The Mooney Mite is disqualified from
the new Light-Sport Aircraft Rule

The Rule is a 452-page document. Here is an excerpt which covers the FAA's response to comments from the public in regard to landing gear, including the submissions from Mite owners.

In spite of our disappointment at the Mite's exclusion, it is heartening to know of the great effort made by the EAA on behalf of the flying community, and we commend them on their successful negotiations with the FAA. We believe the Rule, which does include many other aircraft, will have a profound and positive effect on general aviation.

Comments Concerning the Limits Established by the Light-Sport Aircraft Definition (starts on page 63)

Paragraphs (11) through (13) Landing gear (starts on page 94)

Numerous commenters requested that the FAA revise the proposed definition of a light-sport aircraft to permit retractable landing gear. The FAA reiterates its original position that for aircraft other than gliders, retractable landing gear is inconsistent with the simplicity of the light-sport aircraft, and the training requirements for the sport pilot.

The FAA received many comments requesting that the light-sport aircraft definition allow for simple mechanical retractable landing gear. Some commenters requested that specific existing aircraft that have simple mechanical retractable landing gear be eligible to be a light-sport aircraft. They noted these aircraft would otherwise satisfy the FAA’s proposed definition of light-sport aircraft. The reasons stated by commenters for permitting light-sport aircraft to have retractable landing gear included--the safety benefit for emergency landings on water or rough fields; that speed limitations make the performance restriction of a fixed gear redundant; that training and endorsement for pilots under existing §61.31 (e) adequately prepares pilots to operate aircraft with retractable landing gear; that the slow speed of light-sport aircraft will naturally limit damage in event of an inadvertent gear-up landing; that gear-up landings are not an uncommon occurrence; and that mechanical retractable landing gear is inherently simple compared to electrical, hydraulic, or pneumatically actuated systems. The FAA disagrees that aircraft other than gliders should have simple mechanical, or any other type of, retractable landing gear for the reasons stated above.

A commenter asked the FAA to define its safety concern for not permitting light-sport aircraft to have retractable landing gear. The FAA does not expect retractable gear would improve the safety of a light-sport aircraft. The FAA believes that retractable landing gear add to pilot workload, particularly during the critical takeoff and landing phases of flight. Further, the addition of retractable landing gear would introduce the potential for gear failure. Therefore, the FAA believes that allowing the use of retractable landing gear on light-sport aircraft other than gliders would provide no safety benefit for powered airplanes while adding to the operational and mechanical complexity of the aircraft.

Many of these commenters stated their position that retractable landing gear does not add to aircraft complexity while helping to reduce drag and increase aircraft performance. The FAA disagrees and notes that retractable gear adds complexity as discussed above. The FAA notes that retractable landing gear are designed to enhance the performance of aircraft by reducing drag. This performance improvement is typically attained at operational speeds that exceed the performance limitations for light-sport aircraft. Several commenters proposed alternative rule language to permit simple mechanical retractable landing gear, and to define repositionable landing gear. As stated above, the FAA is not revising the light-sport aircraft definition to permit retractable landing gear on aircraft other than gliders. The FAA discusses repositionable landing gear later in this section.

Some commenters proposed to permit simple mechanical retractable landing gear for specific makes and models of aircraft, which would otherwise satisfy the proposed light-sport aircraft definition. Other proposed exceptions included replica fighter aircraft, and existing classic aircraft. The FAA does not agree for the reasons stated elsewhere in this section.

A commenter submitted a description of an existing aircraft mechanical retractable landing gear, with a pneumatic gear position indicating system. The FAA believes that the system’s complex description justifies the FAA’s position that it is inappropriate for the light-sport aircraft.

Several commenters stated that it is discriminatory to permit retractable landing gear for some kinds of light-sport aircraft but not for others. The FAA explains below why it is allowing retractable landing gear for gliders.

Several commenters stated that, by including a reference to landing gear, the FAA does not include provisions for foot-launched aircraft, such as hang gliders and powered paragliders in the light-sport aircraft definition. The FAA does not consider these to be light-sport aircraft. As stated in the proposed rule, the FAA specifically intended to exclude from consideration as light-sport aircraft configurations in which the engine and/or wing is mounted on the person operating the aircraft, rather than a fuselage.

A commenter requested a definition of repositionable landing gear that distinguishes it from retractable landing gear. The FAA notes that for the purposes of light-sport aircraft, repositionable landing gear is wheeled landing gear that allows an aircraft designed for operation on water to take off and land from a hard surface and which may be retracted on the ground to permit takeoff and landing on water. Repositionable landing gear remains fixed in its position from takeoff through landing. For aircraft intended for operation on water, repositionable landing gear is acceptable for light-sport aircraft because it does not add to mechanical or operational complexity.

In the proposed rule, the FAA had permitted repositionable landing gear for seaplanes. The FAA had not intended to only permit repositionable landing gear for fixed wing airplanes intended for operation on water. Upon further consideration, the FAA has changed the term “seaplanes” to “aircraft designed for operation on water.” This change in terminology is consistent with FAA’s original intention to permit powered parachutes and weight-shift-control aircraft to be used for operation on water. It also removes the restrictions on powered parachutes and weight-shift-control aircraft designed for operation on water implied by the use of the term “seaplanes.” As noted previously in the discussion of light-sport aircraft weight limits, the FAA has also intended to permit the light-sport aircraft definition to include flying boat aircraft. For this reason, the FAA has added the term “hull” to paragraph (12) of the light-sport aircraft definition.

Several commenters saw no difference between simple retractable landing gear, and the repositionable landing gear that the FAA’s proposal would permit for seaplanes. The FAA disagrees. The FAA did not intend to permit retractable landing gear for aircraft designed for operation on water. The FAA believes that the repositionable landing gear that will be permitted for light-sport aircraft that are designed for operation on water is consistent with the FAA’s original position that sport pilots flying aircraft other than gliders should not have to concern themselves with verifying the position of a light-sport aircraft’s landing gear.
Although no comments were received on the topic, FAA did not intend for the definition of light-sport aircraft to preclude the installation of skis. FAA believes that fixed skis are acceptable for light-sport aircraft, and retractable skis are not acceptable for light-sport aircraft.

Some commenters pointed out a need for provisions for a simple retractable wheel for gliders that are light-sport aircraft. The FAA agrees that retractable landing gear is acceptable for use on light-sport gliders. Most of the gliders that otherwise meet the definition of a light-sport aircraft do make use of retractable landing gear. Reduction of drag is of critical importance for gliders, because they do not use power to generate airspeed and maintain lift. Because of these considerations, the FAA is revising the definition of a light-sport aircraft to permit a retractable landing gear (wheel or skid) for gliders. The consensus standards for light-sport aircraft gliders should assure that the retractable landing gear will be a simple mechanically operated system.

[To see the EAA's analysis of the Rule and access the full text of the Rule, click here.]

23 July, 2004