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G. Michael Huffman
Sport Aviation Specialties, LLC

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Lawrenceville, GA 30044


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G. Michael Huffman
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Good News for ELSA and SLSA-
New FAA Order 8130.2F Change 2 Improves Operating Limitations

For the last several months, the release of a new revision to FAA Order 8130.2F has been anticipated. That revision (Chg 2) was released on July 10, 2006, and it contains major operating limitations improvements for ELSA, minor operating limitation improvements for SLSA, and a significant improvement in procedures for certificating SLSA.

Order 8130.2F specifies the requirements and procedures for FAA inspectors and DARs to certificate all types of aircraft, including special light-sport aircraft (SLSA), experimental light-sport aircraft (ELSA), and experimental amateur-built (EAB) aircraft.

Here is a summary of the changes.

Changes Affecting ELSA
To understand these changes, recall that there are three types of ELSA:

  • Existing unregistered "ultralight-like" vehicles meeting LSA requirements and certificated prior to January 31, 2008, per FAR 21.191(i)(1)-often referred to as the "(i)(1) ELSA."

  • Aircraft built from a manufacturer's SLSA-compliant kit, per FAR 21.191(i)(2)-the "(i)(2) ELSA."

  • Aircraft originally certified as SLSA but subsequently re-certified as ELSA to allow easier maintenance, alteration, and inspection requirements, per FAR 21.191(i)(3)-the "(i)(3) ELSA."

The new revision makes the following changes affecting ELSA.

  • Changes the operating limitations. In the previous revision, the three ELSA types all had a different set of operating limitations. With Change 2, all operating limitations now apply equally to the three ELSA types, with a couple of exceptions. This makes the new ELSA operating limitations almost identical to those for EAB aircraft. That means the following.

    • All three ELSA types are now allowed:
      • To fly over densely populated areas during Phase II when directed by air traffic control and when sufficient altitude is maintained to effect an emergency landing without endangering persons or property on the ground.

      • To takeoff and land over densely populated areas during Phase I and Phase II (if the airport has at least one "FAA-acceptable" corridor).

      • To operate at night and in IFR conditions during Phase II (when the aircraft is properly equipped).

    • Clarifies that the allowance for towing of an un-powered glider does not expire on Jan 31, 2010, but continues on an unlimited basis, as long as the airworthiness certificate is valid.

    • Lists the exact category, class, and make/model endorsements a pilot must have to fly the aircraft.

    • Corrects confusion in the 100-hour inspection requirement.

    • Clarifies that it is not necessary for an (i)(1) ELSA to have a pre-existing training exemption in order to be allowed to provide training or towing for compensation or hire.

  • Adds terminology for "weight & loading" in addition to weight and balance, in recognition that center of gravity considerations for weight-shift and powered parachutes are very different from fixed-wing airplanes.

  • Affirms the requirement that all (i)(1) ELSA must have at least 5-hour Phase I flight test period, regardless of how many hours they have already flown.

  • Corrects samples of various forms including the application for airworthiness, airworthiness certificate, and statement of compliance. This will make it easier to fill out the forms correctly.

Why are the ELSA operating limitation changes so significant? Consider this scenario: Flying buddies Jim Bob and Darryl decide to go out for a Sunday afternoon flight in their identical two-place Challengers. Jim Bob's aircraft happens to be certificated as an EAB, while Darryl's is certificated as an ELSA, both under the old version of 8130.2F.

Both aircraft are based at an airport that has large housing additions at both ends of the main runway. Jim Bob can legally take off on the main runway, but Darryl must take off on another runway where he does not fly over densely populated areas, no matter what direction the wind is blowing.
Once off the ground, our boys happen to fly over the county park, situated in the rural countryside outside their small town. There happens to be a church barbecue going on and one of the attendees hates "ultralights." He gets enough of a description of the aircraft to nail down who owns them and, first thing Monday morning, calls FAA to complain. The FAA issues a violation against both pilots.

Here's where it gets interesting. If Jim Bob can show that he was maintaining sufficient altitude to effect an emergency landing as required by his operating limitations, he can defend himself against the violation. Poor ol' Darryl has no such defense, due simply to the way his operating limitations are written.

The good news is that Change 2 of the order erases the differences.
Jim Bob and Darryl have another buddy named Bubba, who is about to get his Challenger II certificated. Bubba's operating limitations will be in accordance with the new revision. But what can poor ol' Darryl do? Here again, there is good news--all he needs to do is request that a new airworthiness certificate and operating limitations be issued in accordance with the new order! A DAR can issue the new "recurrent" airworthiness certificate and operating limitations; in this case, the DAR will have to re-inspect your aircraft. Or, an FAA aviation safety inspector (an employee of your local FAA Flight Standards District Office or Manufacturing Inspection District Office) can issue an "amended" airworthiness certificate; in this case, a re-inspection of your aircraft is not required--the new paperwork can be issued by mail.

Then, with the new operating limitations in the aircraft, Jim Bob, Darryl, and Bubba will likely be legal to fly over the barbecue at the county park. Hey, let's see, if they bite the bullet for some more equipment, they could even do it on an IFR flight plan!

Changes Affecting SLSA
The new revision makes the following changes affecting SLSA.

  • Allows FAA inspectors or DARs to issue SLSA production flight test permits by telegraphic means or FAX.

    To understand this one, realize that each SLSA produced (each aircraft that comes off the production line) must be issued two different airworthiness certificates. The first is a production flight test permit that allows the company to perform their production flight-testing. After successful completion of the flight test, the permanent airworthiness certificate is issued.

    This is a very beneficial change, since it means an inspector or DAR need not make two trips to fully certificate one airplane.

  • Clarifies that each production aircraft that comes down the assembly line must have a production flight test permit.

  • Affirms that each SLSA must be registered prior to production flight-testing in the U.S. Some confusion had existed on this subject.

  • Allows for a manufacturer's agent or dealer to be the registered owner of an SLSA applying for a production flight test permit. This allows SLSA manufactured in other countries or locations to be shipped to a U.S. location, assembled by an authorized manufacturer's agent or dealer, registered under the agent or dealer's name, issued its production flight-test airworthiness, and then flight tested. Following successful completion, the aircraft is then eligible for a permanent SLSA airworthiness certificate.

  • Changes the operating limitations for the production flight test phase as follows.

    • Reduces the required production test pilot rating from commercial pilot to private pilot with appropriate logbook endorsement to act as PIC and with 100 hours in category & class.

    • Clarifies that the test pilot is to be the only occupant of the aircraft during production flight-testing.

  • Changes the operating limitations for the permanent airworthiness as follows.

    • Clarifies that night/IFR flight requires not only that the aircraft be properly equipped per FAR 91.205, but also requires that the manufacturer's operating instructions allow night/IFR flight.

    • Allows an annual condition inspection done during the previous 100 hours of service to be used in lieu of a 100-hour inspection.

  • Adds a new paragraph that describes how to complete and review the 8130-15 Statement of Compliance form.

  • Corrects samples of various forms including the application for airworthiness, airworthiness certificate, and statement of compliance. This will make it easier to fill out the forms correctly.