Light Sport Aircraft and the Implications on the Mechanic


When the FAA enacted the “Light Sport Rule” in September of 2004, they established rules for new aircraft definitions. While the Light Sport rule breaks down these new aircraft into category and classes, this article will break them into “Special” and “Experimental” and the impact on mechanics and the limitations imposed on maintainers. The maintenance that can be performed, and the level of certification and training of the individual performing that maintenance, is controlled by the Aircraft Manufacturer and the Operating Limitations issued with these airworthiness certificate.

The Light Sport rule allows for “Special Light Sport Aircraft” (SLSA) , and “Experimental Light Sport Aircraft” (ELSA). The “Experimental Light Sport” has the least restrictive maintenance provisions. As with some of the other types of experimental certificates, 14 CFR 43 doesn’t apply. Within the experimental versions of light sport aircraft, pretty much anything goes and all that needs to be done is an annual condition inspection (with the exception of those being used for flight training). The condition inspections may be performed by an appropriately rated mechanic or a repairman with a light sport inspection rating. If being operated for hire (only applicable to aircraft converted from “heavy ultralights”), the inspections must be made by an A&P mechanic, repair station with appropriate ratings, or a repairman with a light sport maintenance rating.

For the “Special Light Sport,” maintenance is much more restrictive. Like above, the SLSA is required to have an annual condition inspection, and if being used for hire, a 100-hour inspection. The primary difference is contained in Item Number 6 of their operating limitations. These limitations can be found in FAA Order 8130.2G Item 6 states “Noncompliance with these operating limitations will render the airworthiness certificate invalid. Any change, alteration, or repair not in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction and approval will render the airworthiness certificate invalid, and the owner of the aircraft must apply for a new airworthiness certificate under the provisions of § 21.191 with appropriate operating limitations before further flight.”

In short, if it isn’t in the aircraft maintenance manual or other approved documents from the AIRCRAFT manufacturer, you can’t do it! This includes repairs and alterations. Remember that there are no FAA Form 337s for these aircraft. When these regulations were being developed, consideration was given to those who would be repairing and inspecting them. The least common denominator is the LSA repairman. A repairman for light sport aircraft with maintenance rating is only required to attend a 120 hour course. As a result, the maintenance items approved for these aircraft are limited to the scope that someone with only 120 hours of training can perform. Some of the manuals have significantly more items listed, but the manual limits the certification level and training required to perform them. §65.85 and §65.87 were amended to say that for SLSA, major repairs and alterations can only be performed and returned to service if the manufacturer authorizes these repairs and alterations. It also eliminates the ability to supervise someone else performing these functions. Keep in mind that the aircraft manufacturer controls the design and who can maintain it. FAA merely accepts this.

Some of the new LSA aircraft being developed are equipped with type certified engines or propellers. This brings about an interesting regulatory dilemma. Airworthiness Directives are not issued against light sport aircraft, yet TC’d products may be installed in them. If an AD is issued against the engine installed in an SLSA, we as mechanics aren’t authorized to perform
the tasks or inspections required by the AD until the aircraft manufacturer adds the content of the AD to the maintenance documentation, yet operation of aircraft with the TC’d product not in compliance with an AD is a violation of Part 39. MORE ONLINE

Leave a Reply