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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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Useful Information

  • Do you need more background on the subjects discussed on this site?

If so, click the links below. Or, simply scroll down the page. If this information does not answer your question, please feel free to contact us.

What is a Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA)?
What is a Special Light-Sport Aircraft (S-LSA)?
What is an Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (E-LSA)?
What is an Experimental Amateur-Built (E-AB) Aircraft?
What are the certification types for LSAs, S-LSAs, E-LSAs, and E-ABs?

What is a Light-Sport
Aircraft (LSA)?
(Back)
According to the Federal Aviation Regulations Part 1, a light-sport aircraft is an aircraft other than a helicopter or powered-lift that, since its original certification, has continued to meet the following:

  • Maximum takeoff weight
    • Aircraft not intended for operation on water- 1320 lbs
    • Aircraft intended for operation on water- 1430 lbs
    • Lighter-than-air aircraft- 660 lbs

  • Maximum speeds- 120 kts at maximum power

  • Max stall speed- 45 kts

  • Maximum seating capacity- 2 persons

  • Single reciprocating engine, if powered

  • Fixed or ground-adjustable prop
    • Auto-feathering prop OK for powered gliders

  • Fixed-pitch, semi-rigid, teetering, two-blade rotor system, if a gyroplane

  • Non-pressurized cabin

  • Fixed landing gear
    • Retractable landing gear OK for glider or seaplanes

Note that this definition does not specify the certification category for the aircraft. Any aircraft that meets these specifications is considered an LSA, regardless of its certification type. Thus, according to the definition an Aeronca 7AC certificated as a Standard Aircraft, a Challenger II certified as an Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft, and a Sonex certificated as an Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft are all considered LSAs.

This distinction is important from the piloting side of the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft regulations, since the regulations allow a person to exercise sport pilot privileges in any aircraft that meets the LSA specifications. That means a pilot with a sport pilot rating or better in the appropriate aircraft category can legally fly any LSA, no matter how it was certificated.

What is a Special Light-Sport Aircraft (S-LSA)? (Back)
A special light sport aircraft:

  • May be in any of the following aircraft "classes"
    • Airplane (fixed-wing)
    • Weight-shift
    • Powered parachute
    • Glider
    • Lighter-than-air
    • (Note that gyroplanes are not included in the allowable S-LSA classes.)

  • Is designed to meet LSA specifications

  • Is certified by the manufacturer to meet a set of industry-developed "consensus standards" that specify design, testing, manufacturing, and quality control requirements. Note that, unlike type certificated "standard" aircraft, the FAA is not at all involved in the design, testing, manufacturing, and quality control of S-LSAs.

  • May be sold complete, ready to fly

  • May be offered in kit form

  • May be built in other countries that have a Bilateral Airworthiness Agreement (BAA) or Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) with the United States

  • May not be modified unless approved by manufacturer

  • May have preventive maintenance done by sport pilot or better, if authorized by the manufacturer's maintenance manual. Note that this is different from a type-certificated aircraft, where preventive maintenance can be done by the owner.

  • May have maintenance and the annual condition inspection performed by either an A&P mechanic or a Light-Sport Repairman- Maintenance (LSRM). A person can become eligible for an LSRM certificate by attending an 80-120 hour training course.

  • May be flown at night or in IFR conditions if allowed by the pilot operating handbook and if properly equipped and maintained.

Examples of S-LSAs include the Flight Design CT, the Jihlavan Kappa KP-5, the Evektor SportStar, the Legend Cub, the Tecnam Bravo, the Indus Aviation T-211, and many others.

What is an Experimental
Light-Sport Aircraft (E-LSA)?
(Back)
An experimental light sport aircraft:

  • May be in any of the following aircraft "classes"
    • Airplane (fixed-wing)
    • Weight-shift
    • Powered parachute
    • Glider
    • Gyroplane
    • Lighter-than-air

  • Is one of three kinds:
    • Previously unregistered "ultralight-like" vehicle that meets LSA specifications. These aircraft were required to be registered before January 31, 2008. However, as that deadline approached, the FAA issued exemptions which allowed the certification deadline to be extended to January 31, 2010 for any ELSA that was registered before January 31, 2008. The January 31, 2010 deadline is now past, so no other ELSAs will be certificated under this provision.

