Mite Owners' Approach to the Light-Sport Aircraft NPRM
After much consideration, here are our suggestions as to how Mite owners and enthusiasts can take part in the Light-Sport Aircraft NPRM procedure, and hopefully have the M-18 accepted in the new category.
Keep in mind that the NPRM is a PROPOSED set of regulations (rules) which are not yet law. The FAA would very much like the proposal to become law and needs wide approval by the General Aviation community.
The single objective of the FAA at this point in time is to get the NPRM adopted at a time (post 9/11) when logically the politicians and lay public would be opposed to getting more people in the air. It is very fortunate the NPRM has moved forward through the political process (Department of Transportation, Office of Management and Budget, etc.). It is truly remarkable that this proposal did not die with the collapse of the World Trade Center.
It is in our best interest to support the FAA and have the NPRM Regulations adopted as they are, except we would like to see the reference to retractable gear dropped.
The Rules, if and when they are adopted, will make our lives in aviation more pleasant and safe. Once they become law, we can work to persuade the FAA to make exceptions for the Mite, if necessary.
The adoption of the NPRM is Phase One of what could be a two-phase procedure. Phase One will set the wording of the Regulations and we should try to get the reference to retractable gear removed from the definition of a “Light-Sport aircraft.” If we can achieve that, we will have won the war. Phase Two (after the final adoption of the NPRM) will be the time for really pressing for an exception for the Mite, when particular aircraft such as the Mite can be given attention to by the FAA without jeopardizing the passage of the NPRM itself.
The M-18, being a rare and elderly airplane, is not of much significance in the "big picture," so our letters of support should not be centered on the Mite at this point. What we want to do is show our approval and support for the NPRM. But in our submissions, we should suggest that any reference to retractable or "repositionable" gear should be deleted from the Rules because it is unnecessary. The reasoning: since the whole thrust of the NPRM is towards inclusion of small, low powered, simple aircraft, the regulations regarding limits for speed, stall speed and weight have already served to eliminate complex aircraft with complex gear retraction systems. Thus there is no need to regulate gear in aircraft that are otherwise within the Sport Aircraft classification. The proposed retractable gear prohibition would have the unintended consequence of eliminating a very simple aircraft like the Mite.
You could point out that the mechanically linked, non-electric gear mechanism of the Mite is much different from the gear system on a complex airplane. It has to be so, because the gross take-off weight is only 850 lb. for the heaviest M-18 model.
You could mention that the Mooney gear retraction mechanism is so simple to operate that it is used in some "seaplanes" (amphibious ultralight aircraft) which presently fall within the definition of "light-sport aircraft."
You could mention that, should the FAA not wish to drop the reference to retractable gear altogether, a "grandfather clause" should be added for aircraft already in existence at the date of the NPRM, and that otherwise meet the requirements of “Light-Sport aircraft.”
The point is, at this stage we are trying to get them to change the wording of the light sport-aircraft requirements rather than make an exception for our particular aircraft type (the Mite). If necessary, we will make those arguments in the second phase, after the NPRM is adopted.
We believe your letters should address only the certification of airplanes at this time, not pilot certification. Commenting on such things as the age, experience or medical condition of pilots may detract from the effectiveness of our message. Pointing out that only experienced pilots fly Mites might suggest to the FAA that the Mite is a difficult plane to fly, which it isn’t. It is also counter-productive to mention V-speeds because our position has to be that the Mite is within the limits already. Stress that the Mite is a not a complex airplane, and the retractable gear requirement is unnecessary since the FAA has accomplished its objectives through the various other defined limitations on Light-Sport airplanes.
Keep in mind the FAA is a bureaucracy and it is important to make it easy for them to tally our votes. Make your letters short and to the point. Vote strongly in favor of the Proposed Rules, but make clear your request that any reference to retractable or repositionable (note the spelling: REPOSITIONABLE) gear should be dropped.
We have until May 6th to make written submissions (see the instructions below). However, we should act sooner than that. All mail to the FAA must first go to a processing center outside Washington DC to be checked for anthrax, and there could be a long delay (weeks) if you mail it to FAA at the address shown below. Unless you mail your letter by, say, April 6th, it may not arrive in time. If you run short of time, a better approach would be to fax it, or use the electronic method discussed below.
A letter from Ben Favrholdt representing WAMM will be forthcoming. It will hold a lot of weight, because the FAA pays particular attention to representative groups. But it is also important for you as individuals to write in -- the more the better. Numbers do count. It will also be important that each of your letters be individually written. They should not all be copies of each other. Note that your letter should be TYPED. A hand written letter is usually hard to read, and the FAA personnel who will review the vast amount of mail that will come in on this NPRM won't spend much time with hard-to-read letters.
You must identify the docket number at the beginning of your comments:
[Docket No. FAA-2001-11133; Notice No. 02-03]
A faxed copy is probably the safest and easiest.
Please send a copy to the Mite Site as well, via email attachment or snail mail, so we have a master file.
For your convenience, here are the instructions from the EAA Web Site:
Mail: You must mail two (2) copies of your comments to the DOT to the following address. Keep in mind that the Washington, DC, area has not fully recovered from the September 11, 2001, postal service problems and there is no assurance that your letter will arrive prior to the May 6, 2002, end of the comment period. Mail to:
Docket Management System
U.S. Department of Transportation
Room Plaza 401
400 Seventh St., SW
Washington, DC 20590-0001
Fax: Prepare your letter as above, then fax it to the Docket Office at 202-493-2251. Only one copy needs to be faxed. If you prefer, for your convenience, you can fax to EAA at 920-426-6560 (ATTN: Gov't) and we will forward all comments to FAA. Please note if you have already faxed a copy to the FAA. (After submitting your comments to the DOT, please send a copy of your comments to EAA via fax at 920-426-6560 (ATTN: Gov't) or e-mail email@example.com.)
Electronic: The NPRM indicates you can submit comments electronically through the DOT Docket web site. EAA suggests you follow this method:
Electronic: Alternatively, you can submit comments by simply hitting one of the buttons on the EAA web page at http://www.sportpilot.org/nprm/howto_comment.html. Note that these buttons send your comments to the EAA who will in turn fax your comments to the DOT. We suggest that you do not submit comments via the second button ("Comments About Adding Specific Aircraft") because it could result in a hodge-podge of conflicting information that would work against our cause.
31 March, 2002