limitation to 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms) for aircraft designed for operation on land. 

In addition, many commenters requested that the proposed weight limitation be increased to accommodate flying boats, amphibious or float plane aircraft designs.  The FAA originally envisioned these kinds of aircraft in its proposed light-sport aircraft definition.  Recommendations from these commenters indicated weights ranging from 100 pounds to 250 pounds to allow for amphibious or float plane capability.  The rule provides for a maximum take-off weight of 1,430 pounds for light-sport aircraft designed for operation on water.  The 110-pound weight increase compared to an aircraft not designed for operation on water is consistent with data submitted regarding weight of floats for microlight type aircraft.

Some commenters objected to setting a weight limit that becomes a specific number of pounds based on conversion of kilograms to pounds, assuming that the FAA is relying solely upon foreign airworthiness standards in establishing the light-sport aircraft category.  The FAA stated weight limitations are different from those used by other airworthiness authorities for the reasons stated in the two preceding paragraphs.

            Many commenters proposed alternative weight limits, ranging from 1,250 to 2,650 pounds, to encompass a number of existing general aviation or classic aircraft.  In the FAA’s judgment, the weight limit in the rule is appropriate for the light-sport aircraft to be compatible with the skills and training of the sport pilot. 

Some commenters wanted the weight increased, stating that a passenger weight of 170 pounds is not realistic today.  The FAA notes that the maximum take-off weight includes the weight of the occupants.  The manufacturer may want to consider this in their design and communicate any weight limits to the customer. A few commenters stated that the FAA should use weight other than maximum takeoff weight as a limiting condition.  Alternatives suggested by commenters included aircraft empty weight, or maximum payload.  The FAA believes that the maximum take-off weight is an appropriate limiting parameter for light-sport aircraft, because it is an objective measure that can easily be determined when the aircraft configuration is specified.  

A few commenters agreed with the FAA’s originally proposed weight limit of 1,232 pounds for aircraft that are not lighter-than-air (LTA) aircraft.  Some commenters questioned the rationale for the FAA’s originally proposed weight limit.  As stated above, the weight limit originally proposed by the FAA for other than LTA was a balance between the original ARAC recommendation for light-sport aircraft, and existing foreign airworthiness requirements for sport aircraft, such as microlights and aircraft certificated under the Joint Airworthiness Requirements for Very Light Aircraft (JAR-VLA). 

Some commenters objected to the FAA’s proposed weight limit of 660 pounds (300 kilograms) for an LTA aircraft, stating that the weight limit is too low for a two-passenger hot air balloon.  One comment asked if the weight limit was intended to refer to an uninflated mass.  The FAA intended for the LTA weight limit to be comparable to the weight limit for the other light-sport aircraft designs, that is, a maximum mass for the aircraft.  The FAA intended for the weight limit to include the aircraft with passengers and fuel, and the weight of the lifting gas (the product of lifting gas volume and density) added to the weight of the uninflated mass.  For airships, the FAA intended the defined weight limit to include the empty weight of the airship, the weight of pilot and passenger, fuel, and lifting gas (FAA-P-8110-2, “Airship Design Criteria,” paragraph 2-4).  One commenter provided a weight statement for a two-passenger hot air balloon, saying that 800 to 1,000 pounds would be appropriate in that it would allow for two 15-gallon fuel tanks, or 230 pounds of fuel.  The FAA disagrees.  The FAA’s originally proposed weight limit for LTA aircraft was based on a review of the weights of type-certificated manned free balloons.  The FAA believed that the maximum weight permitted for a LTA light-sport aircraft should not be greater than the maximum weight of currently existing type-certificated manned free balloons.  The FAA believes the requirements in part 21 and part 31 are appropriate for the manufacture and design of hot air balloons larger than proposed by the FAA.

Additionally, one commenter stated that 2,200 pounds would be an appropriate weight limit for airships in the light-sport aircraft category because the low speeds for takeoff or approach to landing would result in low kinetic energy.  The commenter also expressed concern that existing very light hot air airships are robust enough to accommodate two large persons plus the systems and structures for a powered LTA aircraft.  The commenter did not provide any data to support the position that the weight limit in the FAA’s proposal or the existing airship design certification criteria for small airships used for sport and personal recreation are unnecessarily burdensome.  The FAA believes that the requirements of part 21 and the guidance contained in FAA publication FAA-P-8110-2, “Airship Design Criteria” are appropriate for the manufacture and design of airships as large as that proposed by the commenter.

