Briefing September 2023


New LSA Rules Coming

The FAA proposed new rules governing the approval and operation of light sport aircraft. The initiative has been in the works for more than 10 years with a move away from the current specifications-based qualifications. “Changing the limitations of LSAs from an arbitrary weight to performance-based metrics will allow for larger and more capable aircraft and permit a wider range of students and instructors to fly them, significantly increasing access to flight training,” EAA said in a news release. “Removing the restriction that powered LSAs must have a reciprocating engine … will enable future electric, hybrid, distributed power, and other new propulsion technologies.” The public comment period runs until October.

FAA Issuing Training Grants

Applications are open for two FAA grant programs providing up to $500,000 to programs that train future pilots, aerospace engineers, drone operators, and aviation maintenance technicians. All of these professions are in critically short supply, and the FAA hopes that these two grant programs will help prime the pump to get more people interested in aviation occupations. “We are providing grants to academia and the aviation community to help prepare a more inclusive talent pool of pilots and aviation maintenance technicians, to inspire and recruit the next generation of aviation professionals,” the FAA said in a news release.

Technologies Enhance Safety

Industry is providing solutions to problems that the FAA and NTSB have addressed in meetings and committees. ForeFlight now includes “Runway Alert” that warns a pilot on final and a pilot on the target runway of potential conflicts. A spate of high-profile and clench-worthy runway incursions this year prompted an FAA safety summit and the NTSB’s creation of a blue-chip committee to study the root causes of apparent breakdown in safety and make recommendations. Meanwhile, Garmin is offering a capability formerly available only to airliners and big business jets with its “Height Advisor.” The playing card-sized box beams hundreds of radar signals per second from the belly of an LSA or experimental aircraft to give a stream of AGL altitude displayed on the panel display or spoken in the pilot’s headset.

Non-Towered Airport Procedures Freshened

The FAA has updated its guidance on non-towered airport operations and it re-enforces the head-on-a-swivel approach taught by most flight instructors. And while the advisory circular stops short of dictating pattern operations, it does spell out the right way for arriving pilots to fit into the flow. “The FAA does not regulate traffic pattern entry, only traffic pattern flow. This means that when entering the traffic pattern at an airport without an operating control tower, inbound pilots are expected to observe other aircraft already in the pattern and to conform to the traffic pattern in use,” the AC reads.

FAA Addresses Pilot Mental Health Issues

The FAA is amending medical requirements for pilots with mental health issues and it’s hoped more will seek treatment. FAA Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Susan Northrup has hired more psychiatrists and neuropsychologists to address review times of medical files that concern mental health issues. The agency has also approved the anti-depressant Wellbutrin for active pilots. A recent study shows that up to 56 percent of pilots have avoided seeking care for medical problems out of fear of losing their pilot privileges. “They want to feel like they can get help and, thankfully, we’re in a position to say you can get help and it’s likely not going to be career-ending,” said Mark Larsen, NBAA director of safety and flight operations.


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