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 June 2007
DAN JOHNSON is currently membership secretary of ASTM Committee F37. He also serves as chairman of the board of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association and is a flight review writer of more than 800 articles.

The Technical Work of F37

Light sport aircraft industry stakeholders engaged in the ASTM standards initiative include manufacturers of airplanes (conventional fixed wing aircraft), powered parachutes, weight shift controlled aircraft, gliders, gyroplanes, and lighter-than-air. In addition, F37 volunteers come from the flight instructor community, recreational pilots, parts manufacturers, and the regulatory community.

Committee F37’s work embraces:

• Minimum safety, performance and flight proficiency requirements.
• Quality assurance to install manufacturing controls confirming that aircraft meet design criteria.
• Completed aircraft production acceptance tests and procedures assuring that completed aircraft meet reported performance as demonstrated in the prototype aircraft, including design limits such as empty weight; center of gravity; performance specifications; controllability and maneuverability; longitudinal, lateral, and yaw stability; stall speeds; handling characteristics; engine cooling and operating characteristics; propeller limits; systems function; and folding or removable lifting surfaces.
• A plan for continued airworthiness, including methods for monitoring and maintaining continued operational safety, and processes for identifying, reporting and remedying safety-of-flight issues.

In the aviation world, the new light sport aircraft category is all the rage, with interest at aviation trade shows climbing off the charts. New aircraft certified using ASTM International industry consensus standards recently reached model number 50, with all approvals coming in less than two years, a record in aviation history worldwide.

All photos courtesy ByDanJohnson.com.

A vintage design is this American Legend Cub. It looks old but has many modern features and is the best selling U.S.-built light sport aircraft.

Doing things correctly and quickly is not uncommon in the world of light sport aircraft. This is a highly entrepreneurial activity populated by get-it-done businessmen and women who are highly motivated to get their nascent industry off the ground — literally.

Welcome to Committee F37

ASTM International’s Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft is just five years old, yet it has produced, from scratch, specifications for design, performance, quality acceptance tests and safety monitoring for LSA. ASTM standards guide the preparation of pilot operating handbooks, maintenance manuals, and a system of service bulletins to advise consumers of maintenance needed to keep their aircraft in good operating condition.

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey shakes hands with Scott Severen of IndUS Aviation, the first company to complete a voluntary compliance audit.

If Committee F37 only had to write these standards for conventional aircraft, the task would be significant; to accomplish it in a timely fashion would be a worthy achievement. But F37 is composed of volunteer stakeholders from a wide variety of aircraft beyond fixed-wing airplanes, and it has written standards in sometimes record time for weight shift control aircraft, powered parachutes, gliders, lighter-than-air vehicles and rotary-wing gyros. Additional standards have been written for engines, propellers, airports, kit building of aircraft, night operations, emergency parachutes and more.

My personal duty among these volunteers began when I chaired the ballistic parachute task group. In 2003, I accepted an award on behalf of the group for its preparation of a new, approved standard in six months. In contrast, winning Federal Aviation Administration approval for a parachute to be fitted to the government-certified Cessna 150 (an aircraft very similar to LSA of today) took 10 years and cost one company more than $2 million. I repeat: Committee F37 did it in six months with volunteers. No wonder an award was given for such efficiency. I had a great team, dedicated to the task, using industry knowledge exactly as FAA had intended.

An Italian design called the Sky Arrow is used by law enforcement departments but also allows people with disabilities to fly using factory-supplied hand controls.

Our work on an emergency parachute standard may be one of the most quickly written ASTM standards, but it is hardly the only proof of efficiency among F37’s participants.

Speed and Technology

Subcommittee F37.40 on Weight Shift collected the input and insights from participants in Australia, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries for its standards development. These nations are home to the most experienced builders of such aircraft. Gaining their cooperation was essential. But traveling to North America to twice-yearly meetings wasn’t in the schedule or budget of numerous subcommittee members.

Weight shift aircraft look like hang gliders with engines but are truly quite different, as shown in their versatility in performing water operations.

To incorporate ideas and advice from those international experts, the subcommittee chairman, Scott Toland, made extensive use of ASTM’s Internet capabilities to conduct online virtual meetings. While this subcommittee took a little longer than some to reach consensus, their patient tenacity was rewarded with a completed standard. The subcommittee received two awards from Committee F37 in recognition of their persistence and use of technology.

If F37 had to only craft standards for conventional aircraft, standard writers could follow rules established for government-certified aircraft. Indeed those earlier rules provided a basis for many of F37’s standards. But what do you do when the aircraft you are standardizing are anything but conventional?

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