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G. Michael Huffman
Sport Aviation Specialties, LLC

1512 Game Trail
Lawrenceville, GA 30044

770-548-1206

Copyright © 2005 - 2014
G. Michael Huffman
All rights reserved

Member of ASTM F37 Light-Sport Aircraft Committee

Member of Light Aircraft
Manufacturers Association

Disclaimer: FAA regulations, orders, policies, ASTM publications, and other documents are subject to change and interpretation. Any information on this site that pertains to those documents is for reference only. It is the responsibility of visitors to verify all such information with the FAA or ASTM.

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DAR Services

  • Are you building an Experimental Amateur-Built (E-AB) aircraft and want to get it certificated?

  • Do you own a Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) and want to change its certification to Experimental Light-Sport so you can make modifications and perform your own annual condition inspections?

  • Are you building an aircraft from an SLSA manufacturer's kit and want to get it certicated?

  • Are you an S-LSA manufacturer and need production flight-test permits and airworthiness certification for your production aircraft?

  • Are you engaged in an FAA design approval program (TC, STC, PMA, or TSO) and need FAA conformity inspections for your prototypes parts and assemblies?

(Click here for an explanation of the differences between these certificate types.)

Then, you will likely need the services of a Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR). To learn more about our DAR services, click the links below. Or, simply scroll down the page.

What is a DAR? (Back)
A DAR is a private citizen who has extensive experience in aviation, has received special training from FAA, and has been delegated the authority to perform certain FAA functions.

FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASIs--who are FAA employees) can and sometimes do perform the functions of a DAR. However, in practice, due to FAA budget constraints and increasing workloads, most such tasks are performed by DARs.

Our DAR Services (Back)
Michael Huffman, owner of Sport Aviation Specialties, is a DAR authorized to perform the following functions:

  • Issue airworthiness certificates for Experimental Amateur-Built (EAB) aircraft

  • Issue airworthiness certificates for Experimental Light-Sport aircraft (ELSA)

  • Issue airworthiness certificates and production flight-test permits for Special Light-Sport Aircraft (SLSA). If you have need of these services, please contact us by phone or email.

  • Perform FAA conformity inspections for prototype parts used in FAA design approval programs, including type certification (TC), suppllemental type certification (STC), parts manufacturer approval (PMA), and technical standard order (TSO). If you have need of these services, please contact us by phone or email.

If you have an aircraft to be certified, call or email us as early as possible. We can guide you through the process. Or, if you have other questions, we would be happy to try and answer them.

The EAB & ELSA Certification Process (Back)
The certification process for experimental light-sport aircraft and experimental amateur-built aircraft are very similar. This section describes the process and points out differences between the two.

The Basic Steps (Back)
The basic steps for certificating an E-AB or E-LSA are very similar, as described below. Differences are explained in the subsequent sections. Click any of the links below for details, or simply scroll down the page.

  • Determine aircraft eligibility. (Go)
  • Register the aircraft and obtain an N-number. (Go)
  • Prepare the aircraft for the DAR's inspection.
    • Apply the N-number. (Go)
    • Apply an "Experimental" placard. (Go)
    • Apply a passenger warning placard. (Go)
    • Apply markings on all instruments. (Go)
    • Apply placards on all controls, switches, circuit breakers/fuses, etc. (Go)
    • Install a fireproof dataplate. (Go)
    • Install an ELT, except for weight-shift aircraft, powered-parachutes, or single-place aircraft. (Go)
    • Install any other required equipment. (Go)
    • Perform a weight and balance. (Go)
    • Provide airframe and engine maintenance logbooks. (Go)
    • Inspect your aircraft and correct deficiencies. (Go)
    • Assure the aircraft is complete. (Go)
    • Complete FAA paperwork. (Go)
  • During the DAR visit, we will inspect your aircraft and, if we find it to be in a condition for safe operation, we will issue you a Special Airworthiness Certificate and a set of operating limitations. (Go)

Determine Aircraft Eligibility (Back)
Your first task is to determine which certification category your aircraft is eligible for.

