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Sport Pilot Rule Revisions Could Make Training Unnecessarily Burdensome

The training exemption for E-LSA used for flight instruction expired on January 31, 2010, causing many instructors to close their businesses and leave the sport they love. The FAA failed to develop guidance for the issuance of letters of deviation authority (LODAs) under §91.319(h), which would have allowed these experienced and knowledgeable instructors to continue to use their aircraft for training.

On February 1, the FAA published its revisions to the Sport Pilot Rule in the Federal Register. (See EAA’s comprehensive reaction to each of the rule changes.) One proposal adopted requires a pilot to receive training and an endorsement to operate an aircraft with a VH (maximum speed) less than or equal to 87 knots CAS.  Pilot’s with logged pilot in command time in aircraft with VH less than 87 knots prior to March 3, 2010 will be grandfathered and not required to have the endorsement.  With the majority of instructors leaving the sport and lack of qualified aircraft, students could find it difficult to comply with this new requirement possibly leading to unsafe self-training practices.

Although the revision is mostly favorable, EAA feels that the adoption of this particular proposal could have a profound effect on the safety of the light-sport community. EAA does not disagree with the requirement to receive training in aircraft with a VH less than 87 knots. Low-Mass/High Drag airplanes, powered parachutes, and weight-shift control aircraft all have unique handling characteristics that would warrant such training.

Before January 31, 2010, there was a small fleet of E-LSA trainers available under §91.319(e). These aircraft were being used to provide safe flight training and bring new pilots into the light-sport community. The FAA had predicted there would be a sizable fleet of S-LSA able to replace and meet the training needs when the E-LSA training deviation expired. That fleet did not materialize and there isn’t a sufficient fleet to provide the required training. New student pilots could be forced to travel far to obtain required training.

Although the number of special-light-sport airplanes has grown substantially, and virtually all of them have a VH greater than 87 knots, all of the powered parachutes, weight-shift control, and gyroplanes have a VH less than 87 knots. The powered parachutes and weight-shift control categories currently have very few S-LSA available. Gyroplanes, although petitioning for inclusion, cannot be certificated as S-LSA.

The requirement to receive training and an endorsement to operate an aircraft with a VH less than or equal to 87 knots; the lack of S-LSA aircraft that meet that definition; the FAA’s failure to issue LODAs for E-LSA; and the lack of qualified and experienced instructors means the growth of this segment of recreational aviation will be severely limited and its safety adversely affected. In order to prevent that, EAA is encouraging the FAA to issue LODAs for primary training in E-LSA.

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