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August 15 Has Passed, But

Some Hints For Owners Of Fat/Two-Place Ultralight

August 16, 2007 — August 15, 2007, was the first of a series of three dates the FAA established to help individuals complete the process of transitioning ?fat? and two-place ultralights to experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) status. But all is not lost if you haven?t applied for your N number yet.

January 31, 2008, is the only firm deadline for completing the ultralight transition. The FAA established the series of three dates to make certain it would have enough resources (manpower) to assist owners transitioning their machines. If you have not yet applied for your N number, don?t panic. You may still be able to get your machine transitioned, but it?s important you act quickly.

First, order EAA?s E-LSA Conversion Kit; it will walk you through the transition process completely. It?s available online at Shop.EAA.org. Click on Homebuilders, and the E-LSA Conversion Kit is the second listing ($12.99 for members; $19.99 for non-members.)

Next, mail your N-number request as soon as possible. The E-LSA conversion kit shows how to correctly complete these forms. Getting an N number takes about four weeks. Any errors will delay that process, so follow the instructions carefully. If you have questions about the process, contact EAA?s Aviation Services staff; call 888-322-4636 (888-EAA-INFO) or e-mail: info@eaa.org.

As soon as you receive your N-number registration from the FAA, call a designated airworthiness representative (DAR), an FAA flight standards district office (FSDO) or manufacturing inspection district office (MIDO) office to schedule an appointment for the inspection of your aircraft. You can locate a DAR on EAA?s Sport Pilot website at www.sportpilot.org/resources/dar.html. Locate an FAA FSDO or MIDO at www.faa.gov/about/office_org/; and click on the FSDO or MIDO listing.

Use the time while your waiting for your N-number to prepare your aircraft for the FAA inspection. The E-LSA conversion kit outlines the specific things you must do to pass inspection.

The FAA?s next suggested target dates are:

  • October 1, 2007, to schedule an airworthiness inspection with a DAR
  • November 31, 2007, to submit your airworthiness certificate packet to a FSDO, an FAA MIDO, or your local E-LSA DAR.
  • The FAA Light-Sport Aviation Branch, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is also available to help. Call 405-954-6400.
  • The bottom line is this: January 31, 2008, is the official deadline. You have until that date to complete the process, but you need to understand that:
  • Getting an N number takes four weeks of processing time.
  • Getting an appointment for an airworthiness inspection will take about four to six weeks.

That?s a minimum of 8 to 10 weeks, and that?s assuming no problems with your N-number request and/or no problems with your airworthiness inspection. Remember, if the DAR finds that your machine does not meet the requirements, he or she will not issue an airworthiness certificate, which means another delay until you correct the issue.

One last comment; during her ?Meet the Boss? session at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey emphasized there would not be an extension to the January 31, 2008 deadline. ?The FAA has no intention of extending that date,? she stated emphatically.

Attention Naysayers!

Still don?t believe it?s necessary to transition your ?fat? ultralight. You may change your mind after reading one ultralighter?s encounter this past Tuesday, August 14 . . .

?Hello. We?re from the FAA.?

Those were the words I heard Tuesday morning as I looked up from a squatted position behind my tail wheel. I had just finished flying and taxiing back to my hangar, and I was in the process of installing a new tail wheel fork and pneumatic tire.

The two men were wearing ties and had their FAA credentials dangling from lanyards around their necks. Since they were walking, and my hangar is a long way from the airport parking lot, I fully suspected they were on a mission, and I was right. My brain was in overdrive. I was trying to think 10 steps ahead and act accordingly.

I stood up and shook hands with them; I had already decided that I was not about to tell them any false stories nor was I going to play hardball. Let?s face it; I never thought this encounter would ever happen; yet here it was.

I was processing information, reading their personalities, and I kept thinking about the boastful posts that I have made to the Yahoo group in complete defiance of transitioning my machine to an E-LSA. I was determined to take a ?wait and see? attitude until sometime after the deadline for fat ultralights had passed by. Well, so much for waiting.

