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Thursday September 24, 2020

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SLSA Gyroplanes: A Disparity

Experimental aircraft; that is, those certificated in the Experimental category, aren’t allowed by regulations to be used for compensation when employed for training. It’s only by exception from the regulations that they may be permitted to do so. The owner of an Experimental aircraft who wants to be paid for the use of his aircraft for training must seek permission from the FAA to allow him an exception from the regulations. Exceptions, if granted, are extended to an individual owner on a case-by-case basis, not to a whole category of aircraft.

For other kinds of light-sport aircraft—an airplane for example—an instructor can, by regulation, provide a consensus compliant, factory-built aircraft for training and be compensated for its use. The FAA allows those aircraft to be certificated as SLSA. But for gyroplanes, that’s not the case. Currently, because of the disparity with regard to light-sport gyroplanes, the only gyroplane an instructor may provide for Sport Pilot training, and be allowed compensation for its use, is a gyroplane certificated as Experimental, and then only if the FAA allows the compensation for that instructor and that particular gyroplane; that is, the FAA allows it only on a case-by-case basis.

Let’s look again at this observation from the NTSB report

E-AB aircraft vary considerably with respect to structural and performance characteristics, some of which require specific training …

In regard to the last phrase in the NTSB observation that some EAB aircraft require a pilot to have specific training, the NTSB study had more to say about that.

Both the accident analysis and extensive discussions with EAA members, kit manufacturers, and E-AB aircraft builders emphasized the importance of the builder receiving appropriate and sufficient training to develop proficiency with the new type of aircraft prior to flying his/her E-AB aircraft.
These discussions identified challenges in finding training aircraft and instructors. Their scarcity, in part, is a result of the difficulty in obtaining an exception to the FAA regulation prohibiting a qualified instructor who owns an E-AB aircraft from charging students for instruction in the aircraft.

These statements from the NTSB study have additional importance for gyroplanes because currently all gyroplane Sport Pilot flight training is conducted in Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft, including fundamental flight training for first-time pilots. This means that, currently, even fundamental training in a gyroplane may only equip a student to adequately fly the specific gyroplane that he’s trained in and only partially prepare him to fly any other gyroplane.

Permitting SLSA gyroplanes would improve light-sport gyroplane training in three important ways. First, it would establish a “norm” for gyroplane training. Because all SLSA gyroplanes must conform to the same consensus standard for design and performance, a student pilot undergoing fundamental flight instruction would learn skills that could be consistently applied among all consensus compliant gyroplanes. Training in an Experimental Amateur-Built gyroplane—appropriate for transition training, but not fundamental training—could still be allowed for pilots who are already trained and licensed so that they could learn the unique characteristics of a particular EAB aircraft.

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Light-Sport Gyroplanes:
An introductory guide

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More
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