 

Several commenters stated that the FAA’s proposed weight limit for the light-sport aircraft definition had the effect of eliminating some existing certificated aircraft that they believed were ideally suited for the sport pilot rule.  One commenter’s opinion was that the FAA strategically established the weight limit to favor the sale of new, more expensive light-sport aircraft.  The FAA did not have such a purpose in mind when it established its proposed light-sport aircraft weight limit.  Also, in establishing the light-sport aircraft, FAA did not intend to promote existing certificated aircraft.  When the FAA initially set the proposed limits for the light-sport aircraft definition, the FAA did not look at currently built aircraft, either with type certificate approval or in the amateur-built aircraft marketplace.  The FAA’s proposed definition was to address aircraft to be designed and built for the sport pilot, rather than addressing existing aircraft for currently certificated pilots.

A commenter stated that the proposed weight limit eliminates the eligibility of many production aircraft, and seems to cater to homebuilt aircraft.  The FAA disagrees with this opinion.  The reasons for the weight limit were discussed in the proposal and were intended to accommodate a wide variety of simple, low performance aircraft that have no more than two occupants.  The FAA has explained elsewhere in this section the reasons for its changes to the proposed weight limit in the light-sport aircraft definition.  A few commenters noted that the FAA’s originally proposed weight limit would result in some models in a particular classic aircraft line being eligible for the light-sport aircraft category, while other models in the same line would not be eligible.  The FAA believes that this is evidence that the weight limit for light-sport aircraft was not drawn with the intent of including or excluding specific aircraft.

A commenter proposed that the FAA establish different weight limits for single- and two-seat aircraft.  This would add an additional limiting condition to the definition of light-sport aircraft.  The FAA disagrees.  The weight is only one component of the definition.  The FAA believes that its weight limit is appropriate for a two-seat aircraft.  One of the main purposes of the light-sport aircraft definition is to provide appropriate flight training aircraft for sport pilots.  The weight limit proposed by the FAA is intended to accommodate aircraft designed for two occupants.  The FAA does not have data that would support establishing a reduced weight limit for single occupant aircraft.  The FAA notes, however, that a manufacturer may choose to produce a single place aircraft with a weight less than the maximum permitted by the rule.  A commenter stated that the weight limit will preclude tricycle landing gear on light-sport aircraft, and that will make light-sport aircraft more difficult to operate by low-time pilots.  The FAA does not agree that the weight limit will preclude tricycle gear light-sport aircraft.  The FAA is aware of tricycle-gear aircraft that meet the light-sport aircraft weight limit.

A commenter proposed that the FAA’s weight limit should only apply to powered parachutes and weight-shift-control aircraft, and that higher weights should be permitted for airplanes in the light-sport aircraft category.  The FAA disagrees that different weight limits should be established for powered parachutes, weight-shift-control aircraft, and airplanes.  However, the FAA agrees that the weight limit for light-sport aircraft should be raised and has done so in the final rule.  The FAA believes that the maximum weight limits established in the light-sport aircraft definition will permit the design and manufacture of two-seat airplanes suitable for operation by sport pilots.  Manufacturers of powered parachutes and weight-shift control aircraft may manufacture aircraft that weigh less than the maximum weight limit permitted by the light-sport aircraft definition.

Some commenters stated that low stall speed is more important than aircraft weight.  The FAA agrees that low stall speed is important; however, the FAA does not believe that the light-sport aircraft definition should identify any one attribute of the definition as more important than another.

Commenters recommended that sport pilots be permitted to fly aircraft heavier than the FAA’s proposed weight limits with a logbook endorsement.  Another commenter proposed that sport pilots with higher experience levels be permitted to fly aircraft heavier than the FAA’s proposed weight limits.  A different commenter said that for 5 years following the adoption of the FAA’s proposal, sport pilots should be permitted to fly existing general aviation training aircraft that are within 120 percent of the limits established in the light-sport aircraft definition.  The FAA disagrees that sport pilots should be permitted to fly aircraft heavier than the weight limits for light-sport aircraft.  The FAA believes that a pilot operating aircraft above these weights should have at least a private or recreational pilot’s certificate.  For further discussion on sport pilot training limits reference the discussion titled “Flight Training and Proficiency Requirements” in the section on Part 61 general issues.

