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Bureaucracy Off Course

LODA tangle strangling aviation growth and safety

Everyone in aviation—pilots, industry, and government alike—agrees on the need to get more people involved in flying. New enthusiasts are the lifeblood of aviation’s future.

Sometimes, though, aviation can’t get out of its own way when it comes to executing policy. The exasperating experience EAA has faced while working with the FAA on the letters of deviation authority (LODA) issue is a prime example of how bureaucracy keeps people out of the cockpit.

The quick background is this: LODA are FAA authorizations that allow the use of experimental aircraft for compensation or hire, such as flight training, that is otherwise prohibited by Federal Aviation Regulations. This is especially important for gyroplanes, weight-shift trikes, powered parachutes, and other light-sport aircraft (LSA) that fly at less than 87 knots because commercially built aircraft (special light-sport aircraft, or S-LSA) are not available or, in the case of gyroplanes, are not allowed as part of the S-LSA category.

As of January 31, 2010, it was no longer possible for instructors to use experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) for such training. Unfortunately, a dearth of similar S-LSA models means such training has been almost nonexistent this year.

EAA asked the FAA to issue these LODA so that owners of E-LSA could fill the training gap in these areas until S-LSA numbers reach sufficient levels to make training widely available. During the last several EAA/FAA Winter Meetings in Oshkosh, the agency agreed that guidance should be issued.

But nothing happened.

That was incredibly frustrating. Regional flight standards district offices (FSDOs) are ready to issue LODA, but the guidance must come from FAA headquarters, and it is not forthcoming. If the hope within the FAA is that flight instructors would simply buy an S-LSA to replace their E-LSA, that’s not going to happen with no prospective students in the pipeline and limited aircraft available.

An ironic twist is that FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told audiences at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this summer that transition training is absolutely essential for those moving to different aircraft so aviation’s safety record can be improved. With no training possible because of the bureaucratic logjam, however, there is no hope of fulfilling the FAA flight standards declaration to “assure safety while enabling the adventure, commerce, and service of aviation.”

It seems simple. The regulations allow the LODA. FAA officials have agreed to them in principle. Regional FSDOs are ready to issue the authority and guidance. E-LSA instructors are ready and willing to supply instruction. It is the FAA’s bureaucratic tangle, however, that is not only choking off a segment of basic, accessible aviation, but is also running counter to the agency’s own transition training and safety goals.

EAA’s message is clear to the FAA: Come out of the organizational silos and use the available tools to solve the problem quickly and efficiently. It’s a point that EAA will continue to deliver to make aviation more accessible and affordable.

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