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light sport aircraft

There are few better ways to spend a sunny afternoon than by flying a light sport aircraft and watching the landscape slowly unfold below your wings. That’s why LSA—also known as “LSA” to the FAA—are such a popular choice for pilots of all experience levels.

LSAs are designed to be affordable and easy for new pilots to fly. They typically have a maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 1,320 pounds and are equipped with fixed landing gear. Most have a conventional single-engine layout and feature a sleek look that’s appealing to those who prefer something a bit more stylish than a clunky, traditional four-seater.

In order to fly a light sport airplane, a pilot must hold a recreational, private or commercial pilot certificate and have at least 15 hours of flight training and 2 hours of cross-country flying experience. In addition, a pilot must be able to certify that they have no medical conditions that would make them unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner. This is a matter for each pilot to decide for themselves after consulting with their personal physician.

As an added safety measure, many LSAs have a ballistic parachute system installed in the event that the aircraft is forced out of control. This is a great benefit, but it shouldn’t be viewed as an alternative to careful planning for every flight and following the basic flight rules of the aircraft being flown.

When it comes to ensuring the safety of LSAs, the FAA has taken a different approach than with other airplanes. Instead of requiring that manufacturers go through an FAA certification process, they are required to meet agreed-upon standards set by the ASTM International F-37 Light-Sport Aircraft Committee. This allows for quicker changes to the aircraft as manufacturing techniques change or as new features become available. Aircraft built per these standards are known as S-LSAs and those constructed from kits are called E-LSAs.

As a result of the FAA’s decision to embrace LSA, there are now far more models of LSAs on the market. Some resemble the ultralights that have been popular with recreational pilots for years while others look more like conventional light aircraft. Somewhere in between, there are models that are a mix of the two. For example, the Quicksilver MX-II Sprint is an ultralight-style aircraft while the Carbon Cub, which looks much like the classic J-3 Cub, is an example of a more conventionally styled airplane.