 

Paragraph (2) Maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (VH)

            As discussed in more detail later in this section, the FAA always intended that the light-sport aircraft definition would establish an appropriate limiting maximum airspeed.  During the preliminary discussions to set the design attributes proposed in the NPRM, the FAA considered a range of limiting airspeeds.  When setting an appropriate limiting maximum airspeed, the FAA took into account that:  (1) Training requirements for the sport pilot certificate are based on the simplicity of the aircraft’s operating characteristics; and (2) aircraft certification requirements are based on a performance envelope appropriate for a light-sport aircraft.

In constructing the light-sport aircraft definition, the FAA also took into consideration three groups of aircraft that will be addressed by this rule:  (1) Two-place ultralight-like aircraft that have been operating under an exemption to part 103; (2) new light-sport aircraft to be designed, manufactured and operated under this rule; and (3) existing aircraft whose low performance capabilities would meet the light-sport aircraft definition.  In the proposed rule, the FAA believed that the 115 knots CAS VH limit met the two considerations in the preceding paragraph and covered the range of aircraft described in this paragraph. 

Additionally, the FAA specifically requested additional input through the light-sport aircraft online forum on methods to establish upper limits for the light-sport aircraft definition.  To read the online forum comments, go to the electronic docket address given above in the section titled “Availability of Rulemaking Documents” and view item number 2676 in Docket No. FAA-2001-11133.

            The FAA still believes that establishing a maximum airspeed in level flight at maximum continuous power (VH) is the best way to limit “high-end” capability of the powered light-sport aircraft.  With the change to the light-sport aircraft definition permitting increased weight, which may provide for the use of higher-powered engines, the FAA is also increasing VH to 120 knots.  The FAA believes that this small increase is appropriate for the revised light-sport aircraft definition and remains consistent with the purpose that was the basis for the originally proposed 115-knot CAS (VH) limit.  The FAA believes that the training required for sport pilots operating light-sport aircraft over 87 knots (VH) addresses any training concerns and that the change in the VH airspeed limit from 115 to 120 knots does not require any additional training beyond what is established in the rule.

Some commenters believed that the proposed airspeed limitation, VH, should be eliminated and some commenters state that unlimited maximum speeds would not jeopardize safety.  A commenter said that the FAA should impose other design limits or flight characteristics instead of a maximum speed limit for light-sport airplanes.  One commenter specifically asked why the FAA cares how fast the airplane can fly.  The FAA disagrees that a maximum speed limit is unnecessary for light-sport aircraft.  As stated in the NPRM, the FAA believes that a maximum speed limit is appropriate for aircraft designed for operation by persons with the minimum training and experience of a sport pilot.  Some commenters state that the maximum speed limitation is essentially unenforceable.  For the purpose of issuing the special light-sport aircraft airworthiness certificate, the FAA believes that the consensus standards will identify an easily repeatable demonstration for the manufacturer to prove that the aircraft meets the light-sport aircraft definition.  The manufacturer will perform this test in support of its statement of compliance.

One commenter stated that aircraft speeds vary with altitude, and the light-sport aircraft definition did not state any FAA expectation concerning this.  The FAA agrees with the comment, and is specifying in the light-sport aircraft definition that performance limitations are expected to be met for standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.

Commenters stated that the FAA’s proposed limit of 115 knots maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power is unnecessary or redundant because the aircraft weight and stall speed establish power and wing loading, which effectively set drag that limits maximum speed.  One commenter proposed that a weight limit of 750 pounds for a single-seat light-sport airplane would limit power and airspeed without requiring a design constraint.  Alternatively, some commenters proposed that the sport pilot accept an operating limitation to not operate at speeds in excess of the FAA’s desired limit.  A commenter proposed that a sport pilot operating limitation of 100 knots CAS in the airport traffic pattern should be an alternative to the proposed light-sport aircraft maximum airspeed limit.  The FAA believes that because of the wide variety of aircraft to be included in the light-sport aircraft definition, the use of airplane-based parameters is not adequate to eliminate an upper limit on light-sport aircraft speed.  The FAA requires a maximum speed limit to assure a light-sport aircraft design that is compatible with the capabilities of a sport pilot.  However the FAA disagrees with the use of operating limitations to prescribe limitations on the aircraft definition.  Using operating limitations instead of aircraft design limits may permit sport pilots to use aircraft that exceed the parameters of the light-sport aircraft definition. 

