A light-sport aircraft, also known as light sport aircraft or LSA, is a small aircraft that is simple to fly and which meets certain regulations set by a national aviation authority restricting weight and performance. For example, in Australia the Civil Aviation Safety Authority defines a light-sport aircraft as a heavier-than-air or lighter-than-air craft, other than a helicopter, with a maximum gross takeoff weight of not more than 560 kilograms (1,230 lb) for lighter-than-air craft; 600 kilograms (1,300 lb) for heavier-than-air craft not intended for operation on water; or 650 kilograms (1,430 lb) for aircraft intended for operation on water. It must have a maximum stall speed of 45 knots (83 km/h; 52 mph) in landing configuration; a maximum of two seats; there is no limit on maximum speed unless it is a glider which is limited to Vne 135 kn CAS; fixed undercarriage (except for amphibious aircraft which may have repositionable gear, and gliders which may have retractable gear); an unpressurized cabin; and a single non-turbine engine driving a propeller if it is a powered aircraft.
In the US, several distinct groups of aircraft may be flown as light-sport. Existing certificated aircraft and experimental, amateur-built aircraft that fall within the definition listed in 14CFR1.1 are acceptable, as are aircraft built to an industry consensus standard rather than FAA airworthiness requirements. The accepted consensus standard is defined by ASTM Technical Committee F37. Aircraft built to the consensus standard may be factory-built and sold with a special airworthiness certification (S-LSA) or may be assembled from a kit under the experimental rules (E-LSA) under experimental airworthiness. A company must have produced and certified at least one S-LSA in order to be permitted to sell E-LSA kits of the same model. E-LSA kits are not subject to the normal experimental amateur built (E-AB) requirement 14CFR21.191 which identifies an aircraft, the "major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by persons who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation."
Aircraft which qualify as LSA may be operated by holders of a sport pilot certificate, whether they are registered as light sport aircraft or not. Pilots with a private, recreational, or higher pilot certificate may also fly LSA, even if their medical certificates have expired, so long as they have a valid driver's license to prove that they are in good enough health to fly and their medical certificate has not been denied or revoked. LSA also have less restrictive maintenance requirements and may be maintained and inspected by traditionally certificated Aircraft Maintenance Technicians, by individuals holding a Repairman: Light Sport certificate, and (in some cases) by their pilots and/or owners.
Several different kinds of aircraft may be certificated as LSA. Airplanes (both powered and gliders), rotorcraft (gyroplanes only, not helicopters), powered parachutes, weight-shift control aeroplanes (commonly known as trikes), and lighter-than-air craft (free balloons and airships) may all be certificated as LSA if they fall within the weight and other guidelines established by the local governing authority.
The US definition of an LSA is similar to some other countries' definition of "microlight" or "ultralight" aircraft. Except for the LSA's relatively generous MTOW of 1320 pounds, the other countries' microlight definitions are typically less restrictive, not limiting airspeed or the use of variable-pitch propellers.
By contrast, the US FAA has a separate definition of ultralight aircraft defined in Federal Aviation Regulations. Aircraft falling within the US ultralight specifications are extremely lightweight (less than 254 pounds if powered, or 155 pounds if unpowered), are intended for manned operation by a single occupant, have a fuel capacity of five US gallons (about 19 litres) or less, a maximum calibrated airspeed of not more than 55 knots (102 km/h), and a maximum stall speed of not more than 24 knots (44 km/h). Ultralight aircraft in the US do not require pilot licensing, medical certification, or aircraft registration.
Aircraft certified as light-sport aircraft exceed the limitations defined for ultralight aircraft and require that the pilot possess, at a minimum, a sport pilot certificate. Among these aircraft were found those that were specifically designed to meet the LSA requirements, as well as overweight ultralights (commonly known as "fat ultralights") that previously were operated in technical violation of 14 CFR 103.
