LightSportGyroplanes.comThursday September 24, 2020
Shedding Light on
From its definition, not only can a person learn what a light-sport aircraft is, he may also gain a clearer insight into the differences between light-sport aircraft and ultralights.
First, the definition refers to light-sport “aircraft”, and as all other aircraft, a light-sport aircraft is required to be registered and to have an airworthiness certificate, and in association with that, the person at the controls is required to have a pilot license. That’s different from an ultralight “vehicle” which doesn’t require those certifications.
Furthermore, an examination of a couple of provisions of this definition highlights other differences. Provision (1) defines the weight limit of a light-sport aircraft based upon the aircraft’s takeoff weight (1,320 pounds for a land-based aircraft). For an ultralight, the vehicle’s weight limit is based upon its empty weight (254 pounds for land-based operations). The two aren’t a direct apples-to-apples comparison, but the five-fold-plus difference in the weight limit for a light-sport aircraft allows it to have a larger engine, greater speed and performance, and to carry more things, including fuel and persons.
Notice also that provision (5) allows a light-sport aircraft to carry a passenger as well as a pilot, whereas an ultralight is allowed to carry only a lone operator.
Although several of the provisions in the definition of a light-sport aircraft don’t apply to gyroplanes—(4) effectively, as well as (7), (8), (11), and (13)—provision (9) applies to gyrolanes exclusively. To qualify as a light-sport aircraft, a gyroplane must have a fixed-pitch, semi-rigid, teetering, two-blade rotor system. Without elaborating beyond that, let’s simplify the matter by saying that virtually any gyroplane you might encounter within the weight limit of provision (1) will have this kind of rotor system.
So, there you have it: a light-sport gyroplane is a gyroplane that satisfies all of the applicable provisions of the Part 1 definition of light-sport aircraft.
However, the confusion may not end there. Beyond the basic definition of light-sport, the one found in Part 1, the FAA uses the term “light-sport” with two prefixes: “Special” and “Experimental”.
Before delving into "Special Light-Sport" and "Experimental Light-Sport", it's important to understand that the definition of light-sport aircraft in Part 1 ostensibly defines the characteristics of a light-sport aircraft, but equally, it defines the kind of aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot; that is, someone with a Sport Pilot license or exercising Sport Pilot privileges, and for that, the characteristics of a light-sport aircraft are independent of the class and category of the aircraft’s airworthiness certificate.
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