Commenters requested that the FAA consider alternative maximum speed limits, ranging from 120 to 187 knots CAS.  One commenter proposed that the maximum airspeed limit should be 120 knots, so that 2 nautical miles (NM) per minute would simplify navigation by pilotage.  The FAA disagrees that simplifying navigation by pilotage would be an appropriate justification; however, the FAA is increasing the maximum speed value to 120 knots CAS from the 115 knots CAS originally proposed.  As previously stated, the FAA believes this small increase is appropriate for the revised definition of “light-sport aircraft,” and it remains consistent with the original proposal.  The FAA does not believe that this change will materially affect the population of aircraft that are eligible to meet the definition of light-sport aircraft. 

Commenters stated that the proposed limit is unenforceable, because a propeller pitch change can increase or decrease the airplane speed at maximum power.  Some commenters asked if flat pitch propellers or engine governors would be permitted as a way for an airplane to satisfy the maximum airspeed constraint.  The FAA agrees that the manufacturer may use flat pitch propellers or engine governors as part of the aircraft design to demonstrate compliance with the light-sport aircraft definition.  If an aircraft propeller or engine configuration causes the aircraft to exceed the prescribed limitations, the aircraft will not be considered to meet the definition of light-sport aircraft.  The FAA notes that although it is not permitting variable pitch propellers, the use of ground adjustable propellers is permitted.  The FAA expects the airplane manufacturer to define the airplane configuration, using critical parameters, when determining compliance with the light-sport aircraft definition.  The FAA expects that the sport pilot will operate the aircraft in the configuration that the manufacturer used to demonstrate compliance with the light-sport aircraft definition.

Commenters stated that the proposed limit is impractical, because when the airplane nose drops, it will accelerate and possibly exceed the limit set by the light-sport aircraft definition.  The FAA disagrees that the limit is impractical.  The proposed limit is for straight and level flight only and should not be confused with a maximum operating speed or a maximum dive speed.  The consensus standard for airplane design and performance will assure that the aircraft structure has adequate margins to be operated within its allowable speed range.

Several commenters stated that the same flying skills are needed for a slower or a faster airplane.  The FAA disagrees and notes that the skills necessary to operate an aircraft that exceeds 120 knots differ from those skills necessary to operate a light-sport aircraft.  In addition, the FAA requires a sport pilot to obtain additional training to operate an aircraft with VH greater than 87 knots and less than 120 knots because different skills are necessary to operate these light-sport aircraft with higher performance capabilities.  For further discussion on training requirements reference “V.5.A.iii. Flight Training and Proficiency Requirements” in the discussion of Part 61 general issues. 

A commenter proposed that a different light-sport airplane category permit faster airplanes, or that a sport pilot be permitted to operate faster airplanes with a logbook endorsement.  The FAA disagrees that sport pilots should be permitted to fly faster aircraft heavier than permitted by the definition of light-sport aircraft.  The FAA believes that a pilot operating aircraft above the speed in the definition should have at least a private or recreational pilot’s certificate because the FAA believes it would not be appropriate or safe for persons with the minimum training and experience of a sport pilot to operate faster or heavier aircraft.

A commenter stated that cruise speed has little to do with aircraft energy when the aircraft is out of control.  The FAA notes that the purpose of the limitation on speed is to make it easier for the sport pilot to maintain aircraft control.  The FAA believes that, at higher cruise speeds, the possibility for adverse consequences from momentary loss of control is greater.  Commenters objected that the proposed limit would force the design of inefficient aircraft.  The FAA disagrees with this opinion.  Faster aircraft are not necessarily more efficient than slower aircraft.  Maximum speed is not an indication as to whether or not an aircraft has an efficient design.  An efficient aircraft design (with lower drag) can provide benefits to the operator other than increased speed.  Such benefits may permit the aircraft to use a smaller engine, have increased range, or have increased payload capacity. 