In addition to aircraft specifically designed to meet the LSA requirements, certain certificated aircraft, such as the original Piper Cub, happen to fall within the definition of a light-sport aircraft and can be operated by individuals holding FAA sport pilot certificates. The aircraft can not be re-certificated as LSA, however: although sport pilots may operate conventionally certificated aircraft that fall within the definition of an LSA, the aircraft themselves continue to be certificated in their original categories.
Several designers and manufacturers of experimental aircraft kits have developed models that are compliant with the light-sport aircraft rules.
In June 2012 the FAA indicated that they would re-visit the LSA program after their own studies indicated that "the majority" of LSA manufacturers they had inspected failed to show that they were in compliance with the standards. The FAA announcement said that as a result the "original policy of reliance on manufacturers' Statements of Compliance" ... "should be reconsidered." AOPA points out that this is a normal development of a maturing standard and does not expect any significant changes in the rules, only more scrutiny by FAA to assure compliance.
LSA definition in the United States
In the United States, the FAA has defined the LSA airworthiness requirements to mean an aircraft, other than a helicopter or powered-lift that, since its original certification, has continued to meet the following:
- A maximum takeoff weight of not more than 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms) for aircraft not intended for operation on water; or 1,430 pounds (650 kilograms) for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
- A maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (VH ) of not more than 120 knots CAS under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.
- A maximum never-exceed speed (VNE ) of not more than 120 knots CAS for a glider.
- A maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices of not more than 45 knots CAS at the aircraft's maximum certificated takeoff weight and most critical center of gravity.
- A maximum seating capacity of two persons, including the pilot.
- A single, reciprocating engine, if powered.
- A fixed-pitch propeller or ground-adjustable propeller, except for powered gliders which can have a feathering propeller system.
- A fixed-pitch, semi-rigid, teetering, two-blade rotor system, if a gyroplane.
- A nonpressurized cabin, if equipped with a cabin.
- Fixed landing gear, except for an aircraft intended for operation on water or a glider.
- Fixed or retractable landing gear, or a hull, for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
- Fixed or retractable landing gear for a glider.
LSA models under FAA certification
Aircraft that met light-sport requirements when the rules were announced appear in FAA's list: Light Sport Aircraft: Existing Type Certificated Models.
Some additional models of S-LSA, E-LSA and E-AB aircraft that meet light-sport requirements are listed here.
|Manufacturer||Design||Engine||Max. cruise||Max. range||Price||Orders||Availability||Type|
|3Xtrim||3Xtrim Navigator 600||100 HP Rotax 912 S||104 kn (193 km/h)||747 NM||US$99,000 (Basic)||2008||Certified|
|Advanced Composites Solutions||ACS-100 Sora||120 kn (222 km/h)||US$75,000||Kit|
|Aeropro CZ / fly-Aerotrek.com||Aerotrek A240 (tricycle gear) or A220 (taildragger) (previously EuroFox)||Rotax 912 A/ 912 S||115 kn (213 km/h)||570 NM (1056 km)||US$67,950||300+ sold||since 1990||Certified|
