Categories of Light Sport Aircraft
By Ed Burkhead - copyright
Update! This page has been changed in accordance with FAA Order 8130.2F CHG2 which was published July 10, 2006.
I wrote this up in response to the question on the Challenger group. It’s a good summary and perhaps it’ll be useful to some of you.
> -----Original Message-----
Here's the short summary answer to your questions:
1. Part 103 is only for real ultralights which currently must be single place and weigh 254 lb. or less. No 2-place need apply. The Carrier petition to increase the weight limit for single place ultralights is in process and maybe the FAA will make a positive change based on it. We shouldn't hold our breath, but the FAA has made positive changes a couple of times in the past.
2. For the last 20 years, the FAA has made an exemption for two-place "ultralights" for training purposes only. The training exemptions will expire in about two years or less. May be flown by BFI/UFI for instructional or proficiency uses only or by student for instructional uses only. The ultralight organization USUA has petitioned to extend this deadline by two years. No one is betting their nest-egg on the extension being approved.
3. Light sport aircraft come in six flavors:
3a. SLSA - Special Light Sport Aircraft - made by a factory to the consensus standards. May be flown by a Sport Pilot or higher. May be used for instruction and rental.
Note that dSLSA, kELSA, and gELSA are "prohibited from operating in congested airways or over densely populated areas, unless directed by air traffic control, or unless sufficient altitude is maintained to effect a safe emergency landing in the event of a power unit failure, without hazard to persons or property on the ground." Reference FAA Order 8130.2F Chg 2 paragraph 144 d. (9). This is now the same limitation as Experimental Amateur Built.
3b. dELSA - built as an SLSA but downgraded to experimental status for ease of maintenance or for the factory to avoid liability issues.
3c. kELSA - kit built Experimental Light Sport Aircraft, built using a consensus standard approved kit. May be up to 99.99% complete at factory. May be flown by Sport Pilot or higher. May NOT be used for paid instruction though the owner may receive instruction in the owned aircraft. These may not exist, yet, because the consensus standard committee has not yet completed the "kit" consensus standards. Beware of airplanes claiming this status as they may be gELSA under false colors.
3d. gELSA - any aircraft which has not been previously registered before and which meets the LSA weight, speed, etc., criteria, may be grandfathered into being an Experimental LSA by paperwork and inspection. The gELSA may be flown by a Sport Pilot or higher. The gELSA may be granted permission to be used for paid flight instruction till 2010 if and only if it previously held an instructional exemption prior to applying for gELSA status (and you can still get instructional exemptions through the UL organizations). The conversion to gELSA must be completed no later than October 31, 2008.
3e. ExpAB - Experimental
Amateur Built, built for educational purposes and meeting the FAA's rules
for 51% amateur built construction (which doesn't mean you have to do 51% of
the work but you must have worked on 51% of the components by their weird
rules). If the aircraft is on the FAA's 51% list, you don't have to prove
you built 51% and the Challengers are on the list. May be flown by a Sport
Pilot or higher.
Even under the exemptions, you have never been legally allowed to take a “passenger.” If you attained the rating of Basic Flight Instructor or Ultralight Flight Instructor, you were allowed to take “students” and even then, only for “instruction.” The BFI/UFI exemptions will be going away soon.
The FAA’s fairly firm that in the future, two place aircraft must be certified in one of the categories above (or higher).
> How difficult is it for an American to fly a plane such as the Challenger into Canada?
The new LSA aircraft has not yet been approved to fly into Canada. We fully expect Canada will allow them. After all, they allowed American “fat ultralights” to fly in, didn’t they?
> Is owning a Challenger with an N number way more expensive?
Any N-numbered plane must have an annual condition inspection. If it’s experimental, you may do all the maintenance but the condition inspection must be done by:
3a. SLSA – A&P or Repairman Certificate with Maintenance authorization (120 hour course)
3b, c, d. dELSA, kELSA, gELSA – A&P or Repairman Certificate with Maintenance authorization OR Repairman Certificate with inspection authorization WHEN INSPECTING THEIR OWN AIRCRAFT (16 hour course)
3e. ExpAB – A&P or the one person holding a Repairman Certificate for THAT airplane. The Repairman Certificate may be issued to the builder of the aircraft. Subsequent owners are not eligible for the Repairman Certificate.
3f. Experimental Exhibition. I don't know if an A&P is enough or if an AI signoff is required. I'll update this when I find out.
3g. Type certificated aircraft that meet the Sport rules for weight, speed, etc. Maintenance must be done by, or under supervision of, an A&P mechanic except for specific "preventive maintenance" items the FAA has listed. The annual inspection must be done by an A&P with IA authority.
Jack L. on the
Challenger group pointed out that "an A&P with FAA IA authority (of course)
may do all of the above "inspections" to include Type Certificated
> and does that then require a SPL?
Yes, in the future, everything that is not a true part 103 single place ultralight will require a Sport Pilot license or higher.
> Can an N number go back to being an experimental ultralight?
I'd say, "No, never" but Charlie on Fly-UL says, "It is possible to deregister an N numbered experimental plane and then use it as a UL trainer. It's been done...it takes a lot of time and paperwork with the FAA."
Besides, with the UL trainer exemption going away so soon, it'd be silly to do so, I think.
Hope this helps,