Some commenters proposed that a horsepower limit would be more suitable than a maximum speed limit.  A commenter stated that horsepower and drag are the factors that set airplane maximum speed.  The FAA agrees that there are alternative methods of limiting aircraft speed, however, the FAA has chosen to limit the speed directly rather than indirectly through some other parameter.  Due to the variability of aircraft design the FAA believes that limiting horsepower would not necessarily result in consistent maximum airspeed limitations.

Some commenters stated that higher speed does not affect safety, but insufficient power may reduce safety.  The FAA has previously discussed how higher speed may affect safety.  With regard to simple, low-performance aircraft, the design and performance consensus standard will ensure that all aircraft meet a minimum performance standard and therefore provide an acceptable level of safety.  Several commenters stated that the maximum airspeed is dependent upon throttle position, and that operating at 100% throttle is not a normal operation.  Although this statement is true, the FAA has determined that it is appropriate to impose a maximum speed limit for the reasons stated above.

Another commenter stated that many airplanes “claim” inflated top speeds, so only a demonstrated maximum speed would be credible.  The FAA agrees and notes that VH was selected as it is easily demonstrated.  Several commenters noted that in-service variations affecting engine or propeller efficiency, instrument calibration, or airplane aerodynamics could cause significant variations in actual maximum airspeed.  The FAA agrees that some small variations in actual aircraft performance are to be expected.  However, the FAA believes that a demonstration by the manufacturer of the aircraft’s maximum airspeed in a specified configuration is adequate to ensure that the airplane design is compatible with the light-sport aircraft definition.  A commenter stated that foreign sport airplane airworthiness standards do not impose a maximum airspeed requirement, and this would be an unfair advantage compared to American aircraft.  The FAA disagrees that foreign aircraft have an unfair advantage.  Regardless of the country of manufacture, in order to be considered a light-sport aircraft, the aircraft must meet the parameters of the light-sport aircraft definition.

A commenter proposed that the light-sport aircraft definition should assure structural integrity by requiring that the maximum speed in level flight with maximum continuous power, VH, be less than or equal to the design maneuvering speed (VA) at altitudes of 8,000 feet or less.  Because the FAA is not establishing structural limits in the definition of light-sport aircraft, it would be inappropriate to include this constraint in the definition.  The FAA believes that this would be an excessive restriction for light-sport aircraft. 

 

Paragraph (3)  Maximum never-exceed speed (VNE) for a glider

A commenter stated that the FAA’s proposed maximum speed of 115 knots for a glider does not provide adequate protection against headwinds or wind shear.  A commenter asked that the never-exceed speed (VNE) be increased slightly to allow for increased safety, utility, and comfort.  Several comments recommended increased VNE for gliders.  Additional comments expressed satisfaction with the consistency with the VH for powered aircraft.  The FAA is aware that the two maximum speed limits established in the light-sport aircraft definition have two different bases.  As stated in the previous section, the FAA’s concern is that the light-sport aircraft definition set a maximum speed limit for the aircraft to be flown by sport pilots.  In response to the comments reported in this section, in the final rule, VNE for gliders is increased to 120 knots CAS.  This is done to maintain consistency between the VH value for powered aircraft and the VNE value for gliders.

 

Proposed paragraph (4)  Maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed in landing configuration (VS0)

Some commenters recommended that the FAA eliminate the 39-knot stall speed in the landing configuration.  Many comments recommended raising the limit of 39 knots CAS in the landing configuration.  Some commenters questioned the narrow proposed spread between the originally proposed VS0 (proposed in paragraph (4)) of 39 knots CAS and the VS1 (proposed in paragraph (5)) of 44 knots CAS. 

The FAA agrees that the proposed spread of stall speeds in practice is narrow, and provides a mixed message as to the limiting design condition.  A low stall speed is desirable, but not at the expense of forcing a simple aircraft that otherwise meets the definition to become more complex to operate and maintain by adding flaps to a design for no other purpose than to meet the VS0 requirement.  Light-sport aircraft may have flaps because the safety benefit of this feature can be achieved without the complexity inherent in retractable landing gear or controllable-pitch propellers.  The FAA is eliminating the maximum stalling speed in the landing configuration (VS0) restriction that was proposed in paragraph (4) of the NPRM because the low-speed limit is adequately addressed by the maximum “clean” stall speed (VS1).

