Light Aircraft Association
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|Type||Not for profit|
|Founded||1946, as the Ultralight Aircraft Association|
|Headquarters||Turweston Aerodrome, Brackley, Northants, United Kingdom|
|Membership||Individuals and companies|
|Number of Members||8,000 (2011)|
|Key Personnel||Patron: Prince Michael of Kent
President: Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Sir John Allison KCB, CBE, FRAeS, RAF
The Light Aircraft Association, formerly known as the Popular Flying Association and before that the Ultralight Aircraft Association, is the representative body in the United Kingdom for amateur aircraft construction, recreational and sport flying. It oversees the construction and maintenance of homebuilt aircraft, under an approval from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The regime for approving amateur-built aircraft in the United Kingdom differs from that in many other countries, of which the United States is the prime example. Instead of the FAA's Experimental airworthiness category, under which an amateur may design, build and operate (and is ultimately responsible for) an aircraft 'for experimental purposes', the UK CAA is required to investigate any such aircraft's 'fitness to fly' and to issue a 'Permit to Fly' when satisfied. The LAA is approved by the CAA to make recommendations for and to revalidate such Permits. Aircraft on a LAA Permit may not be operated commercially and are at present limited to Day / VFR operation. There are also nominal limits on the number of seats (four) and on maximum take-off weight (2500 lbs), power (260HP) and stalling speed (70 mph). The Permit is valid only in UK airspace unless by agreement with another State, which is normally obtainable for countries in the European Union and many outside it. The Permit has to be renewed annually after the aircraft has been inspected by an inspector appointed by the LAA.
The LAA's approval also covers homebuilt microlights, autogyros, (gyroplanes), and factory built Classic and Vintage types that are no longer able to hold a full Certificate of Airworthiness, but not helicopters.
The association was formed in 1946 as the Ultralight Aircraft Association and took on the name Popular Flying Association in 1949. Initially, and still primarily, an engineering organisation for approving designs for homebuilding and regulating their construction and maintenance, it is now also active in encouraging sport and recreational flying and campaigning for a regulatory regime that will provide as little restriction as possible, consistent with safety, for the construction and operation of homebuilt aircraft and Classic and Vintage factory built aircraft that can no longer hold a full Certificate of Airworthiness. Membership in 2011 was around 8,000.
It publishes a monthly full-colour member magazine, "Light Aviation" (formerly "Popular Flying") and holds its annual Rally at Sywell Aerodrome on the first weekend in September, probably the largest gathering of light aircraft outside the USA.
It has a network of Member Clubs (known as "Struts") throughout the UK, each providing a geographically centred social focus for LAA members, to which members of the public are warmly welcomed. There are also a number of Type Clubs, catering to members who are constructing or operating certain aircraft types.
The Association changed its name to the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) on 1 January 2008, along with the name change to the association's monthly journal.