The FAA gentlemen were as polite and cordial as you could imagine, but I was waiting for the hammer to drop. The conversation started with compliments of my Tiger Cub?s paint job. I explained that I had taken 3-1/2 years to build this plane, and before they could ask me how much it weighed, I mumbled something about ?fat ultralight? under my breath.

The apparently more experienced of the two asked me, ?What did you call it? ?Fat something?? He chuckled.

I told him, ?Hey, I think the FAA is who that coined that phrase.?

No response. Whoops; maybe I was too forward. I didn?t want them to think I was getting comfortable.

Then they finally asked me if I had ever weighed my machine. A million responses flashed through my brain, but the truth prevailed.

?433 pounds,? I said.

Another chuckle.

I had already told them that my machine was not certificated (N-numbered). I wanted to tell them that it would be illegal for me to fly an N-numbered aircraft because I don?t have a pilot?s certificate, but since there had been no questions about my pilot?s certificate, I didn?t want to open another can of worms. Incidentally, they never did ask about that. Obviously, I don?t have one. I fly an ultralight, even if it is fat. (Maybe they already assumed that?)

There was more small talk, which culminated in a basic question, ?Since you know your aircraft is too heavy for an ultralight, why did you fly it before certificating it??

I had already told them (because they asked) that I had 30 hours on the Hobbs, but that 20 of those hours were taxiing, learning how to fly a tail dragger. I then told them that I had the same mindset as a lot of other fat ultralight owners; that we are under the impression that we are in sort of a grace period, waiting for all the fat ultralights to be transitioned to E-LSA. I told them that I figure about 95 percent of the ultralights are overweight, even though I know that is not an excuse. I told them that I have my N-number reserved.

The more experienced guy looked at his watch, and said, ?It?s August 14th,? as if to say I had officially received my ?notice.? He did it in a nice way.

I was putting together a performance that would have won an academy award and would have my work buddies laughing until they rolled on the floor. I?m used to ?dishing it out?; not taking it. But, I?m not stupid, and this was not a hill I was prepared to die on. I can ?schmooze? with the best of them, if need be.

At about this point, I reasoned that they were not going to leave me with any official looking government paper. They gave me the name of the local FAA inspector who does aircraft certifications and suggested that I call him so he could walk me through the process.

I told them I would call him, and before they could even tell me, I told them that I would not fly again until my aircraft was legal. I meant it, too.

Before they left, they told me that they would tell the FAA inspector that I would be calling him later.

Before I left the airport, I checked with the airport manager. The FAA guys had stopped by and asked her to be a snitch, just in case she saw me flying. She told them that she was not a Smokey of the air. It turns out they were not there to do a ramp check at all. They had come, by appointment, to check records of a King Air that operates out of the airport. When they were done, they went over to see the local airframe and powerplant mechanic, but he was not in his hangar, so they just went for a walk to look around and had found me. I am certain they had seen me flying, too.

Bottom line, I take back everything I ever said about the unlikelihood of ever being ramp-checked by the FAA. It may not happen again in 10 years, but I?ll be damned if I?m going to take a chance. I?m grounding myself until I get my Tiger Cub N-numbered, and I?m going to get one of my instructor buddies to endorse my student pilot certificate so I?ll be ready to fly when I get the airworthiness certificate. I know that will take awhile.

With all the talk about the lack of designated airworthiness inspectors, I can say that is not the case where I live. I spoke with the nicest FAA inspector you?d ever care to meet. The telephone conversation I had with him almost made the other two men seem like the Gestapo. He is sending me a packet, and I will be ready and willing to have my airplane inspected as soon as it is registered.

Incidentally, the other two FAA guys did tell him that I would be calling. They are very thorough, and I suspect their follow-up is just as efficient. I don?t plan on testing it. These guys could have dropped the hammer on my fat ultralight and made life hard for me. They didn?t, and I genuinely think that their intentions were to help me get legal. It was a humiliating experience. If I were a dog, my tail would be between my legs. - bluemax229@roadrunner.com

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