 

Final rule paragraph (4)  Maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices (VS1) (proposed as paragraph (5))

The FAA received numerous comments concerning the two proposed maximum stall speeds.  Some commenters agreed with the stall speeds originally proposed by the FAA.  Many commenters proposed higher alternative values for the light-sport aircraft stall speed limit, ranging from 45 miles per hour (mph) (39 knots) to 63 mph (55 knots).  Typically, commenters referred to a particular homebuilt, classic, or existing training airplane as being appropriate for consideration under the light-sport aircraft definition and for operation by a sport pilot.  The FAA did not establish a maximum stall speed for light-sport aircraft based on the parameters of particular aircraft.

Additionally, one commenter asked why the stall speeds were so low.  The FAA’s proposed stall speeds were based on early discussions with light-sport aircraft industry representatives.  A basic design principle for light-sport aircraft is that the stall speed for these aircraft is about one third of the aircraft maximum speed.  The FAA notes that when it increased the maximum aircraft speed in the final rule it also increased the maximum stall speed accordingly.   

A commenter stated that the FAA should increase the stall speed to a range of 50 mph to 60 mph, “…which would be above what is generally encountered as normally high runway turbulence and would lead to safer landings.”  The FAA believes that the stall speed established in the light-sport aircraft definition should be adequate to address airport surface conditions normally encountered by light-sport aircraft.  Permitting significantly increased stall speeds may have the effect of changing the takeoff and landing characteristics of light-sport aircraft to a degree that is inappropriate for their operation by sport pilots.

            A commenter stated that a 50-knot stall speed would be needed for light-sport aircraft to operate in Class B, C, or D airspace.  The FAA does not agree that operating in these airspace classes requires such a high stall speed and notes that ultralight vehicles may operate in Class B, C, or D airspace with ATC permission.  Additionally, other aircraft with stall speeds below 50 knots routinely operate in these classes of airspace.

A commenter proposed that the FAA require shoulder harnesses in light-sport aircraft and then increase the proposed stall speed limits by 10 percent.  The FAA disagrees that installing shoulder harnesses should permit increased stall speeds for light-sport aircraft.  This rule does not directly prescribe equipment standards as those are contained in the consensus standards.

A commenter proposed that an increased stall speed would permit a higher aircraft weight, which would permit installation of more navigation and communication equipment on the light-sport aircraft.  As noted elsewhere in this section, to accommodate the weight increase and maximum speed increase from the originally proposed maximum values, the FAA is increasing the limit stall speed without the use of lift enhancing devices VS1 to 45 knots CAS.

Several commenters proposed that the light-sport aircraft should have a lower stall speed limit.  One reasoned that slower flight permits a wider choice of emergency landing fields.  Several stated that the stall speed should be as low as possible for safety’s sake.  The FAA agrees with these principles; however, disagrees with the need to lower the proposed stall speed.  The FAA believes that the revised stall speed is appropriate for aircraft that might weigh as much as the maximum weight limit that is established in the light-sport aircraft definition.  The FAA notes that the maximum stall speed does not prohibit a manufacturer from producing lighter aircraft with lower stall speeds.

A commenter believed that 30 to 35 knots would be better than the value proposed by the FAA, and recommended that the part 103 stall speed of 24 knots would be even better.  As described in detail elsewhere in this section, the FAA believes that an increased stall speed for light-sport aircraft is appropriate for the maximum aircraft weight permitted by the light-sport aircraft definition.  The FAA notes that the light-sport aircraft definition is intended to broadly encompass a wide range of aircraft for sport pilots.  Some light-sport aircraft design parameters significantly exceed the parameters of vehicles operating under part 103.  Therefore, it would not be appropriate to use the part 103 stall speed limits for all light-sport aircraft.

A commenter agreed with the concern for a low stall speed, but stated that pilot awareness should better focus on airplane angle of attack rather than speed.  The FAA agrees that there is a need to limit the capability of the light-sport aircraft but notes that angle of attack is not an appropriate design parameter for these aircraft.  Pilot training typically addresses critical aircraft attitudes, including angle of attack. 

A commenter stated that FAA should clarify that aircraft speeds are more accurately represented by knots True Air Speed (TAS) or knots Calibrated Air Speed (CAS), rather than knots Indicated Air Speed (IAS).  Both the proposal and the final rule refer to speeds in knots CAS.

