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Light-Sport Aircraft/Sport Pilot Timelines are Approaching

by Larry Clymer
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News

It is hard to believe that the Light- Sport Aircraft/Sport Pilot regulations have been in effect for over 18 months. With that realization we are fast approaching the first timeline in the program. The first timeline is the transition of ultralight pilots to sport pilots by January 31, 2007. Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) section 61.329 allows for ultralight pilots who belonged to a FAA-recognized ultralight organization on or before September 1, 2004, to obtain sport pilot privileges in the aircraft category and class they are qualified by passing a knowledge and practical test. The FAA recognizes the experience obtained in flying ultralight vehicles. In order to meet federal standards the individual does have to undergo FAA standardization testing to ensure the individual is qualified to operate in the National Airspace System. There is no plan to extend this timeline.

The FAA's Light Sport Aviation Branch trained 42 Sport Pilot Examiners last year and has scheduled six examiner training classes this year to help meet this timeline. The existing Designated Pilot Examiner pool has stepped up to the plate and there are over one hundred of these subject matter experts who are also available to help ultralight pilots to obtain practical tests. To date there are more than 152 examiners qualified to perform sport pilot practical test. The real shortfall of examiners is in the powered parachute and weight-shift communities. The Light Sport Aviation Branch will focus on training more of these qualified candidates in the upcoming flying season to help those wanting to meet the January 31, 2007, timeline. The number of examiners, instructors, and other Sport Pilot designees increases daily.

The next important date is January 31, 2008. Two significant conversions need to be accomplished in order to continue in the program by this date. The first is the conversion of existing ultralight flight instructors to FAA certificated flight instructors with Sport Pilot privileges. The provisions of 14 CFR section 61.431 allow for registered ultralight instructors, who were members of an FAA-recognized ultralight organization on or before September 1, 2004, to obtain an FAA flight instructor certificate with a Sport Pilot rating by taking a knowledge and practical test. If the individual has already successfully passed a Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) knowledge test given by the FAA-recognized organization and the organization attests to that fact, the individual does not have to take the FAA FOI knowledge test. In order to take the practical test the individual must hold a Sport Pilot or higher certificate in the category and class of aircraft. The individual takes the practical test from a Sport Pilot Flight Instructor Examiner.

The FAA's Web site is the best source of accurate information on how to find a Sport Pilot Examiner for the category and class aircraft that you are interested in obtaining a Sport Pilot certificate. The FAA home page has a 'Search' location at the top of the page. If you type in Light Sport Aviation Branch, it will take you to the information you need as far as the Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft programs and the required forms. If you look to the right on the Home page, you will see a column titled 'Top Requests.' Under this column you can find under the subheading 'Pilots' the title 'License and Certificates.' This area will take you to the practical test standards and knowledge test areas for Sport Pilot certification.

The second conversion with a January 31, 2008, limit is ultralight aircraft certification requirements. Under 14 CFR section 21.191(i)(1) an ultralight vehicle that does not meet the definition of 14 CFR section 103.1 must be registered and certificated in order to continue to be flown in the National Airspace System. If you already own or are planning to buy an existing ultralight vehicle that does not meet the definition of 103.1, you need to start the process of getting the vehicle registered and certificated. This is a two-part process. The first step is to register the aircraft using the FAA's Affidavit of Ownership, FAA Form 8050-88A. It is very important to make sure you complete this form accurately. The registration process can take as long as eight weeks. After the vehicle is registered, it is now considered an aircraft and you will receive an N-number to place on the structure. The next step is to arrange for the aircraft to be certificated as an Experimental Light Sport Aircraft (ELSA). There are currently 43 Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DAR) who are qualified to accomplish the certification. The Light Sport Aviation Branch is working on a program to get more DARs available by late summer of this year. This should help in the process of getting all the aircraft certificated by the January 31, 2008, timeline.

The FAA and industry organizations are working very hard to meet the timelines established by the September 2004 regulations. Some of the organizations have put together transition packages to assist pilots. They have also provided information on how to prepare your ultralight vehicle to meet FAA certification standards. Several individuals have established very good ground schools to help in preparing for the Sport Pilot and flight instructor knowledge tests. The Light- Sport Aircraft/Sport Pilot Program is on the road to success and is a good story on how the FAA and industry can work together to enhance safety in the National Airspace System.

Larry Clymer is the Manager of Flight Standards' Light-Sport Aviation Branch

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