The S-LSA Useful Load Requirement
The FAA sport pilot/light-sport aircraft regulations define
a light-sport aircraft; however, those limitations aren’t the
only requirements that manufacturers must abide by in
producing special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA). Recall that
the FAA empowered the industry and community through
ASTM International to develop consensus standards to
regulate the design, manufacture, and production of LSA
rather than FAA-mandated standards such as Part 23. FAR
21.190 requires that the aircraft be designed and manufactured
in accordance with the standard.
A part of the design standard is a useful load requirement.
Currently that requirement is 430 pounds for fixedwing
airplanes (land). That number was arrived at by allowing
190 pounds for each seat occupant (380 pounds for
two-seat S-LSA), and one-half the horsepower in pounds
(for example: with a 100-hp engine add 50 pounds).
Accordingly, any fixed-wing S-LSA that has an empty
weight of more than 890 pounds (with all options added)
is being manufactured and operated in violation of the
ASTM standard. Buyers of S-LSA are advised to determine
whether an S-LSA meets this standard before purchasing
or operating it. Bottom line: Don’t buy a new S-LSA that
has an empty weight greater than 890 pounds.
FAR 91.327 requires that S-LSA be produced and operated
in accordance with the consensus standards. Once
an S-LSA is purchased, it is the owner’s (and operator’s)
responsibility to keep the airplane in compliance with
the standard. Any alteration or addition of equipment
must meet the applicable and current consensus standard
and be approved by the manufacturer or an FAA
Note that experimental LSA (E-LSA) or experimental
amateur-built aircraft operated by sport pilots do not have