Commenters asked for details on how the stall speed is determined.  The definition was changed to specify that maximum stalling speed is determined at maximum weight, with most critical center of gravity location, at sea level standard day conditions.  However, the actual test method is to be defined in the consensus standard. 

 

Final Rule Paragraph (5) Maximum seating capacity (proposed as paragraph (6))

Several commenters stated that the FAA should permit more than two seats for the light-sport aircraft.  Additionally, a commenter asked if four-seat airplanes could meet the light-sport aircraft definition with limitation of only using two seats.  Light-sport aircraft are simple, non-complex, aircraft and adding more seats or passengers would add to the weight and complexity of these aircraft resulting in operational characteristics that would be inappropriate for the sport pilot.  A commenter asked if a single-seat aircraft is eligible as a light-sport aircraft.  The definition permits a single-seat aircraft.

A commenter asked if side-by-side seating would be permitted for flight instruction.  Another commenter questioned the permissible arrangement of the seats in a two-place aircraft.  Side-by-side or tandem seating is permitted under this rule.  The definition does not define the arrangement of the seats.

 

Final Rule Paragraph (6) Single, reciprocating engine (proposed as paragraph (7))

Commenters recommended that the light-sport aircraft definition allow for multi-engine aircraft, turbine-powered aircraft, or both.  The FAA disagrees with this suggestion.  Multi-engine and turbine-powered aircraft introduce a level of operational and mechanical complexity that extends far beyond the scope of this rule.  Current pilot certification rules require an additional rating for multi-engine operation and a type rating for turbojet powered aircraft.  These additional pilot ratings are not available to the holder of a sport pilot certificate.  Further, most turbopropeller engines make use of cockpit-controllable variable pitch propellers and many have a reverse thrust operational mode as well.  Such devices are mechanically and operationally complex, requiring more extensive training to operate in flight and having far more complex maintenance requirements.  Therefore, the definition of light-sport aircraft will continue to exclude multiengine or turbine-powered aircraft.

Several commenters proposed that small turbine engines be permitted for light-sport aircraft.  Reasons included simplicity of design and operation, desire to foster innovation, and safety relative to a propeller design.  A commenter stated that a small turbine engine permits a simpler powerplant package for a powered glider than a propeller engine.  The FAA does not agree that turbine engines are appropriate for the light-sport aircraft category.  Turbine engines possess inherent design characteristics that must be accommodated by stringent design, maintenance, and operating criteria that are inconsistent with the light-sport aircraft regulatory philosophy.  Specifically, turbine engine failure modes, such as disc bursts, can be catastrophic to the aircraft.  The FAA has established engine and airframe certification regulations to address these failure modes such as mandatory life limits, extensive engine analyses and testing, and airframe layout, structural and performance criteria that require extensive FAA oversight that is beyond the scope of this rulemaking.

Many commenters stated that light-sport aircraft should have the safety benefit of multi-engine reliability.  A commenter stated that small multi-engine ultralight-like airplanes respond differently to a single engine failure than relatively larger general aviation aircraft.  Another commenter stated that the light-sport aircraft performance would assure that multi-engine operation would require a negligible difference in pilot skills.  Another proposed to require only a single thrust line and permit multi-engines.  Another proposed that the light-sport aircraft definition contain suggested specific performance values and include provisions that would result in a light-sport aircraft having docile handling characteristics to accommodate single-engine failure in a multi-engine layout.  A commenter proposed that multi-engines be permitted, with a combined horsepower limit.  For the reasons stated previously, the FAA disagrees that light-sport aircraft should be permitted to have multiple engines because of the additional operational complexity of these aircraft. 

A commenter stated that for ultralight-like aircraft, the engines should be considered non-essential equipment.  Another commenter stated that because ultralight pilots are trained to stay within safe gliding distance from an emergency landing field then engines should be considered as non-essential equipment.  The FAA will permit the teams developing the design consensus standards for the different classes of light-sport aircraft to determine whether engine operation is essential to the safe operation of these aircraft.  Neither the light-sport aircraft definition nor the rule directly prescribes standards for design of equipment, such as engines.  The FAA believes that in many instances light-sport aircraft will be operated well beyond safe gliding distances from an emergency landing field.