To be eligible for experimental amateur-built certification:

  • The major portion of the aircraft must have been fabricated and assembled by an individual or group of individuals. This is the so-called "51% rule." FAA maintains a list of approved kits that meet this requirement-visit the FAA web site www.faa.gov. Note that a project that has passed through more than one owner before it is complete may be acceptable for certification as an E-AB if construction logs, photos, and/or other evidence of meeting this requirement can be presented. FAA Advisory Circular 20-27G, downloadable from the FAA web site, contains additional details. Note that, since Sep 2009, the FAA has imposed additional requirements on DARs to assure that the major portion requirement is met. Thus, much more emphasis must now be placed on developing a good construction log as the building process proceeds.

    The project must have been undertaken solely for educational or recreational purposes. That means a person or business may not legally build an amateur-built aircraft for another person as a commercial venture. Although this rule has been subject to some interpretation, the advent of so-called "amateur-built" kits and "builder assistance centers" for very sophisticated aircraft such as very light jets (VLJs) has caused the FAA to take a closer look at commercial assistance. FAA Advisory Circular 20-27G, downloadable from www.faa.gov, addresses these issues.

    IF YOUR PROJECT DOES NOT HAVE A GOOD CONSTRUCTION LOG, IT IS CRITICAL THAT YOU DISCUSS THAT WITH YOUR DAR AHEAD OF TIME. WITHOUT A GOOD CONSTRUCTION LOG, IT MAY WELL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOUR AIRCRAFT TO BE CERTIFICATED AS AN E-AB.

  • The aircraft must comply with acceptable aeronautical standards and practices. As part of the certification process, you will inspect your completed aircraft and attest to that requirement and the DAR will verify that the aircraft meets the requirement.

To be eligible for experimental light-sport certification:

  • The aircraft must meet the light-sport aircraft specifications regarding weight, speed, and configuration.

  • The aircraft must be either a fixed-wing airplane, a weight-shift aircraft, a powered parachute, a gyroplane, a glider, or a lighter-than-air vehicle. Helicopters are not eligible.

  • The aircraft must fall into one of the following classifications.
    • Existing "ultralight-like vehicles" Note that the final January 31, 2010 deadline for certificating aircraft under this classification has past--no other aircraft will be certificated under this provision.

    • Aircraft built from a kit produced by an S-LSA manufacturer and assembled in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Note that the 51% rule does not apply to such kits. If your aircraft falls into this classification, please phone or email us for instructions.

    • Aircraft previously issued an airworthiness certificate as an S-LSA, for which the owner desires to change the certification to E-LSA, either to allow modifications and/or annual condition inspections by the owner who has obtained a Light-Sport Repairman- Inspection (LSRI) certificate or because the SLSA manufacturer has gone out of business. If your aircraft falls into this classification, please phone or email us for instructions.

Register the Aircraft (Back)
Before you start the registration process, we recommended you contact us. We can guide you through the process, let you know where to obtain forms, and help you avoid pitfalls and unpleasant surprises. It is in everyone's best interest for the certification process to go smoothly.

We also highly recommend you purchase EAA's E-AB Conversion Kit. It contains all the necessary forms, placards, dataplate, and a 15-page E-AB Conversion Guide, which takes you through the process step-by-step. To order the guide, visit www.sportpilot.org or www.eaa.org.

The E-AB conversion guide provides detailed instructions for registering your aircraft with the FAA and obtaining an N-number. In summary:

  • You'll first need to decide whether you want to choose your own N-number or accept one automatically assigned by FAA.

    If you want to have a special N-number, you will need to reserve it, which can be done online here. You can check with FAA Aircraft Registry to see what N-numbers are available here. Alternatively, you can submit a request letter to FAA Aircraft Registration Branch, AFS-750, PO Box 25504, Oklahoma City, OK 73125, but this process takes more time. List five different N-number choices in your letter and include a check for $10 payable to the U.S. Treasury.

  • After receiving your special N-number reservation, or if you have decided to accept the one assigned by FAA, the next step is to to fill out and submit the following forms. You'll need to include a check for $5.00 payable to FAA Aircraft Registry.
    • FAA Form 8050-1, Aircraft Registration Application
    • FAA Form 8050-88, Affidavit of Ownership- for E-AB

Here is a caution concerning filling out the registration application form. The manufacturer, model, serial number, N-number, and owner's name listed on your registration certificate are the "master" data by which FAA knows your aircraft. All your other forms must agree with the registration data. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in FAA forms can result in confusion; for instance, the registration application form refers to "aircraft manufacturer," while the application for airworthiness form refers to "builder's name," both of which mean exactly the same.

