Experimental Aircraft Association Chairman and CEO Jack Pelton revealed that the FAA is going to increase the weight limit for light-sport aircraft to 3,600 pounds at the AOPA’s Regional Fly-In, but EAA officials are now advising the general aviation community that there’s “much work to be done” before this becomes reality.
The proposed weight limit change is just part of current discussions between EAA and the FAA before any broad MOSAIC — Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates — rulemaking — and those discussions are still in the formative stage, according Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety.
“There are numerous ideas that have emerged from discussions regarding MOSAIC, which began more than two years ago as informal conversations between EAA and FAA,” he said. “One area that emerged was how to help LSA fulfill its full potential. While weight-limit changes are one possibility, a specific number such as 3,600 pounds is something that is still very much in the exploratory stage.”
He cautions that the beginning of the FAA rulemaking process is not expected until early 2019.
“Any proposal for public comment would likely emerge in 2020 at the earliest,” he added.
“EAA has been the leader in these discussions with the FAA and has kept other general aviation groups appraised to the progress made,” Elliott noted. “The excellent progress we’ve made with FAA officials thus far includes substantial support from FAA senior leadership following meetings at AirVenture this past summer. It’s important to understand that these elements, such as LSA weight limits and any accompanying expansion of sport pilot privileges, are broad concepts that the FAA will use when beginning its rulemaking process, at which point outside input is not allowed by law.”
The current weight limit of 1,320 pounds of light-sport aircraft was established in the original 2004 sport pilot rule. That limit was a compromise from early FAA proposals that set the weight limit at less than 1,000 pounds.
EAA had worked since the mid-1990s on making the sport pilot rule broad enough to be a productive entry point for recreational aviation, association officials note. EAA’s focus is now on making the category “more robust and commercially viable” going forward, officials add.
A reformed LSA category would contain more qualifying aircraft, as well as long-sought features including electric propulsion, EAA officials note.
MOSAIC also holds “substantial promise” for flexibility in kit-aircraft construction, while maintaining the 51% rules, EAA officials added.
“This is a lengthy process, so as much as we might desire rapid change in some areas, the rulemaking process is not built that way,” Elliott said. “It’s also important to think beyond fixating on a specific number in a single area. EAA began by looking at all the possibilities when it first discussed the concept with the FAA as a way to make aviation more accessible and affordable. That’s what we’ll continue to do.”