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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.

  

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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh


Volume 9, Number 5 July 31, 2008     

Checking the Pulse of the LSA Industry
By David Sakrison
The final FAA rule that launched the light-sport aircraft (LSA) industry was announced at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2004 and became effective on September 1 of that year. The four years since then have seen explosive growth in the industry, with some 3,000 light-sport aircraft certified. Some people have it called a new "golden age" of sport aircraft.

The rule created an entirely new type and category of aircraft manufactured to accepted consensus standards developed through ASTM International-the first time that ASTM standards have been used for FAA certification. Given LSA's groundbreaking qualities, the rapid growth of the industry has been remarkably smooth, according to EAA President Tom Poberezny. That, he said, is due in large part to the strongly collaborative efforts of the FAA, EAA, and LSA manufacturers.

Last winter, at the annual EAA/FAA Recreational Aviation Summit, Poberezny asked the FAA to undertake an assessment of the LSA industry to collect data on the overall performance of the industry and on how well LSA regulations, standards, and processes are being applied by the industry. FAA officials agreed and began work on the Light-Sport Aircraft Manufacturers Assessment Project. On Tuesday afternoon, the FAA presented an overview of the assessment project to EAA officials and LSA manufacturers.

The assessment project will include formal and informal auditing and interviews of LSA manufacturers by the FAA. The agency will also ask the LSA community for comments and suggestions to improve the safety of light-sport aircraft. This project will not be a compliance audit of individual light-sport manufacturers, FAA officials assured the group. The data will be used by the FAA to evaluate and report on the overall health and safety of the industry. The goal is to identify problem areas and concerns and to develop courses of action to address them. The project supports the goal-shared by EAA, the FAA, and LSA manufacturers-of continuous improvement in LSA safety.

The assessment will focus on answering five primary questions:

  1. Are the existing systems and processes adequate to assure continued airworthiness of light-sport aircraft?
  2. Do existing aircraft and manufacturers meet FAA regulations?
  3. Are they in compliance with LSA design standards?
  4. Are manufacturers using adequate quality assurance systems?
  5. Are manufacturers providing adequate maintenance procedures and documentation?

The FAA has spent the past few months developing assessment tools and criteria, with input from EAA and from LSA manufacturers. That phase of the project is nearly complete. In September, the assessment team will begin visiting selected LSA manufacturers and distributors to collect data. The team consists of FAA employees with expertise in airworthiness certification, manufacturing, maintenance, designee management, operations, and international aviation policy. The data-gathering phase should be completed next June. A report on the team's findings and conclusions is expected in September 2009.

"We're trying to get a picture of the health of the industry overall," one FAA official said. That, he added, will help to identify areas where manufacturers need assistance in complying with the FAA regulations ASTM standards for LSA. Ultimately, he said, that should foster a process of continuous improvement in LSA safety, manufacturing, and airworthiness standards.

For an exciting first-hand look at the state of the LSA industry, visit the Light-Sport Aircraft Mall, just north of the Forums Plaza at AirVenture.

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