Light Sport Aircraft
The Sport Pilot Rule refers to "Special" Light-Sport
Aircraft and "Experimental" Light-Sport Aircraft.
Although the FAA does not clearly distinguish it, there are two types of
The first type of Experimental LSA are the ultralights which undergo an
inspection by a DAR and are transformed into an "Experimental Light-Sport
Aircraft," which is a new category of "Experimental" under FAR 21.191. If you
will allow me, I shall refer to this type of Experimental LSA as the "Former
Although normally an experimental aircraft cannot be used commercially, a sport
pilot instructor may instruct in a Former Ultralight E-LSA until September 1,
2009. After that date, a person may only fly a Former Ultralight E-LSA for his
personal pleasure and may no longer instruct in it for hire.
The second type of Experimental LSA are those aircraft which are shipped from a
manufacturer as a kit. This kit must conform to the same "industry consensus
standard" as a factory-built ready-to-fly light-sport aircraft. However, the
recipient of the kit does NOT have to build 51% of the aircraft. The factory
may deliver the kit in any state of completion that it desires--from one
percent complete to 99 percent complete. In addition, the buyer may pay someone
else to complete the kit for him, whether it be a dealer, an airplane mechanic,
or a neighbor. After the kit is completed, the buyer must have it inspected by
a DAR and it will be placed into the "Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft"
category. For clarification in this discussion, I'll refer to this type of
Experimental LSA as the "Kit" Experimental LSA (as opposed to the Former
Ultralight Experimental LSA.)
Unlike the Former Ultralight E-LSA, the Kit E-LSA may NOT be used for
commercial training. Only the Former Ultralight E-LSA may be used for
commercial pilot training, and even the Former Ultralight E-LSA may only be
used commercially until September 1, 2009.
Please note that a factory must build at least ONE ready-to-fly Light-Sport
Aircraft before it will be allowed to deliver the light-sport aircraft kits.
The "Special" Light-Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) are the turn-key ready-to-fly
aircraft manufactured in accordance to an industry consensus standard. The
S-LSA does not have a normal aircraft type certificate issued under FAR 23, so
that's why the airworthiness certificate which is issued to a light-sport
aircraft will be a "special" airworthiness certificate, and not a "standard"
The Special LSA (S-LSA) may be used for commercial training. After September 1,
2009 it will be the ONLY light-sport aircraft that can be used for commercial
training. Because these LSA have a "Special" airworthiness certificate instead
of a "Standard" certificate (such as a Cessna 150,) the ONLY commercial use of
a S-LSA is for training sport pilot students. A S-LSA cannot be used for other
commercial purposes, such as sightseeing, traffic reporting, fish-spotting,
crop dusting, etc.
As stated in the Sport Pilot Rule, the last day that an ultralight instructor
may teach in a two-seat ultralight trainer is January 31, 2008. By that date,
if an ultralight instructor wants to continue teaching, he must obtain an FAA
sport pilot instructor's certificate. He may teach in a Former Ultralight E-LSA
until September 1, 2009. After September 1, 2009 he may only teach in a Special
In addition to Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft the Experimental Amateur-Built
aircraft will continue to exist. The difference between an Experimental LSA and
an Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft (E-ABA) is that an E-ABA does NOT have
to conform to an industry consensus standard. Another difference is that the
buyer of an E-ABA must construct at least 51 percent of the kit aircraft,
whereas the buyer of an E-LSA does not have to build any specified percentage
of the aircraft.
Neither the E-LSA or the E-ABA may be used for commercial flight training.
It is quite conceivable that a manufacturer may offer all three types of flying
machines: Special LSA, Experimental LSA, and Experimental Amateur-Built
Why would a manufacturer offer an experimental amateur-built kit in addition to
an experimental light-sport aircraft kit? The reason is because the E-LSA is
restricted to certain features whereas the E-ABA is not. For example, an
experimental amateur-built aircraft may have more than two seats, may have
retractable gear, may have an in-flight adjustable propeller, may have more
than one engine, and it may weigh more than 1,320 pounds--all of which are not
available to light-sport aircraft. Please note that if an amateur-built
aircraft has any of the features mentioned above, it CANNOT be flown by a sport
pilot. It could only be flown by a person with a private pilot certificate or
higher. Also, the person who flies an experimental amateur-built aircraft must
have an FAA medical certificate if the amateur-built aircraft has features that
exceeds that which an LSA may have.