FAA Challenges Whether All LSA Builders Meet Standards

The FAA visited some 30 Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) facilities before releasing its assessment of the industry. And the result? They need to tighten up. LSA manufacturers are responsible for complying with "consensus standards" that were developed by ASTM, and the FAA found that most could not adequately substantiate that they met the standards. Without authorization to police the LSA industry, the FAA's report is advisory only (for now), but offered four areas where the industry ought to do better: more detailed procedures and recordkeeping; better understanding of the regulations and policies applying to LSAs (a recommendation for the industry and the FAA, itself); improve the system of ensuring consensus standards are met and updated as needed; and finally, the FAA said it needs to maintain an ongoing oversight of the LSA manufacturers and update training for Designated Airworthiness Representatives involved in LSA. With five years since the establishment of the LSA category, Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association said the FAA and NTSB are "generally satisfied" with its safety record, but that this report represents some "tough love" from the feds. For example, the report reads, in part, that "relying solely on the manufacturer's statements of compliance for the issuance of airworthiness certificates should be reconsidered." There are some 100 aircraft authorized as LSA, and many of them (such as the Cessna SkyCatcher and the PiperSport) are tested and built to far stricter than the minimum standards — in most ways complying with standard-aircraft-category criteria. But if the industry as a whole does not tighten up its compliance with regulations as currently written, the report carried an implied threat that the FAA could step in.