CAA Announcement on 600kg Microlights - LAA comment


On 16th June the CAA issued a statement: “CAA confirms move to bring many new light aircraft designs under national regulation”. We’ve been working hard to help drive forward this consultative process which the BMAA, LAA and industry representatives have worked together on since the start of last year. This consultation and the paper, CAA CAP1920, (https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP1920%20450-600kg%20Consultation%20Response.pdf) outlines the CAA’s response to a consultation undertaken in Autumn 2019.  The consultation received 1,379 responses, of which 91% (1,254) supported the opt-out choice

 

The new rules mean that manufacturers currently limited to making microlight aircraft currently certified up to 450kg would under future national regulation, be able to sell new machines without having to switch over to more onerous EASA regulations, so long as they have no more than two seats, a calibrated stall speed not exceeding 45 knots and a maximum take-off mass of no more than 600kg. This streamlining of regulation should enhance the aeroplane market and the benefits include modernising, refreshing and enlarging the UK light aeroplane fleet for pilots, operators and businesses alike.

 

The consultation also asked, for aeroplanes, if these 450-600 Kg aircraft should be defined as ‘microlights’ or as ‘light sport aircraft’. After discussion at Board level, the LAA agreed that an expansion of the microlight definition was more advantageous than LSA in the short term. In the consultation, 78% of respondents expressed a preference towards the microlight definition.

 

What Does It Mean for LAA Members?

From an airworthiness point of view, it matters little to the LAA what these aircraft are called. The LAA already oversees more than three hundred microlight aircraft on active permits, both kit-built types and factory-built designs such as the Jabiru range. In addition, our engineers are already qualified and capable of carrying out factory inspections and build standard reviews, when the new legislation comes on stream.

 

Exercising this opt-out would increase the weight boundary that currently exists between national and EASA regulation for factory-built aircraft. This would improve the availability to the UK market of many modern light two-seat factory-built but uncertificated aeroplanes that are currently certified up to 450kg but capable of operating up to 600kg MTOM.

 

The future CAA policy should, if properly enacted, will allow some existing types to be flown within more realistic weight limits, make aircraft already flying elsewhere in the world potentially available to British buyers and act as a catalyst to UK manufacturers to develop British-made designs for sale overseas.

 

The LAA’s vision of the future, is that by working together, the CAA, BMAA and LAA could benefit the whole of the sport flying community by offering a new, more practical, economical and more environmentally-friendly fleet of GA aircraft.

One potential advantage of these aircraft being classified as “microlight” is that it will enable the minimum conversion requirements, focussed on differences training, to be applied to pilots of all licence types, wishing to fly any aeroplane that falls into the new definition.  These requirements mean no need to change the existing licence regulations.

 

If these aircraft were not classified as microlights it would have needed significant changes to the system to allow NPPL(M) holder to credit time in a new LSA category. Based on the latest EASA license regulations, flying time on these aircraft can now be credited by UK NPPL, UK PPL and EASA LAPL or PPL license holders.

 

In the longer term, there is potential future merit in marketing these aircraft as a new ‘Light Sport Aircraft’ category, equally operable with suitable differences training by PPL(M) and SEP license holders.  This would make the aircraft a more attractive proposition to buyers and to flying training organisations when they deal with the general public.

 

Can a current microlight move up to 600kg?

The short answer is no, there will be no automatic transition, just as there wasn’t when the 390kg max allowable was moved up to 450kg. If an aircraft has been designed and built to meet the 450kg max weight, it may not be possible to increase the max allowable load without strengthening the structure. However, it may be possible to increase the limit on designs which were operated below their max design load in order to meet the microlight definition. We’ll be reviewing that as part of the implementation process.

 

When?

Despite our best efforts, much of this is out of our hands.  This press announcement marked the end of just the first stage of the CAA process. The next stage is implementation, where we will work with them to agree the appropriate airworthiness requirements and we are pressing to ensure commonality with codes and manufacturing approvals used in other countries, allowing us tomake import and export simpler. Both the LAA and BMAA share the aim of creating a system to allow members to buy and fly aircraft from abroad, and for UK manufacturers to be able to sell outside the UK, with fewer regulatory obstacles.

 

The CAA is of course also dealing with moving more widely out of EASA as part of Brexit. As a result it now appears we’ll need to wait for the wider EASA opt-out at the end of December before this opt-out can go ahead. We hope though that with the Associations and the CAA working together, we can get this programme into place in a matter of weeks thereafter.