|The Airplane Factory||The Airplane Factory Sling||Rotax 912 S or 912 ULS||110 kn (201 km/h)||880 NM (1600 km)||US$125,000 (Basic, Ready-to-Fly)||100+||2010||Certified RTF & Kit|
|Aviasud Engineering||Aviasud Mistral||Rotax 582 DCDI||65 kn (120 km/h)||270 NM, 500 km|
|Breezer (80 hp)||Breezer Aircraft||Rotax 912 UL2||96 kn (178 km/h)||497 NM (920 km)|
|CGS Aviation||Hawk Arrow II SLSA||Rotax 582, Rotax 912 F, HKS 700e, HKS 700T, Jabiru 2200||70 kn (130 km/h)||130 NM||US$44,995 (Basic)||170+ (since 1992)||2008||Certified|
|Comco Ikarus||Ikarus C42 (80 hp)||Rotax 912 F||105 kn 194 km/h||Certified|
|Cessna||Cessna 162||Continental O-200D||112 kn (207 km/h)||470 NM (870 km)||US$149,000||195 (Feb 2014). 80 in stock for spares||Since 2009 - discontinued Feb 2014||Certified|
|Cirrus Design||Cirrus SRS||Rotax 912 S||120 kn (222 km/h)||US$110,000-US$120,000||Unknown, Project Suspended||Certified|
|Czech Sport Aircraft||SportCruiser/PiperSport||Rotax 912 S||118 kn (218 km/h)||600 NM (924 km)||170+ delivered||Available since 2006||Certified|
|Czech Sport Aircraft/Wet Aero USA||CZAW Mermaid||Jabiru 3300 or Rotax 912S||110 kn (204 km/h)||450 NM (833 km)||US$155,000, no kits||2006||Certified|
|Europa Aircraft (2004)||Europa XS||Rotax 912 / 912 ULS / 914 or Jabiru Aircraft||120 kn (222 km/h)||750 NM||US$40,500 w/o engine||2009||Kit|
|FANTASY AIR||Allegro 2007||Rotax 912 F or 912 S||119 kn (220 km/h)||750 NM (1400 km)||US$82,000||2008||Certified|
|Flight Design||Flight Design CTsw: CTLS: CTLSi||Rotax 912S ; Rotax 912iS||120 kn (222 km/h)||850 NM (1870 km)||US$143,800||350+||2005||Certified|
|Higher Class Aviation||Sport Hornet LRS||Rotax 912 F or Rotax 582||100 kn (185 km/h)||450 NM (833 km)||US$59,995 (Rotax 582 $45K), (kit $20K w/o engine)||040+||2009||Certified|
|Icon Aircraft||Icon A5||Rotax 912 S (when certified)||105 kn (195 km/h)||300 NM (556 km)||US$189,000||700||2013||Experimental/Certification planned (As of April 2012[update])|
|JIHLAVAN airplanes, s.r.o.||Skyleader 600||Rotax 912 100 hp & 115 hp||120 kn (222 km/h)||860 NM (1600 km)||U.S. distributor www.skyleaderaircraftusa.com||Available||Certified|
|Kitfox Aircraft||Kitfox||Rotax 912 S||109 kn (201 km/h)||530 NM (980 km)||US$25,000 (kit price)||4000+ (since 1984)||2008||ELSA Kit/Certified|
|Paradise Aircraft||Paradise P-1||100 HP, Rotax 912 S||120 kn (184 km/h)||747 NM (1385 km)||US$108,800 (Basic)||2008||Certified|
|Pipistrel||Pipistrel Sinus LSA||Rotax 912 80 hp||120 kn (222 km/h)||790 NM (1000 km)||€69,900 (Basic, ready to fly) ||600+||Available since 1995||Certified LSA Airplane & Glider RTF & Kit|
|Pipistrel||Pipistrel Virus LSA||Rotax 912 80 hp||120 kn (222 km/h)||790 NM (1000 km)||€69,900 (Basic, ready to fly) ||600+||Available since 1995||Certified LSA Airplane & Glider RTF & Kit|
|Pipistrel||Pipistrel Virus SW LSA||Rotax 912 80 hp & 100 hp||120 kn (222 km/h)||790 NM (1000 km)||€76,000 (Basic, ready to fly) ||600+||Available since 1995||Certified LSA Airplane & Glider RTF & Kit|
|Pipistrel||Pipistrel Taurus LSA||Rotax 503, 55 hp||120 kn (222 km/h)||150 NM (300 km)||€89,500 (Basic, ready to fly) ||600+||Available since 1995||Certified LSA Glider RTF|
|Pipistrel||Pipistrel Alpha Trainer||Rotax 912 80 hp||120 kn (222 km/h)||790 NM (1000 km)||€69,000 (Equipped, ready to fly) ||600+||Available since 1995||Certified LSA Airplane RTF|
|SportairUSA, LC (distributor)||Sting S4||Rotax 912 F||120 kn (222 km/h)||790 NM (1000 km)||Sting.aero/pricing-options||70+||Available||Certified|