For an E-AB, you should generally use your own name as the manufacturer/builder. If you built the aircraft from a kit, the model designation and serial number can be that assigned by the kit manufacturer. If you significantly modified the aircraft from the kit configuration, you may want to modify the model number, i.e., "Jones RV-7A"

Keep it short--remember, what you list here will have to appear on all other forms and on your fireproof dataplate. There may not be room for long names on your dataplate or forms. As an example, where more than one person owns the aircraft, list only one as the manufacturer or builder. The other names should be listed as owners, but not as the manufacturer or builder. Keep model numbers short for the same reason; for instance, rather than listing the model as "RANS S-7S Courier," just list "S-7S."

Apply the N-Number (Back)
FAR Part 45 has very specific requirements for N-numbers. For instance, it says they should be painted on or "affixed by any other means insuring a similar degree of permanence." Vinyl tape letters available from aviation supply companies meet this requirement if there is a reasonable expectation that removing them would damage the paint; however, typical office supply or hardware store letters do not.

It also says N-numbers must be legible, must contrast with the background, and must have no ornamentation. Obviously, many N-numbers seen on aircraft in use do not meet these requirements, but you will need to do so to get your aircraft certificated.

There are specifications on the letter height, letter width, stroke width, spacing of the letters, and the placement of the N-number on the aircraft. All E-LSAs and any E-ABs that do not exceed 180 knots cruising speed are allowed to use 3" numbers; otherwise, 12" numbers are required. Also, 12" numbers are required on any aircraft penetrating an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or Distant Early Warning Identification Zone (DEWIZ).

Note also that the rules are a little different for powered parachutes and weight-shift aircraft. There, N-numbers must be 3" high displayed horizontally on diametrically-opposed locations on each side of the fuselage or component of the fuselage. Some PPCs and weight-shift aircraft do not have a location large enough to accommodate 3" N-numbers; in those cases, it is allowable to mount a plate on the structure using clamps or other means, onto which to apply the 3" numbers. Numbers smaller than 3" or numbers on easily removable items such as saddlebags are not allowed.

If you are in doubt about N-numbers, contact us.

Apply an "Experimental" Placard (Back)
FAR 45.23 requires a placard with the word "Experimental" in letters at least 2" high to be applied "near each entrance to the cabin, cockpit, or pilot station."

Apply a Passenger Warning Placard (Back)
The operating limitations document that will be issued by the DAR for your E-AB or E-LSA requires that you advise each passenger of the experimental nature of the aircraft and that it does not meet the certification requirements of a standard certificated aircraft. This is accomplished by applying a placard in view of passengers with the following wording.

"PASSENGER WARNING - THIS AIRCRAFT IS AN EXPERIMENTAL LIGHT SPORT [or AMATEUR-BUILT] AIRCRAFT AND DOES NOT COMPLY WITH FEDERAL SAFETY REGULATIONS FOR STANDARD AIRCRAFT"

Apply Instrument Markings (Back)
There is no minimum set of instruments or equipment required to certificate either an E-AB or an E-LSA. (However, you should note that if you plan to equip the aircraft for night or IFR flight, a specific complement of instruments and equipment is required--see FAR 91.205 for a list) In any case, if such instruments/equipment are installed, they must be marked. Each flight, engine, and other instrument must have markings on its face indicating the acceptable operating range, as defined below.

  • The airspeed indicator must have the following markings (determined from the kit manufacturers data where applicable).
    • A green arc, the bottom of which is the anticipated power-off, no-flaps stall speed and the top of which is the maximum anticipated cruise speed
    • A red line, which is located at the never-exceed speed of the aircraft.
    • If equipped with flaps, a white arc, the bottom of which is the power-off, full-flaps stall speed and the top of which is the maximum flaps-extended speed

  • The oil temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, coolant temperature gauge, tachometer, or other engine/propeller gauges must be marked with green arcs indicating normal operating ranges and/or red lines indicating maximum values as determined from the engine manufacturer's data.

