For some time, we have been increasingly worried about the emergence of EASA Permitted LSA type aircraft and their certification basis.
Certified aircraft are designed, approved, manufactured and maintained to very specific schedules, with strict regulatory oversight. In the UK, aircraft which cannot meet these schedules because they are home built, or the Type Certificate Holder no longer exists are usually awarded Permits via the LAA. For the issue of a LAA permit, certain safety standards must be met and there is a complete inspection process to support the building and ongoing airworthiness.
EASA, as you are no doubt aware, has proposed a series of regulations around the sub 1000kg market (the European Light Aircraft ELA1), which is a process to cover the design, approval, production and subsequent maintenance. One of the categories under ELA1 will be the LSA - Light Sport Aircraft. The LSA category provides the promise of factory built super-ships, with modern avionics, efficient airframes and economic operating costs.
So far, so good.
EASA needs time to implement the ELA regulation and is finding the resources increasingly difficult to apply as it focuses on commercial aviation, leaving GA to the national authorities. Meanwhile, the manufacturers have been producing the LSA machines for the USA market and are understandably keen to make them available in Europe. In fact, we're all keen.
EASA has allowed some of these individual LSA type machines temporary Permits to get them going which sounds good, but should be considered with care.
Our main concern is what happens to these individual EASA Permit aircraft in the future. The CAA shares this concern and is in a difficult position. In general, these aircraft were not produced under a Certified process, or to a specific design code. When the ELA/LSA process becomes reality, a legal framework will be in place and the CAA will be able to process aircraft of these types, but not necessarily these individual aircraft. Until then there is great uncertainty, which is further underlined by the CAA's Jim Mckenna in a recent notification reproduced below.
There is no suggestion that these aircraft are unsafe. However, we know the difficulties of change within the aviation world and the strict adherence to the legal position. Purchasers and operators should be aware the LAA has no jurisdiction over these aircraft and cannot guarantee being in a position to provide a UK Permit 'safety net' for them in the future, should EASA change its mind.
We have been discussing this with the CAA to explore what support we might offer, since about half of our 375 inspectors are Certified aircraft engineers and we clearly understand the UK Permit system in great detail.
We fully support the ELA/LSA proposition, but urge buyers to proceed with caution.
Peter Harvey, LAA CEO
The CAA's EASA Permit clarification letter written by Jim McKenna, Head of Strategy, Policy and Standards, Civil Aviation Authority.
Light Sport Aircraft (LSA): With the increasing interest in Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) it is
important that operators and potential purchasers are aware of the current situation regarding the European Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA) plans for the aircraft.
At present, EASA will provide 'Flight Conditions' for these aircraft. This potentially allows these aircraft to qualify for an EASA Permit to Fly (Pt F), which will be issued by the State of Registry, e.g. the UK CAA. The aircraft are being delivered from the manufacturer, accompanied by an EASA Form 52. This attests to the build status of the aircraft but, at present, these documents have no legal validity as the production process currently sits outside of the established EASA Implementing Rules for certification under Part 21. This means that aircraft which have had a PtF issued, have not been designed or manufactured to a certificated standard and will be restricted in their use. For example, ab initio flying training or its use for hire and reward will not be permitted.
EASA has recently agreed to
formalise the requirements for
certification and manufacture of
these LSA types. We believe that EASA intends that they will be designed to a code,
Certification Specification (CS) - LSA, based on the US ASTM specification. It will also be a requirement that the production organisation be approved, in accordance with Part 21. In the absence of the Part 21 approval, the aircraft will not be eligible for anything other than a PtF and so therefore it willbe restricted in use.
Aircraft manufactured and delivered when the Part 21 production approval is in place will initially be issued with a PtF but once the aircraft has been evaluated against the design code, may be eligible for the issue of a CofA. EASA is considering further the likely operating rules that will apply to LSA aircraft with a CofA and it is hoped that this will include flying training.
There are three further points worth noting. Firstly, kit-built versions of these LSA ai rcraft will only be eligible for a National PtF, e.g. a UK National PtF issued by the CAA and administered through the Light Aircraft Association. Secondly, an aircraft with an EASA PtF is not necessarily eligible for flight in the airspace of another country, even the EU Member States, as EASA has yet to take on the legal competence for airspace use and access. Thirdly, LSA aircraft on a PtF cannot be hired out. This constitutes hire and reward but can be operated by a group in accordance with the current group rules defined in the UK Air Navigation order (max 20 members sharing the costs).
In the meantime, prospective purchasers of these aircraft should be aware that the EASA requirements are not yet in place.
Head of Strategy,
Policy and Standards,
Safety Regulation Group,
Civil Aviation Authority