“Does it qualify as a Light Sport Aircraft?”
That’s one of the first questions people ask when they see a single-engine aircraft of a certain vintage parked at an airport. Many aviators dream of flying a vintage Piper or Ercoupe or Taylorcraft, and if they can do it as a Sport Pilot with a driver’s license in lieu of a medical certificate, even better. Most owners of the LSA compliant vintage machines will proudly note that on the information card hanging off the propeller of their aircraft, especially if it is for sale.
What drives a pilot to select a vintage Light Sport Aircraft over a more modern design? As with all aircraft choices, it comes down to pilot preference. Some sport pilots want the latest in glass panel technology. Others want the basic needle, ball, airspeed experience.
Very often the pilot shopping for a vintage LSA is moving out of a multi-seat technologically sophisticated aircraft in favor of a basic design similar to the way Mom and Dad opt to sell the four-bedroom house and move into a two-bedroom condo when the kids have all left the nest.
Cost is also a huge player in the pilot’s decision to purchase. Very often vintage LSAs are less expensive to both obtain and maintain than the more modern designs.
The Light Sport Aircraft rule allows certain Standard Category Aircraft to qualify, provided that they comply with the certified weight limit of 1,320 pounds for land airplanes and 1,430 pounds for seaplanes. The challenge is finding a vintage aircraft that complies with the rule because, over the years, modifications to the airplane through field approvals and Supplemental Type Certificates may have edged the airplane over the weight limit.
Before putting down your money on a vintage machine you intended to fly as a sport pilot, it’s a good idea to go through the aircraft’s logbooks to make sure it can meet both the spirit and the letter of the Light Sport Aircraft rule. Just because it met the weight restriction in 1947 doesn’t mean it qualifies as LSA today. A Light Sport Aircraft is limited to no more than two seats. Fortunately, there are a plethora of vintage machines that fall into this category, including multiple Piper, Aeronca (Pictured at top of page), Taylorcraft, and Luscombe models.
For the pilot who prefers a tricycle gear to the taildragger, the Ercoupe 415-C and 415-CD make the cut.
Because these aircraft were mass produced at one time and often have thriving Type Clubs, getting replacement parts is relatively simple.
One of the most noticeable legacy machines that does not appear on the vintage LSA roster is Cessna. That’s because the Cessna 120, 140 and 150 series are too heavy to be classified as LSAs.
To learn more about LSAs, check out LSA expert Dan Johnson’s blog at ByDanJohnson.com.
The Experimental Aircraft Association also has a plethora of information about LSAs at SportPilot.org.