  • It is recommended that the compass have a compass correction card, which is created by pointing the aircraft on known headings on the ground and recording the compass reading. This is done using a "compass rose" painted on an airport ramp. If your airport does not have a compass rose, you may wait until after the aircraft is certificated, fly to an airport that does, and create the compass correction card there.

Many of the new electronic flight and engine instruments have built-in programmable alarms that will produce audible or visual annunciation if they are exceeded. If properly programmed to the aircraft/engine/propeller specifications, these alarms are considered adequate in place of colored arcs or textual placards on conventional instruments.

Apply Placards on All Controls, Switches (Back)
Each control, indicator, switch, circuit breaker, fuse, etc. is required to be labeled to identify its function and direction of operation (e.g., "Landing Light- On- Off"). Where applicable, word the labels to correspond with the position of the control to be used in an emergency (e.g., "Throttle- Push On," "Carburetor Heat- Push Cold").

Trim and flap controls and indicators should be marked showing the limits of operation, the direction of operation, and the correct position for normal takeoffs and landings.

Install a Fireproof Dataplate (Back)
"Fireproof" in this case means having an ability to resist fire equivalent to steel. The EAA supplies a stainless steel dataplate with blanks for manufacturer/builder, model, and serial number. Note that earlier EAA dataplates that contain blanks for other information such as year built, builder's name and address, etc are acceptable, but the extra information is not required for certification.

FAR 45.11 requires that the dataplate information be marked by "etching, stamping, engraving, or other approved method of fireproof marking." It also specifies location and mounting provisions; in general, dataplates should be permanently mounted (with screws or rivets--not, for instance, pressure-sensitive adhesives) and located as far aft as possible on the primary structure of the aircraft (not on a removable access cover, fairing, etc.)

If you are in doubt of how or where to mount your datatplate, contact us.

Install an ELT (Back)
Unless you own a single-place aircraft, a weight shift aircraft, or a powered parachute, you will be required to have an emergency locator transmitter (ELT).

An ELT meeting the requirements of TSO-C91a is acceptable; older TSO-C91 ELTs are not allowed for new installations after June 21, 1995. The difference is that the newer ELTs have an external antenna to be mounted on the outside of the aircraft and a small remote panel to be mounted on the aircraft instrument panel; the remote panel has an indicator light that shows when the ELT has been activated and a switch to reset the unit.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions in mounting the ELT. It should be mounted as far aft as possible, in the correct direction to allow activation in a crash. It is also important that the structure to which the ELT is mounted be adequate to withstand the weight and G-forces of the ELT without vibrating in flight or failing in case of a crash.

You might want to consider one of the new digital TSO-C126 406-mHz ELT, some of which have the ability to broadcast not only the emergency signal, but also the GPS coordinates of a crash and contact information for the pilot. The 406-mHz units are currently a good bit more expensive than the TSO C91a units ($900- $1500 versus $175-$400).

The type of ELT you choose may be influenced by what you want it to do, i.e., to either simply satisfy FAA regulations for an ELT or to provide the best chance of being found after a crash. As of February 2009, the 121.5-MHz ELT signals are no longer monitored by the Cospas-Sarsat orbiting satellites. However, they are still routinely monitored by airliners and ground-based observers.

The location of a 406-mHz signal can be pinpointed much more accurately than that of a 121.5-MHz signal.

Install Other Required Equipment (Back)
If your aircraft is based inside the 30-nautical-mile-radius Mode C ring associated with the Class B airspace around several major airports, you will most likely need a radar transponder and altitude encoder.

However, there is an exception that may apply to a few E-ABs and E-LSAs. The way it is stated in FAR Part 91.215, if your aircraft was "originally certificated without an engine-driven electrical system" and has not been retrofitted with such a system, a transponder is not required. This statement is interpreted by the FAA to apply only to engines such as the Continental A-65/75 that were originally manufactured without generators or alternators and for which fitting a generator or alternator would be difficult. That means if your engine is a newer Continental or Lycoming, a 2-stroke or 4-stroke Rotax, or any other engine that is easily capable of having an alternator or generator, the exception does not apply.

