The age of the Light Sport Aircraft has dawned. Certification for ready to fly models began in the second week of April, just in time for the Sun ‘n Fun fly-in at Lakeland, Fla.
The first two airplanes to get the blessing from the FAA are the Czech-built Evektor Sportstar and the German-made Flight Design CT. Both aircraft were on display at the show and were the guests of honor at an official FAA press conference held to announce that certification had begun.
“Because of Light Sport Aircraft, general aviation is not only an industry on the go, it is also an industry on the grow,” stated the FAA’s Deputy Associate Administrator of Aviation Safety Peggy Gilligan. Joining Gilligan at the podium were EAA President Tom Poberezny, as well as several industry representatives who played a roll in getting the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft rule approved.
“This was a work in progress for a decade,” Poberezny noted. “Every year at Sun ‘n Fun and at Oshkosh we heard the rule was close — maybe next year — but for a while there it seemed like the day would never come.”
This comment drew murmurs of agreement from the crowd. Poberezny predicted that FAA officials will be very busy in the coming weeks, “so that by the time we get to Oshkosh this summer, there will be a number or airplanes people can buy and fly,” he said.
Poberezny also predicted the combination of newly affordable aircraft and just 20 hours of training may make a pilot’s license more attainable for many.
“This should remove the economic and time barriers that often keep people from learning to fly and, as a result, should boost our numbers,” he said, adding that the new challenge will be to reach the non-flying public to educate them about the availability of Light Sport Aircraft. Part of those efforts kick off in June with an EAA-sponsored Sport Pilot tour.
“It will be done in conjunction with local EAA chapters,” he said. “The first will be at the Golden West Fly-in in Marysville, Calif., in June.”
ACROSS THE SEA
The Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft rule is based in large part on a European rule for sport aircraft. As a result, many of the first LSAs to be certified in the United States are coming from Europe.
Sportstar International, based in Kerrville, Texas, for example, is importing the Czech-made Evektor Sportstar. The low-wing airplane has a wide cockpit with a bubble canopy and, according to company officials, is a comfortable trainer as well as a cross-country cruising airplane. A proven design, there are more than 500 of the airplanes flying in 35 countries worldwide.
The second LSA to be certified in the U.S., the Flight Design CT, is being imported by Flight Star Inc. and Hpower in Connecticut. The president of the company, Tom Peghiny, has been part of the Light Sport Aircraft movement since its beginning.
“The certification is a wonderful thing because it adds credibility to the whole process,” he said, noting that some pilots and aircraft manufacturers had their doubts when the Light Sport Aircraft rule seemed to stall in committee. According to Peghiny, aircraft that are designated SLSA, which stands for Special Light Sport Aircraft, are the ones that can be used for rental and instruction. The next step, he noted, is the creation of Light Sport Aircraft training centers around the country.
“The FAA has already begun training Designated Examiners,” he noted. “The first round of LSA instructors will likely come from the existing CFI community.”
MADE IN THE USA
Doug and Betty Hempstead from Fantasy Air USA currently import the soon-to-be LSA-certified Allegro 2000 from the Czech Republic, but say it won’t be long before they are producing the aircraft in Sanford, N.C. A team of Czech engineers is slated to visit their facility this month to set up a production line.
“We hope to have the first aircraft rolling off the line in June,” Doug noted.
The Allegro has metal wings and a kevlar-composite body. Buyers have a choice of 21 color schemes.
Your choice of color is much more limited if you want to own a Piper-inspired Legend Cub.
“You can have yellow, yellow or yellow,” jokes Tim Elliott, one of the founders of the Legend Cub Co. As the name suggests, the Legend Cub is a high-wing airplane that bears a striking resemblance to the Piper product, but according to Elliott, “our yellow actually has more orange in it than Piper yellow.”
Although the aircraft looks like the Piper product, it definitely has some refinements designed to make it a more comfortable and cost-effective airplane. “For starters, the Legend Cub is wider than the Piper model,” Elliott said. “And, if you want, the panel has a glass cockpit display. I know some pilots will say ‘that doesn’t belong in a Cub,’ and we’ve heard that,” he concedes. “But then they see this and play with a little bit and decide that it’s cool.”
The Legend Cub also has Fiberglas in the rear compartment instead of cloth covering, which cuts down on maintenance costs because it is easier for mechanics to access that part of the airplane. Also, unlike the Piper product, the Legend Cub can be flown solo from the front seat because the fuel tanks were moved to the wings, repositioning the CG of the airplane.
According to Elliott, the Legend Cub should be certified by June 15. “We will be one of only a handful of LSA that are built in the United States,” he said, gesturing to the plane. “You can’t build a Cub in any other place in the world. It wouldn’t be right.”
WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE?
Insurance is now available for LSA pilots too. According to Bob Mackey from Falcon Insurance, the company has been in touch with four aircraft and pilot insurance carriers who will supply coverage for the Sport Pilot crowd. Mackey stated the cost of insurance will be between what is paid now for a certified aircraft and an experimental, depending, of course, on the pilot’s level of experience. Check with Falcon Insurance for details.