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Commercial Trike Pilot Certificate Needed

By Paul Hamilton, for Light Plane World

Paul Hamilton
Paul Hamilton

Now that the sport pilot / light-sport aircraft (LSA) has been around for a while, we need a commercial pilot certificate for the weight-shift-control trike (or weight-shift control certificate as the FAA would call it) for compensation and hire. This way we could provide tours, inspect utility lines, crop-dust, fly cargo to land like helicopters in small areas, search/rescue, farm, game count, become part of law enforcement – the list goes on. Use your imagination.

These are practical uses for the efficient, green operations of LSA that offer more capable aviation services and less fuel used for similar operations. Overall, they would mean much less expensive operations for a more efficient, green planet. There are commercial pilot certificates for pilots of airplanes, balloons, airships, helicopters, gyroplanes, and gliders. Why not trikes and maybe light-sport airplanes and powered parachutes?

It sounds simple: Change FAR 61, subpart F, for pilots and FAR 91.327 to add commercial operations to special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA). If we combined this to add S-LSA airplanes, we might get the numbers with enough momentum to make it happen.

It would be pretty simple for the pilot side; make it similar to the airplane, just like the private. Note that the private pilot trike would be the same as the private pilot airplane without the instrument and radio navigation. The commercial pilot weight-shift-control trike certificate would be the same as the commercial pilot airplane – 200 hours of flight time, written knowledge test, training, and a checkride.

The more challenging obstacle is the aircraft certification. Here’s where it gets sticky. I’m going to break it down into two types of operations based on my discussions with the FAA officials who would/could assist in such an effort.

First, there’s the type of operation that is performed by a single pilot or two people such as utility line inspections, wildlife monitoring, and flying cargo to land in small/remote areas with someone who is aware of the risks and it’s part of his job. We’ll call this the “commercial utility LSA.” This could be done with an S-LSA or maybe even an experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) depending on the specific operations.

Second, there’s the “tour” type of operation where the general public is loaded into the FAA-certificated aircraft for hire similar to sightseeing tours that helicopters and airplanes in the transportation/shuttle service currently perform. It appears this type of commercial operation would require an additional certification level of weight-shift-control trike like the FAR 23 certificated airplanes. But this is prohibitively expensive for manufacturers and isn’t practical. So maybe a “super special LSA” – SS-LSA?

As we pursue this next step in triking, we would appreciate your support in the ongoing discussion in the Hangar Talk forum on Oshkosh365. Read it here.

Paul Hamilton is one of the first sport pilot instructors and FAA sport pilot examiners. He writes books and produces DVDs for ultralight and light-sport training available at Sport-Pilot-Training.com. He wrote The Weight-Shift Control Aircraft Flying Handbook for the FAA and runs a flight school called Hang Gliding Tahoe. Paul’s YouTube channel has over 60 videos about sport flying.


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