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 June 2007

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The world’s largest civilian aircraft manufacturer is Cessna Aircraft and it too is at work on its own light sport aircraft, called the Sport.

Another of F37’s subcommittees developed standards for powered parachutes. These are carriages with landing gear, engines, instruments, and seating for one or two people. They are carried aloft by parachute canopies not much different than those used by modern skydivers.

FAA has a division called AFS-600, which has authority over light sport aircraft. Seen here in a weight shift controlled aircraft is Larry Clymer, head of AFS-600. In the rear is weight shift instructor Rob Albright.

The chair of Subcommittee F37.30 on Powered Parachute, James Stephenson, led another hardworking group of volunteers and, as with many F37 activities, gained a balloted standard in a remarkably short time thanks to the dedication of subcommittee members.

Mainstream Acceptance of F37’s Work

In the aviation world, Cessna Aircraft is the world’s largest builder of business jets — over 300 of them per year — and they have also delivered tens of thousands of their iconic high-wing propeller designs. All these airplanes have met stringent FAA certification rules. It would be accurate to say Cessna has mastered Federal Aviation Regulation Part 23, the rule for factory-manufactured aircraft in the United States. And when Cessna unveiled its proposed entry to the LSA fleet, it was built to meet ASTM International standards.

The light sport aircraft market leader in the United States is this German Flight Design CT. It was the second aircraft to be approved under ASTM International standards following the Evektor Sportstar.

Cessna’s acceptance of ASTM standards is one proof of the good work done by a cadre of volunteers. Another is the growing acceptance from around the world.

In the “Part 23” world Cessna knows so well, even a respected company must go country-to-country, obtaining local certification for their aircraft. Despite gaining FAA approval at the expense of millions of dollars per design, Cessna still must demonstrate that its models meet the rules of other countries, piling on additional millions of cost.

Happily, several countries have already committed to using sport pilot and LSA rules, effectively enlarging the market where airplanes meeting ASTM International standards can be sold.

Standards Upheld

Under FAA rules for LSA producers, a manufacturer fills out the appropriate application forms and then simply declares that the aircraft meets ASTM standards. When an LSA arrives in the United States, a designated airworthiness representative examines the aircraft in an inspection that obviates the need for the factory to qualify for an FAA production certificate (another task that can cost millions of dollars). Manufacturers are required to conduct a biennial internal audit under ASTM standards. But despite audits and the good work of a legion of airworthiness representatives, how does a consumer know a given aircraft truly meets the ASTM International standards?

Seaplanes or float planes are included in FAA rules for light sport aircraft. Here we see a Brazilian design, which is currently on its way to meeting ASTM standards.

Today, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association is conducting voluntary third party audits for which the builder pays (dramatically less than similar reviews by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), FAA, or the European Aviation Safety Agency). After a document review, an on-site process, quality control inspection, and a study of engineering test data, a successfully audited supplier can apply a numbered LAMA decal to each of its aircraft. Leaders of LAMA have long been associated with F37.

Upon hearing of this voluntary audit program, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and her top lieutenants reacted warmly, saying that such industry-led efforts combined well with ASTM International standard writing to achieve goals the administration envisioned when they first created the sport pilot/light sport aircraft rule.

Volunteers Around the World

As with most ASTM International committees, Committee F37 meets twice a year, and in June 2007 it will gather in Prague, Czech Republic. Since many LSA suppliers are based in Eastern Europe, meeting closer to them is intended to enfranchise current European participants and encourage new committee members.

With a growing total membership currently numbering over 230, Committee F37 maintains careful jurisdiction over more than 24 standards which are published in Volume 15.11 of the Annual Book of ASTM Standards. F37 has seven technical subcommittees that create and maintain these standards.

It is hard to imagine in the light sport aircraft community how the thousands of hours of work building a set of industry consensus standards could have occurred without the volunteer members of Committee F37. As a new industry composed heavily of startups, budgets are lean and time is short. Thanks are due to all those who gave of their time and talents. We welcome new volunteers. All you have to do is join ASTM International and join the LSA party. //

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