A Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) is a small 2 seat aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 600kg. The LSA category was first introduced into the US in 2004 followed by Australia in 2006.
The category permits the economical manufacture of low performance aircraft that are:
- simple to operate.
LSA are for sport, recreation and flying training. They do not need approval or oversight of their manufacture by any National Aviation Authority (NAA).
Definition of a LSA
CASR Dictionary states a LSA can be defined by the following:
Maximum take-off weigh
- if the aircraft is not intended for operation on water – a maximum take-off weight of 600 kilograms or less
- if the aircraft is intended for operation on water – a maximum take-off weight of 650 kilograms or less
- if the aircraft is a lighter-than-air aircraft – a maximum gross weight of 560 kilograms or less.
Powered aircraft and speeds
- if the aircraft is a powered aircraft that is not a glider – has a single, non-turbine engine fitted with a propeller
- has a maximum stall speed in the landing configuration (Vso) of 45 knots calibrated air speed
- if the aircraft is a glider- has a maximum never-exceed speed (Vne) of 135 kts calibrated air speed
Seating, cabin specifications, and equipment
- if the aircraft has a cabin – has an un-pressurised cabin
- if the aircraft is designed to be equipped with seating - has a maximum seating capacity of 2 persons, including the pilot
- if the aircraft is a manned free balloon that is it not designed to be equipped with seating – can carry no more than 2 persons
- in the case of an amphibian – repositionable landing gear
- in the case of a glider – fixed landing gear or retractable landing gear
- in any other case – fixed landing gear.
Types of Light Sport Aircraft
The types of aircraft that may satisfy these criteria and be eligible for a Special Certificate of Airworthiness (SCoA) as a LSA, are:
- fixed wing aircraft
- powered parachutes
- weight shift aircraft
A LSA can either be a:
- production built LSA - eligible for a SCoA
- kit built LSA - eligible for an Experimental Certificate.
For a kit to be eligible as a kit built LSA, there must also first be a production LSA of the same type available. Read CASA Advisory Circular AC 21.41.
Advantages of the Light Sport Aircraft Scheme
The LSA scheme allows for the design, economic manufacture and operation of aircraft that are:
The scheme also allows manufacturers to:
- self-declare that each of their aircraft meet acceptable LSA standards
- build and sell a LSA without oversight from any NAA or other independent organisation.
Unlike for type certified aircraft, the production of a LSA requires no:
- production certificate
- independent verification of design standards and testing
- type certificate
- NAA or external auditing requirements.
These requirements are the responsibility of the manufacturer alone.
Manufacturers of LSA can fit more modern, non-certified parts that meet the LSA standards such as:
LSA can only receive modifications if:
- the manufacturer approves such modifications
- the aircraft can continue to meet the LSA standards.
You can operate an LSA in Australia under:
- an Approved Self Administering Organisation (ASAO)
- an ASAO, you do not need a CASA issued pilot licence. Who may conduct the maintenance can also be less onerous.
Disadvantages of the Light Sport Aircraft Scheme
The LSA scheme means the aircraft does not have CASA or other NAA oversight for:
- ongoing continuing airworthiness.
The aircraft manufacturer are responsible for the following. CASA does not check or verify the:
- qualifications of an LSA manufacturer
- manufacturer has suitable facilities, tooling and equipment
- manufacturer has relevant personnel with experience and qualifications to ensure compliance with the LSA standards
- aircraft meets the LSA standards
- conduct of ground and flight testing.
CASA also does not:
- issue type certificates or type acceptance certificates for LSA
- oversight the continuing airworthiness requirements for a LSA
- have a direct relationship with the aircraft manufacturer
- have a regulatory requirement to audit a LSA manufacturer for any reason
- have, hold or verify any data associated with the construction, airworthiness, or continuing airworthiness of a LSA.
As an owner of an LSA, you are totally reliant on the support from the manufacturer for the life of that aircraft.
The manufacture of most LSA occurs outside of Australia so the manufacturer must address any:
- parts availability
- airworthiness support
- maintenance issues
- in service or operational problems.
It is common for an LSA to experience extended periods of grounding waiting for a manufacturer to provide the necessary support.
Only the aircraft’s manufacturer can approve:
- any modifications
- minor or major repairs
- upgrading of equipment.
If you carry out a modification or repair without approval from the manufacturer, the SCoA for the aircraft stops being in force with CASR 21.181. Without a SCoA in force, you cannot operate the aircraft.