Thursday, 10 June 2010

FAA report on LSAs

A couple of years ago a new industry sector was born. Light Sport Aircraft was set to bring low-cost, simple flying to thousands, and what's more it was going to reduce the costs by (largely) doing away with certification requirements. The manufacturers got together with the FAA and agreed a standard. For LSAs sold in the US, it is the manufacturer who certifies that the aeroplane meets that agreed standard. In the main, this seems to have worked. LSAs enjoy some variable flying qualities, but they haven't proved dangerous.

In Europe (as you may imagine), EASA has taken a different view - the agency is still struggling with the details, but CS-LSA, when it is eventually born, will almost certainly require some kind of design organisation approval for the company, production organisation approval for the factory and certification for the design. The hope remains that, despite the very different approaches, we'll end up with a common(ish) standard so that manufacturers don't have to build a different variation on a model for each new territory.

This battle between the regulatory philosophies has recently moved on with the FAA hinting that they may consider moving closer to a European model - the light hand of the USA may get a little heavier. Following an audit of some LSA manufacturers, the FAA found:

- most manufacturers could not demonstrate full compliance with accepted industry standards
- some companies had failed to implement sufficient internal manufacturing systems
- some people didn't fully understand FAA regulatory requirements

The FAA has made some recommendations as a result of the review - and I'm sure that the full report is being closely read by many European regulators. Watch this space…

The full FAA report and synopsis can be found here on Dan Johnson's blog.

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