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Monday
Mar142011

Light Sport Flying with In Flight USA - March 2011

LSA’s and Insurance

By Ed Downs

Wow, you really are a devoted aviation buff!  The title of this column included the word “Insurance” and you are still reading!  To be sure, most readers will have had some reason to deal with insurance of some kind, sometimes leading to lawyers, lawsuits and other unpleasantries that are anything but “entertaining reading.”  As an aviation professional that is now working his second half century stint in the business, this writer has certainly seen the good, the bad and the ugly of insurance.  That is why I called long time friend and advertiser, Lee Duncan (Aircraft Insurance Agency of Waxahachie, TX) the other day to play “insurance catch-up.”

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Tuesday
Feb082011

Light Sport Flying with In Flight USA - February 2011

Sport Pilot and Winter Flying

By Ed Downs

At first glance, one might conclude that winter flying as a Sport Pilot, or operation of an S-LSA, caries the same cautions applicable to all pilots and aircraft.  To an extent, that is true, but there are a couple of special considerations.

Any article about winter flying needs to talk about the potential of IFR encounters.  The reader’s first thought may be, “What IFR – Sport Pilots nor LSA’s are allowed to fly IFR – so why even talk about it?”  Well, that is not quite true.  There is nothing within the ASTM Consensus Standards that prohibit an S-LSA from being flown IFR.  IFR restrictions are completely up to the airframe and engine manufacturer.  The ability to operate an S-LSA in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) will be clearly stated in the Pilot Operating Handbook. To be sure, most S-LSA manufacturers do prohibit the use of their aircraft in IMC, but several S-LSAs specifically allow IFR flight, given the installation of a specific engine and/or equipment.  But, even if IFR flight is allowed, there may be limitations, such as “no flight into known icing conditions.”  It is very important to give that POH a good read, as it is required to contain a number of certification limitations that are established by the manufacturer, not the ASTM standards or FAA.  Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the words of one POH speak for all S-LSAs.

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Monday
Jan102011

Light Sport Flying With In Flight USA - January 2011

What the Heck is an E-LSA?

By Ed Downs

The subject of aircraft certification, be it standard, special or experimental can make even the most geeky tax lawyer think they have fallen down the rabbit hole, especially when talking about Experimental aircraft.  So let’s keep this month’s column about the real world of buying, selling and using an E-LSA airplane.  The fact is, one is very likely to come across a “for sale” ad featuring an E-LSA that can look inviting.  The price may be quite attractive, but just what the heck is an E-LSA?

First, let’s take a general look at any airplane that is certified as an “Experimental” airplane.  Actually, there is no such thing as simply an “Experimental” airplane, even if the word “Experimental” is clearly written on the side of the plane.  Experimental certification always carries a second word (or two) which describes what sub-part of Experimental we are talking about, and there are numerous sub-parts.  For example one might see a  nifty little RV-12 (it meets the FAA definition of an LSA) from Van’s Aircraft sitting on the ramp with the word “Experimental” prominently displayed.  This RV-12 may have been sold as a kit that meets the new FAA “51% rule” and was certified as Experimental-Amateur Built.  This means the builder of the plane can perform all of his/her own maintenance, make changes to the design (including engine changes) conduct the annual condition inspection and pretty much fly when and where he/she wants.  Sitting next to that RV-12 might be a weird looking war bird from some country whose name you cannot pronounce, made by a manufacturer best known for cranking out refrigerators that do not work.  Our “war bird” will also have the word “Experimental” clearly displayed, but is certified as Experimental-Exhibition.  This critter may have significant maintenance issues and require each and every flight to be approved by the FAA.  Get the point? 

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Tuesday
Dec072010

Sport Flying with In Flight USA - December 2010

The Gift

By Ed Downs

This holiday column is being written early Sunday morning, with the expectation of a good day.  Shortly, this writer will be heading to church, ready to partake of a terrific service followed by our calibration of Thanksgiving. The holiday season is in full swing and most of America is getting serious about selecting the perfect gift for loved ones as “Black Friday” approaches. This early hour promotes reminiscing, and the LSA theme of this column brings to mind a gift I received almost 20 years ago, to the day. Allow an old pilot a moment of sharing.

My local community airport had decided to take advantage of beautiful Indian-Summer weather to hold an open house and mini-airshow. Although late in the season, with Thanksgiving decorations having already given way to the wonders of commercial Christmas paraphernalia, a well-known resident airshow pilot agreed to participate in the program.  The local EAA chapter pulled together a fine selection of planes to be displayed, including a couple of warbirds. My company fired up a major EAA Young Eagles event with the intent of setting records by flying at least 100 kids.  The Young Eagles program was new at that time and my wife, Sue, set up an assembly-line system to process the paperwork and conduct the educational program that accompanied each flight.  The idea was that two planes (both meeting today’s definition of LSA) and three pilots would spend minimum time with ground activities, giving them the ability to offer each participant the best flight experience possible.  I signed up to fly a feisty little tail dragger (later to earn fame at major airshows) and all was ready to go.

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Monday
Nov012010

Sport Flying With In Flight USA - November 2010

AOPA and Sport Pilot

By Ed Downs

This column needs to start with an apology to those who may look forward to reading about airplanes and sport flying.  But, given the timing of our November edition, many will be reading this at the 2010 AOPA Aviation Summit, having just voted in a mid-term election involving the most toxic political environment since the Civil War.  Let’s chat about what AOPA is doing for the Sport Pilot/LSA movement, given a political and security background, which has shown outright hostility towards the private and business use of personally-owned aircraft. To be sure, these are only the opinions of this writer, but they are based upon an AOPA affiliation that began over half a century ago. 

Most folks who have followed the Sport Pilot/LSA phenomenon will agree that the EAA has been at the forefront of developing ASTM consensus standards and promoting the existence of a Sport Pilot certificate.  As an active participant in formative activities that took place between 2000 and 2004, this writer was aware that AOPA was quietly participating in the process. I did wish that they would become a bit more vocal and supportive.  Early 2004 presented this writer with an opportunity to meet privately with the incredibly busy Phil Boyer, then President of AOPA.

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