Perform a Weight and Balance (Back)
Actually, the term "weight and balance" applies to fixed-wing E-ABs and E-LSAs. A better term for weight-shift aircraft and powered parachutes is "weight and loading," since center of gravity calculations generally do not apply to those aircraft. The reason is that the frame or carriage of such machines is suspended from a pivoting "hang point," so the distribution of weight between pilot, passenger, fuel, baggage, etc, often do not affect the stability of the aircraft. However, the location of the hang point relative to the center of lift of the wing or the parachute may affect performance and stability. If you are certificating a weight-shift aircraft or powered parachute, obtain the allowable weight, weight distribution, and hang point data from the manufacturer.

For fixed-wing aircraft, we like for applicants to use our weight and balance form; when you get us involved in your certification, we will supply you a copy. A Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, it provides step-by-step instructions for performing the weight and balance, it provides a sheet to record the equipment installed in the aircraft at the time, and it automatically performs weight and balance calculations. The printed output from the form goes into the aircraft records.

You'll need to perform calculations for most-forward CG, most-aft CG, and the actual loading condition that will be used for your Phase I flight tests. The FAA has established a very specific procedure for the most-forward and most-aft CG calculations; the instructions for our spreadsheet explain the procedure.

If your aircraft is built from a kit, the kit manufacturer can supply you with the weight, center of gravity limits, datum location, and the location of the pilot, passenger, fuel, oil, coolant, and baggage weights relative to the datum. On the other hand, if your aircraft is an original design or has been modified, you will need to make your own determination of those parameters.

Provide Aircraft Maintenance Logbooks (Back)
At the time you present your aircraft for certification, you will need a maintenance logbook for at least the aircraft and preferably another one for the engine, not associated with your pilot logbook. Blank logbooks are easily obtainable from a local FBO or from any of a number of aviation supply companies. The reason for having separate logbooks is that engines often get removed from one airframe and installed on another.

The airframe logbook should identify the aircraft builder/manufacturer, model designation, and serial number exactly as shown on the aircraft registration certificate. It should also identify the manufacturer, model number, and serial number of the engine and propeller installed in the aircraft at the time of certification. If the engine or propeller is subsequently changed, an entry should be made in the airframe log noting the new manufacturer/model/serial number data.

The engine logbook should identify the engine manufacturer, model number, and serial number exactly as shown on the engine dataplate.

Anytime maintenance or inspection is done, an entry should be made in the appropriate logbook. Each entry should be dated; the total time on the engine or airframe and the time since overhaul of the engine logged; a description of the maintenance or inspection entered; and the entry signed by the person doing the maintenance or inspection. In the case of an annual condition inspection, the certificate type and number of the person perfoming the inspection should also be logged.

Note that only items directly pertaining to the engine or its accessories (starter, alternator, carburetor, magnetos, vacuum pump, etc) should be logged in the engine logbook. Other items pertaining to the engine compartment area of the aircraft, including the propeller, fuel system, exhaust system, engine control system, engine baffling, oil cooler, radiator, etc should be logged in the airframe logbook.

Inspect Your Aircraft & Correct Deficiencies (Back)
Prior to making an appointment for the DAR visit, you will need to inspect your aircraft, document the results on an inspection checklist, correct any deficiencies found, and make an entry in the airframe logbook to that effect.

The DAR's responsibility is to make a determination whether the aircraft "is in a condition for safe operation," in the words used by FAA. Your responsibility is to correct any conditions that would cause it not to be in a condition for safe operation.

You may use a checklist from an FAA publication such as Advisory Circular 90-89A or one provided by the kit manufacturer. Or you may make your own checklist. However, to make our visit go smoothly, we like for applicants to use our own checklist, which we will provide when you get us involved in your certification. At that time, we will coordinate with you on specific items we will be looking for.

After you have completed your inspection, filled out the inspection checklist, and corrected deficiencies, you will need to make and sign an entry in the airframe logbook documenting the inspection, to be worded as follows.

"I certify that this aircraft has been inspected on [insert date] in accordance with the scope and detail of appendix D to part 43, and was found to be in a condition for safe operation."

A word about compliance with FAA Airworthiness Directives (ADs) is in order. Confusion has existed as to whether E-ABs and E-LSAs must comply with ADs. The question is pertinent to any aircraft that has FAA-approved engines, propellers, seat belts, magnetos, carburetors, instruments, etc.