    • A kit version of an S-LSA. Note that the January 31, 2008 deadline does not apply here.

    • An S-LSA the owner elects to convert to E-LSA so he/she can make modifications & perform maintenance. Note that the January 31, 2008 deadline does not apply here.

  • May be maintained or modified by anybody-there are no requirements on who may perform maintenance or modifications on E-LSAs.

  • May have annual condition inspection performed by an A&P mechanic, a Light-Sport Repairman- Maintenance (LSRM), or the owner as a Light-Sport Repairma- Inspection (LSRI). An E-LSA owner can become eligible for an LSRI certificate by attending an 16-hour training course. Note that an LSRI can perform the annual condition inspection on only an E-LSA that he or she owns. Also note that an LSRI cannot perform the annual condition inspection on an Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft.

  • May be flown at night or in IFR conditions if appropriately equipped and maintained.

What is an Experimental Amateur-Built (E-AB) Aircraft? (Back)
An experimental amateur-built aircraft:

  • May be in any of the following aircraft "classes"
    • Airplane (fixed-wing)
    • Weight-shift
    • Powered parachute
    • Glider
    • Gyroplane
    • Lighter-than-air

  • Is not required to meet LSA specifications. Thus, E-ABs can have more than two passengers, takeoff weights above 1320 lbs, retractable landing gear, variable-pitch propellers, more than one engine, turbine engines, cabin pressurization, etc.

  • The "major portion" must have been built by a person or group of persons solely for education and recreation.

  • May be maintained or modified by anybody-there are no requirements on who may perform maintenance or modifications on E-ABs.

  • May have annual condition inspection by A&P mechanic or the original builder as an Repairman- Amateur-Built. An E-AB builder who built the major part of his or her aircraft can become an amateur-built repairman rating by simply applying for the rating-no additional training is required. Note that the amateur-built repairman can perform the annual condition inspection on only an aircraft he or she built. No subsequent owner of the aircraft can qualify as an amateur-built repairman for that aircraft-only the original builder.

  • May be flown at night and in IFR conditions if appropriately equipped and maintained.

What are the certification types for LSAs, S-LSAs, E-LSAs, and E-ABs? (Back)
The FAA has established several different types of certification for aircraft. LSAs, S-LSAs, E-LSAs, and E-ABs fit into various type of certification, as shown below.

  • Standard airworthiness certificates- printed on white paper
    • Granted to type-certificated aircraft only-Cessna, Beech, Piper, etc.

    • Some type-certificated aircraft with standard airworthiness certificates meet LSA specifications and thus qualify as LSAs, including the following
      • Aeronca 7AC
      • Taylorcraft BC-12D
      • Piper J-3
      • Ercoupe 415C
      • Several others-- go to www.sportpilot.org for a complete listing.

  • Special airworthiness certificates- printed on pink paper
    • Primary- the unsuccessful 1990s attempt to create a lower-cost FAA certification process for aircraft of simple design. Only two primary aircraft designs were certified and very few were ever produced.

    • Light-Sport- created specifically for the S-LSAs defined above.

    • Limited- generally includes certain models of former WWII military aircraft. This certification type was introduced after WWII as a means of allowing surplus military aircraft to be flown by civilians.

    • Restricted- includes aircraft modified for or specially built for special purposes such as crop dusting, aerial survey, aerial firefighting, pipeline patrol, etc.

    • Experimental
      • Research & Development- includes standard airworthiness aircraft that have been modified with the installation of test equipment or other devices. When the test equipment is removed, the aircraft can be returned to a standard airworthiness certification

      • Amateur Built- includes the E-ABs discussed above.

      • Exhibition- includes aircraft intended to be flown only for exhibition purposes at air shows, etc.

      • Air Racing- includes aircraft intended to be flown only in air races.

      • Crew Training- includes aircraft for which crew training is needed but which do not have a standard airworthiness certification.

      • Market Survey- includes aircraft that may be ultimately type-certificated, but which the manufacture desires to show the aircraft to potential customers.

      • Lght Sport- created specifically for the E-LSAs discussed above.

    • Special Flight Permit- includes ferry permits by which approval is obtained for specific flights to a repair facility for a damaged aircraft.