Midwest LSA Expo‘s forum organizers called it a “record crowd” that turned out to hear my talk about coming changes in FAA’s latest regulation. Some 95 pilots entered their email on an FAA Wings credit sign-in sheet and that didn’t include everyone present. This topic always generates lots of interest.
A number of vendors told me they wanted to attend but couldn’t because they didn’t feel they could leave their exhibit. It was that busy today. That’s a great problem: plenty of people who want to talk to you. Plus I told them I was recording my presentation and they could catch it later… soon, in fact. I’ve already uploaded the video to Videoman Dave, who remains stuck in Canada, unable to get across the border. I hope you can see it in a few days.
Day 2, Friday the 10th, was a strong day, even better than Thursday’s good early start. Add in another beautiful day plus the Orange Shirt (volunteer) Crew doing a terrific job of taking care of everyone — Midwest LSA Expo has blossomed into a fine event. Even though foot traffic seemed good today, any visitor could talk to a vendor as long as they want. It makes for well-informed consumer and satisfied exhibitors who can interact with customers and prospective customers and provide demo flights.
So, What’s the Word?
I’ll make this quick. You can get much more detail on the hour-long video to follow quite soon. Here I’ll hit some high points that seemed to generate the most interest from the live audience.
In FAA’s slide you can glean quite a bit of their thinking at this time. PLEASE NOTE — Information on this slide comes under the title “Concepts.” These words are not part of a formal proposal and should not be considered binding or permanent.
Yet reading the words is illuminating: “Improve aircraft performance … with increased useful load, non-reciprocating engines (meaning electric, certainly, but possibly other types), constant-speed props, retractable landing gear.”
Much of the slide transmits a willingness to extend extra privilege, to let industry do more, including deciding what “docile to fly” means.
The red-circled item gives a clue as to the size or weight of future LSA. Exemptions have been given to Icon for their A5 seaplane, Terra Fugia for the Transition, and to Vickers for their Wave amphibian. The latter got an 1,850 pound exemption, so if that weight gets put into the FAR codes (“codifying”), that suggests future LSA could weigh 1,850 pounds and still be flown by a Sport Pilot. I repeat, no guarantees here, but this shines a light on their thinking.
Since to my similar talk a year ago — when I introduced the then-recently-devised term of Light Personal Aircraft …which is now gone! — lots and lots of pilots have written wondering if this or that general aviation airplane could be included as a LSA. Here’s my response.
First, they won’t ever be a “LSA.” All Standard (not Special) Airworthiness Category aircraft will retain their original certification. A Cessna 150 won’t become a LSA.
However, yes, it is possible that a Sport Pilot — or some higher rated pilot using Sport Pilot privileges — could fly a Cessna 150, Aeronca Champ, Piper Cherokee, or even a Cessna 172. The latter with four seats might have to be flown with only one passenger.
As before, none of this is official or certain. Accept it as an indication of FAA’s current thinking. We won’t know for sure until we see the NPRM and I predict we’ll see that at Oshkosh 2022.
So, how could a Sport Pilot be allowed to fly a larger aircraft, or possibly one with four seats, or one with retractable gear? All that is up to Flight Standards, the group that makes decisions about pilot privileges and flight operations. Unlike the aircraft certification department that is giving more work to industry (who might then chose methods they prefer), Flight Standards is unlikely to hand over any work to the industry.
They may, however, use endorsements. The endorsement method is a proven system within FAA and it has worked exceedingly well for Sport Pilots flying Light-Sport Aircraft.
If you are a student earning your Sport Pilot certificate, you might fly in a simple aircraft like a Quicksilver, so you’ll emerge with an 87-knot limit. To fly a faster LSA, go get a checkout from an instructor in a faster aircraft. When he or she thinks you’ve got it, they’ll endorse your logbook, sign their name and number, and off you go. That’s it. No test or check ride. Indeed, this shows even Flight Standards is letting industry (instructors) make judgement calls.
Endorsements also work for flying into complex airspace. Get trained and endorsed and go enter the nearby Class D or C airspace. The same is true if a Sport Pilot wants to fly a retractable gear LSA seaplane. Train. Endorse. Repeat. The method works.
Could FAA use this method to graduate Sport Pilots into larger, faster, more capable Light-Sport Aircraft? I don’t see why not; it already works. But, as with all the above, we’ll see what FAA’s final decisions are. When? My bet remains on Oshkosh 2022. Stay tuned!