Here's the bottom line: the FAA regulations and guidance do not specifically define whether AD compliance is required. However, the DAR's job is to determine that the aircraft is "in a condition for safe operation" (FAA terminology). Most DARs work under the premise that since ADs describe known unsafe conditions, they must be complied with in order to make that statement. If you believe a particular AD is not applicable to your situation, talk with your DAR about it in advance.

Assure the Aircraft is Complete (Back)
DARs are not allowed to certificate an uncompleted aircraft. Therefore, wait until you get everything finished before setting up the appointment for our visit. The idea is that as soon as we hand you the airworthiness certificate, you should be able to install the engine cowling and access covers and go fly.

Complete the FAA Paperwork (Back)
In addition to the paperwork you have already completed, you will also need to complete the following:

  • FAA Form 8130-6 Application for Airworthiness Certificate

  • FAA Form 8130-12 Eligibility Statement- Amateur-Built- for E-ABs only

  • Program letter

The E-AB Conversion Guide provides templates for completing these documents.

On the program letter, coordinate with the DAR regarding the size and shape of the Phase I test area.

The DAR Visit (Back)
When the DAR arrives, the paperwork should be complete and the aircraft ready to fly.

Unless other advance arrangements have been made with the DAR, the aircraft should be located indoors with good lighting and, if practical, some means of temperature control. The engine cowling and all access panels should be removed and the aircraft thoroughly cleaned. It is a good idea to provide a creeper or mats for the DAR's inspection of the underside of the aircraft and a worktable, desk, or other surface for paperwork.

Treat the inspection seriously. Although the DAR may be a friend, in this setting he/she is an official representative of the FAA. This is not the time to have your airport buddies hanging around. Be courteous and expect the DAR to also be courteous. Answer questions promptly and completely when asked; however, keep idle chatter to a minimum. By all means avoid describing or bragging about past transgressions of the FARs; such talk puts the DAR on the spot. Remember: when the DAR ain't happy, nobody's happy!

Have a pad and pencil ready to note any discrepancies the DAR finds. If the up-front coordination has been handled properly, discrepancies will likely be minor and can be corrected after the DAR has issued the airworthiness certificate.

A little nervousness is normal. On the other hand, have fun-without exception the inspections we have been involved with, whether on the giving or receiving end, have been enjoyable and were frequently occasions for additional learning.

At the conclusion of the inspection, the DAR will likely issue your brand-new airworthiness certificate and operating limitations, explaining them in detail. At that point, after reinstalling the engine cowling and access covers, you'll be set to go flying!

Certification Fees (Back)
Our normal fee for issuing an original airworthiness certificate is $400, payable at the beginning of the inspection. Complex aircraft with pressurization systems, retractable landing gear, turbine engines, etc, may be more. This fee applies when the aircraft is located no more than an hour's drive each way from our home base in Lawrenceville, GA.

For locations more than an hour away, additional fees will apply to cover travel time and expenses. Sometimes it is possible to arrange for more than one aircraft to be certificated at the same time in a remote location, thus spreading out the additional costs.

We want your aircraft to be certificated as much as you do. So, we coordinate closely with you to assure that all the required steps in the process are accomplished, that the paperwork is complete, and that the aircraft is ready and will pass the inspection. However, in rare instances, conditions may be discovered during the inspection visit that will not allow us to issue an airworthiness certificate. So, we must add this disclaimer:

Payment of the certification fee does not guarantee issuance of an airworthiness certificate.

Frequently Asked Questions (Back)
Can I get my Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft re-certificated as an Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (or vice versa)? ANSWER: No, once the aircraft is certificated as one of these types, the certification type cannot be changed.

Can I get my Ercoupe 415-C, Aeronca 7AC, or other type-certificated aircraft that meets light-sport aircraft specifications re-certificated as an Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft? ANSWER: No, as explained in the previous FAQ.

I just bought an Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft from the original builder. Can I take a 16-hour Light-Sport Repairman- Inspection course and become certified to perform my own annual condition inspections? ANSWER: Unfortunately, no. The Light-Sport Repairman- Inspection courses only apply to Experimental Light-Sport aircraft, not Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft.