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FAA Strongly Encouraging Light-Sport Industry Accountability

November 10 2011 – The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) committee F37 on light-sport aircraft held its biannual meeting in Tampa, Florida, earlier this month. Earl Lawrence, manager of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate and former chairman of F37, gave a presentation to the committee articulating some concerns the agency has regarding light-sport aircraft.

After seven years, the segment continues to grow and serves as an entry point for recreational GA. However, Lawrence expressed concern that manufacturers continue to lack records supporting compliance to the standards. The agency has witnessed signors of FAA form 8130-15 (the document that states full compliance to the ASTM standards) who have never seen the standards to which they are attesting. Additionally there are members of the committee who would like to see the category expanded, yet not all manufacturers are getting the basics right, Lawrence said. 

Paramount to FAA’s vision for light-sport aircraft is a focus on safety and industry accountability while creating appropriate regulations and policy, Lawrence added. The eventual goal: a successful, industry-led, self-declarative compliance and audit system. The agency would like to achieve a fatal accident rate equivalent or better than the existing “personal” aviation rate. The FAA hopes to accomplish the above without FAA type design certification or direct FAA production oversight. 

The FAA would prefer to see the person who attests to compliance to ASTM standards to have some level of certification. Required third-party quality assurance audits for initial certification and then on a recurring basis was also presented as a specific area for improvement. Lastly, the agency will continue to encourage the use of ballistic chutes, inflatable restraints, and other safety enhancing devices. 

To ensure participants who were not at the meeting receive the message, the Small Airplane Directorate is sending this letter to all LSA manufacturers and their U.S. importers. 

EAA continues to actively participate in the process of standards development and improvement for light-sport aircraft. EAA Government and Advocacy Specialist David Oord serves as member-at-large of the F37 Executive Committee. The continued success of sport pilot light-sport aircraft remains one of EAA’s top priorities because it significantly reduces barriers to flight for future aviators. 

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