By Fred “Crash” Blechman
Early on the morning of Dec. 3, a bright, sunny, almost windless day with virtually unlimited visibility, 15 light-sport aircraft from 14 manufacturers appeared at the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter #723 hangar at Camarillo Airport. They were there for the EAA Sport Pilot Tour, a nationwide preview of new light-sport aircraft.
A recent Federal Aviation Administration ruling allows anyone with a valid driver’s license to become a sport pilot for these light-sport aircraft. An FAA medical certificate isn’t required, opening the door to many private pilots who’ve let their FAA medical elapse. As it stands now, you can’t qualify to become a sport pilot if you’ve been denied an FAA medical certificate.
Beginning at 9 a.m., until 4 p.m., more than 500 pilots and wannabes attended talks by Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president for industry and regulatory affairs, and Dan Johnson, EAA light-sport aircraft industry consultant. Attendees walked around the light-sport planes, asked questions of the representatives, sat in cockpits and picked up information.
The aircraft on display are only a portion of the planes now qualified as light-sport aircraft. At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2005, 38 LSA were on display. For years, Russia and many countries in Europe have allowed this variety of pilots and planes. Most of the LSA now available are from the Czech Republic, Russia, Italy and other European countries.
Working hand-in-hand with the FAA, the EAA and other organizations has worked to reach the goal of providing pilots with a simpler and less expensive means of renting or owning an airplane.
“It took more than a decade worth of effort and a furious amount of work in the last two or three years,” said Dan Johnson, who’s been writing articles about the industry for 30 years. “The EAA was very instrumental in helping make it happen. Gathering the troops together for industry consensus standards, allowing for their certification, and working with government to push it through the federal gears, all seem to move rather slowly at times.”
Johnson’s website ([http://www.bydanjohnson.com]) offers a great amount of information about light-sport aircraft. He gives credit to the FAA as well.
“They stuck their nose out on this whole thing quite a bit,” he said. “The driver’s license medical is one that took some pushing and shoving.”
Sport Pilot Tour events bring together EAA chapter members, local FAA pilots and members of the public who want to get a closer look at this new affordable form of aviation. The speakers provide information on topics such as the sport pilot certificate, light-sport aircraft, transitioning ultralight pilots and new opportunities for flight schools.
For an explanation of the sport pilot and light-sport aircraft requirements and limitations, visit [http://www.sportpilot.org], or call 800-564-6322 and request a copy of the “EAA Sport Pilot Sourcebook.”