Thursday September 24, 2020


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Dan Johnson's
Light-Sport Aircraft

Shedding Light on
Light-Sport Gyroplanes

By current FAA regulations, there can be no ELSA without an SLSA parent; however, when the regulations for light-sport aircraft were implemented in 2004, the FAA did allow some existing craft that met the Part 1 definition of light-sport aircraft but that were not certificated to be issued an Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (ELSA) airworthiness certificate without a factory-built parent. These aircraft included two-place ultralights that had been previously exempted from some ultralight limits because they were used for training. And this offer for an ELSA airworthiness certificate was also extended as an enticement—some say amnesty—for owners of “fat” ultralights, ones that may have been factory-built and were being operated as ultralights even though they were actually too heavy to legally qualify as ultralights. But that was a limited-time offer. Ultralight owners had to register their craft and apply for an ELSA airworthiness certificate during a period of time that ended in 2008. Some gyroplane owners took that offer and went through the process of registering their ultralight gyroplane and getting an airworthiness certificate for it, thus elevating their flying craft from the status of a vehicle to that of a certificated aircraft, and which also meant that these crafts’ former “operators” had to become licensed “pilots”, if they weren’t already and wanted to continue operating the craft.

So, although there are no SLSA gyroplanes, there are some ELSA gyroplanes; however as with “Special Light-Sport” gyroplanes—for which there aren’t any—as well as “Experimental Light-Sport” gyroplanes—for which there are a few—neither of those terms mean precisely the same thing as simply “Light-Sport” gyroplanes.

Sport Pilots may fly not only SLSA or ELSA aircraft, they may fly other aircraft, no matter how they’re certificated, if the aircraft meets the definition of a light-sport aircraft in FAR Part 1 and those pilots are rated or endorsed for that class and category of aircraft. For example, a Sport Pilot authorized to fly airplanes is permitted to fly a classic Piper J-3 Cub because it satisfies the definition of a light-sport aircraft even though the little yellow tail dragger isn’t certificated as either Special Light-Sport or Experimental Light-Sport. (However, to fly a Cub, a pilot needs a tail wheel endorsement.)

Like the example of the Cub, a gyroplane also qualifies as a light-sport aircraft if it meets the definition of light-sport in Part1, even though it’s not certificated as SLSA or ELSA. Most light-sport gyroplanes in the US are certificated as Experimental Amatuer-Built (EAB,) and that can be another point of confusion.

An Experimental Amateur-Built airworthiness certificate (EAB) isn’t the same as an Experimental Light Sport (ELSA) airworthiness certificate. Even though both are Special airworthiness certificates in the Experimental category, they are issued for different purposes. An ELSA airworthiness certificate is issued for the purpose of “Operating light-sport aircraft” whereas an EAB airworthiness certificate is issued for the purpose of “Operating amateur-built aircraft”.

In summary, a light-sport gyroplane is precisely what the FAA says it is in Part 1 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, regardless of the gyroplane's category or class of airworthiness certificate.

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Light-Sport Gyroplanes:
An introductory guide

Click to view 'Light-Sport Gyroplanes' at
Available at

The 2017 supplement for
Light-Sport Gyroplanes

Click to view 'MORE Light-Sport Gyroplanes' at
Available at

Click to view 'The Gyroplane Calendar Book for 2020' at
Available at