|Rainbow Aircraft (pty) ltd.||Cheetah XLS||Rotax 912 or Rotax 582 or Jabiru 2200A||83 kn (153 km/h)||450 NM (833 km)||US$48,450 (Rotax 582 ), (kit US$22,000)||100+||2001||ELSA Kit/Certified|
|Remos Aircraft||Remos G-3||Rotax 912 S, 100HP||120 kn (222 km/h)||550 NM / 1000 km||US$109,500||2007||Certified|
|Remos Aircraft||Remos GX||Rotax 912 S 100HP||115 kn (212 km/h)||450 NM (833 km)||US$125,000||Certified|
|Skyeton||Skyeton K-10 Swift||Rotax 912 S, 100HP||120 kn (222 km/h)||486 NM (900 km)||US$70,000 (Basic)||2006||Certified|
|Storm Aircraft||Storm Rally||Rotax 912 S||120 kn (222 km/h)||450 NM (830 km)||US$109,999 (Standard)||2004||Certified|
|Storm Aircraft||Storm Century||Rotax 912 S||120 kn (222 km/h)||450 NM (830 km)||US$111,999 (Standard)||2004||Certified|
|Tecnam Aircraft||Tecnam P2004||Rotax 912 S||116 kn (222 km/h)||US$99,900||100+||2005||Certified|
|Terrafugia, Inc.||Terrafugia Transition||Rotax 912 S (when certified)||93 kn (107 mph)||450 nmi (520 mi)||US$279,000||100||2012||Experimental/Certification planned (As of April 2012[update])|
|Van's Aircraft||RV-12||Rotax 912 S||114 kn (211 km/h)||534 NM (980 km)||US$64,850 (full kit), US$105,000 (Ready-to-fly)||600+||2008||ELSA Kit/Certified|
|AMD||Zodiac 650B (S-LSA)||Continental O-200 + Others||120 kn (222 km/h)||US$99,900||Certified|
LSA definition in Europe
In June 2011, the European Aviation Safety Agency published CS-LSA Certification Specifications for Light Sport Aeroplanes. This introduced a new category of manufactured sport aeroplanes similar to the light-sport category found in the USA and elsewhere.
LSA definition in Australia
A new certification category for Light Sport Aircraft came into effect on 7 January 2006. This category does not replace the previous categories, but creates a new category with the following characteristics:
- A maximum take-off weight of 600 kg (1,323 lb) or 650 kg (1,433 lb) for an aircraft intended and configured for operation on water or 560 kg (1,235 lb) for a lighter-than-air aircraft.
- A maximum stalling speed in the landing configuration (Vso) of 45 kn (83 km/h) CAS.
- Maximum of two occupants, including the pilot.
- A fixed landing gear. A glider may have retractable landing gear. (For an aircraft intended for operation on water, a fixed or repositionable landing gear)
- A single, non-turbine engine fitted with a propeller.
- A non-pressurised cabin.
- If the aircraft is a glider a maximum never exceed speed (Vne) of 135 kn (250 km/h) CAS
Light-sport aircraft can be factory-manufactured aircraft or kits for amateur-building.
- CASA Advisory Circular AC 21-41(0): Light Sport Aircraft Certificate of Airworthiness retrieved 3 August 2011
- Pew, Glenn (29 June 2012). "FAA: SLSA Certification Should Be Reconsidered". AVweb. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
- "Icon Aircraft Takes Record 143 Orders at AirVenture". Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- "Pipistrel Price Lists for Ready to Fly Aircraft". Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- Synopsis: the Light Sport Aircraft category Dead link
- The Australian definition of a light sport aircraft is found in the Dictionary to the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations.
- Light-Sport Aircraft - U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft - Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)
- Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft - Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)
- Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) home page
- Light Sport Aircraft list - specifications and photos of possible LSA or E-LSA airplanes