LightSportGyroplanes.comThursday September 24, 2020
SLSA Gyroplanes: A Disparity
Section 21.190 of the FAR authorizes the issuance of Special airworthiness certificates in the Light-Sport category; that is, for light-sport aircraft that are factory-built in accordance with industry consensus standards.
A Special airworthiness certificate issued to an aircraft in the Light-Sport Category is termed an SLSA airworthiness certificate. By extension, those aircraft with this class and category of airworthiness certificate are called SLSA.
What’s so special about a Special Light-Sport airworthiness certificate and why is it important that the FAA allow SLSA gyroplanes in the US?
The full answer to that question could require a separate book. To simplify the answer, let’s look at three of the most important benefits to pilots for having SLSA gyroplanes: safer gyroplanes, improved gyroplane training, and a greater availability of gyroplanes. From a wider perspective, there’s also an economic benefit with SLSA gyroplanes.
An SLSA airworthiness certificate is issued for a factory-built light-sport aircraft, but not simply because it’s built in a factory. The aircraft must be manufactured in accordance with an industry consensus standard, a standard developed by a consensus agreement of participants from the aviation industry who collectively define the criteria that a factory-built light-sport aircraft must meet.
A consensus standard for a light-sport aircraft is developed by representatives from the aviation industry under a strict procedural regimen. In the US, that regimen is prescribed by ASTM, an internationally prominent organization that provides guidance for developing industry standards across a wide variety of industries. An overall ASTM industry consensus standard for an aircraft is actually a body of individual consensus standards that collectively define the entire spectrum of designing, producing, and sustaining an aircraft.
To ensure conformance with an industry consensus standard, a manufacturer of SLSA must meet the requirements of three essential elements of that standard: design and performance, production, and on-going support, including safety-of-flight issues.
To meet the standard for design and performance, a manufacturer must first develop a prototype aircraft, and through flight testing and other verifications, ensure that the prototype conforms to the consensus standard for that category/class of aircraft, including the aircraft’s flight characteristics and stability.
Once a prototype’s design and performance is confirmed to be compliant with the standard for its category/class of aircraft and the aircraft moves to production, the manufacturer must attest that each of the aircraft that comes off the assembly line is a precise replicate of that prototype. Once built, these manufactured replicates must be ground and flight tested to confirm that their performance is consistent with the consensus standard and that they’re safe for operation.
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