Flying the Fusion
Chasing the Fox
After concentrating on FAA rule making for the morning it was a great pleasure to go flying in the afternoon. Another beautiful day served up by Mt. Vernon. The green fields and forests surrounding MVN Outland Airport looked lush and verdant against a deep blue sky, picturesque stuff that.
I flew Magnus Fusion four years earlier. I liked it then and I like it even better now. This is one of the solidest airplanes I’ve ever flown. It simply feels tight and robust, quite comforting.
Doma Andreka did a fine job flying the airplane showing me a standard demo routine as I requested. Having accumulated 400 hours in less than a year, it is clear he is at one with Fusion.
My theory is that since I’m the lucky one getting to go up in these planes I should be asking the same questions you might ask if you were the one aboard. Fair enough?
We shot a video with a couple cameras inside recording the conversation. Those Video Pilot Reports are more complex to edit but I hope you’ll see the Magnus SLSA the way I did today.
Chasing the Fox? — Yeah, that. Making my first landing in Fusion, a big bird, approaching from the left, appeared to land in the middle of the runway. “That’s odd,” I thought, “but he’ll fly off as we approach.” I was seated on the right and couldn’t see the animal as well. I continued. Doma could see better and said, “No! Go around! That’s an animal on the runway.” It was a fox, I saw, as it scrambled to the north. Doma had promptly announced it over the radio to advise others in the pattern. Chris Collins and his orange shirted volunteers, always manning the radio, immediately went on “wildlife duty,” chasing the critter off the runway. What service!
We went around and my subsequent landing went quite well… but more about that in the video to come.
One more day of the Midwest LSA Expo tomorrow, Saturday 9/11. Winds are expected to rise but otherwise another continuation of the good weather we’ve enjoyed here in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
Michael Coates says
What the FAA are now proposing is exactly what we have been operating with in Australia for many years, in fact, since introduction of LSA.
LSA aircraft in Australia can have retractable undercarriage, in-flight adjustable or constant speed propeller’s,no speed limits. Up until recently each of these required training and endorsement. It was proven that our safety record was on par with the rest of the LSA world so these “improvements” have no measurable effect on safety when the pilot was adequately trained.
I don’t know the reason but recently these endorsements have been dropped but we still continue to fly complex LSA aircraft
Dan Johnson says
FAA probably would not call it “exactly” what you have in Australia, but they undoubtedly looked at those regulations plus European and other national policies in deciding to have some of those same features.
Fortunately, ASTM already has standards for much of this but a lot of new work is needed to bring those same standards completely up with whatever the final U.S. regulation will be. I hope many more people will step forward (join ASTM; be part of the solution) to assist this effort and keep it out of government decision making.
It is regrettable to hear that Australia is backing away from the endorsement process, given that it worked so well in Australia and the United States.
Todd M says
I’ve always wanted to fly a 4 seater but as a Sport Pilot I’ve never been able to. I will be buying a 4 seater if/when this rule has passed! Finally the FAA is getting this right..
Amazing news, I’m glad that they’re actually interested in expanding the sport category.
Any word on whether or not Flight Standards plan to allow people who hold a Sport Certificate with a drivers license medical to get these higher weight endorsements?
Dan Johnson says
In the video I recorded at Midwest 2021, I relayed everything I know (or think I know). At this time it’s premature to know if endorsements will achieve the goal you want.
I just watched the YouTube video about this where you gave the presentation. I’m a little confused. Among other things, this ruling is to expand what Sport Pilots can fly e.g higher weight limits, etc. Sport Pilots do not currently require a special medical yet you indicate things could be held up regarding the medical with the legal team at FAA?
Are we looking at the possibility of medicals being required for Sport Pilots if they fly something over the current 1320 lb standard? Can you clarify a bit for me?
Dan Johnson says
I understand your confusion, but the problem is that we simply don’t have definition on the question you posed. I am hopeful that endorsements could be used to let pilots move up in the way they are currently being used, but that is just my hope, not a forecast for what will happen.
Donnie Eccker says
Great article Dan. I’m interested to see how far this Endorsement can go. I’m helping a LSA pilot friend build an RV14A in hopes he can be endorsed to fly it.
We already had built a LSA legal RV9A he’s been flying the a few years ago. Not much of a performer with the smaller Lycoming IO-233. But still an amazing flying RV9A.
Dan Johnson says
Thanks, Donnie. I would say the chances are quite good that it RV14A would qualify under the new protocols.
Christian von Delius says
A classic aviation rule is not to use a fox as a hood ornament on a Fusion.
Dan Johnson says
Endorsement for IFR flight and the win is complete. More training is better.