LAA Welcomes CAA Announcement on 600kg Sport Aircraft
The LAA welcomes the announcement by the CAA of the recategorisation of microlight aircraft.
Basically it means a new selection of sub-600kg, factory-built sport aircraft can be made available to microlight and light aircraft pilots alike, on a Permit to Fly administered by either the BMAA or LAA,rather than as would previously have been the case, a Certificate of Airworthiness.
Either a new design or variant of an existing type can be certified at a selected weight not exceeding 600 Kg to the amended BCAR Section S code and, providing the manufacturers can gain the necessary CAA design and manufacturing approvals, it can then be supplied as a factory-built aircraft but qualify for a Permit to Fly.
“This is potentially a significant step forward for the recreational aviation market” say CEO Steve Slater. “The changes announced by the CAA are the culmination of several year’s work that have taken place jointly by experts from the LAA, BMAA, CAA and the industry. The Permit to Fly regime offers more flexibility on costs and means that the machines can be maintained and inspected, and have their Permits to Fly renewed annually, by the sporting associations including the LAA, who have a great deal of experience of dealing with aircraft in this class, and have done for many years. We currently oversee more than 300 aircraft in the microlight class”.
The CAA has summarised the regulation changes and what they mean for the community in CAA CAP2163; Reforming the microlight aeroplane category.
600 Kg Category Q&A
At last. 600kg is go! But, what do the new 600 Kg rules mean?
Here we’ll try to answer the Top Twenty Questions:
1. What is a 600kg Microlight?
Basically it means a new category of sub-600kg, factory-built sport aircraft that can be flown on existing licenses by microlight and light aircraft pilots alike, on a Permit to Fly administered by either the BMAA or LAA, rather than as would previously have been the case for a factory-built aircraft of over 450 Kg, a Certificate of Airworthiness.
2. Why Are These Aircraft Called Microlights?
By changing the classification in this way, both NPPL (M) microlight pilots and the majority of SEP or SSEA license holders will be able to fly the aircraft with the minimum of difference training. (An NPPL (A) SSEA holder will require a Microlight Class Rating). In effect though they are a new breed of Sport Aircraft. The LAA is comfortable about the use of the title, after all we oversee more than 300 microlight aircraft already!
3. Will The New Category Only Apply to New Designs?
No, but it doesn’t mean that an existing 450 Kg microlight can be suddenly re-classified as a 600 Kg aeroplane and flown at higher weights. An aircraft that’s been cleared at 450 kg may be underpowered and understrength if loaded with an extra 150 Kg of payload – that’s like adding the weight of two extra people, after all. Not to mention the question of where the cg might end up if the aircraft was overloaded in that way.
The new rules allow the possibility of the design of the aircraft being re-examined to determine whether it would be possible to clear it at an increased weight. However this would include needing to make strength calculations, possibly undercarriage ‘drop tests’, flight tests, changes the pilot’s operating handbook, changes to the operating speeds, placards and instrument markings etc. Altogether, this would not be an exercise likely to be within the scope of a single owner.
4. What is the Advantage of a 600kg Aircraft?
The problem with many aircraft in the 450kg ultralight category was that it was (and is) limiting in terms of what payload the aircraft can carry. Even with the most efficient weight-saving on the airframe, a two seater with a typical four stroke engine by Rotax, Jabiru or UL-Power is likely very restricted in the amount of fuel it can carry while keeping within the 450 Kg limit. Many struggled even to meet the minimum requirement to be able to carry two people of 86 Kg plus enough fuel for an hour’s cruise flight, and you could only legally fill the tanks or load any significant amount of baggage onboard when flown solo. The industry clearly needs to be able to sell aircraft that can operate at a higher weight without having to go through expensive certification.
5. What Happens to Older Aircraft. Does my Piper Cub, Jodel etc Become A Microlight?
The rule changes won’t have any immediate impact on the existing LAA fleet of aircraft, or on building new aircraft of existing types, which will continue to operate under their existing classifications. Reclassifying an existing kitplane SEP type as a 600 Kg category aircraft would mean going through a recertification exercise against the new version of BCAR Section S, or other suitable code.
There’s no intention to re-classify vintage types as 600 Kg machines, even if their weight and stall speed fall into the definition – the 600 Kg class is aimed at modern machines cleared against modern design codes, which will inevitably be very different to those which the vintage fleet were certified to. There’s also no capability of transferring an aircraft that’s already been certified by EASA into the national 600 Kg category.
6. Can I Reclassify my 450kg Microlight to Fly at 600kg?
The Type Approval holder (factory-built aircraft) or the LAA/BMAA (amateur-built aircraft) would need to approve a modification that can be applied to individual aircraft to allow an increase in weight – probably not to as much as 600 Kg, but to some intermediate weight to boost its payload. The aircraft may need assessing against the revised version of Section S.
7. Can I as an owner chose which association I have my 600kg microlight with?
For amateur-built aircraft, the organisation that approves the type is effectively the Type Approval holder. For the purposes of continuing airworthiness, all examples of that type are therefore supervised by the same organisation. For factory-built aircraft, owners may choose which organisation revalidates the Permit to Fly.
8. In the new 600kg category, is there an additional weight allowance above the stated MTOM limits for aeroplanes equipped with an airframe-mounted total recovery parachute system?
No. There is no additional allowance in that regulation for such a parachute system. The view was taken to allow a more flexible use of available weight.
9. I Have An NPPL (A) with a Microlight Class Rating. Can I Fly a 600kg Microlight?
You will be able to fly microlights up to the new weight and stalling speed limit, subject to differences training depending on your experience and equipment (VP props etc) fitted to the aircraft.
10. I Have an NPPL (A) with Simple Single Engine Aeroplane (SSEA) Class Rating and have experience flying aircraft with similar weight/performance. Can I Fly a 600kg Microlight?
You will currently be required to obtain a Microlight Class Rating to fly a microlight, and this will apply to microlights up to 600kg. You will be though subsequently be able to count any hours amassed in the three axis microlight for revalidation purposes and you will be able to use the aircraft for your biannual revalidation flight with the instructor.
11. I Have a UK Part-FCL PPLwith a valid SEP Class Rating. Can I Fly a 600kg Microlight?
You will not need to get a Microlight Class Rating, however you may be required to undertake differences training. You will be able to count any hours amassed in the three axis microlight for revalidation purposes and you will be able to use the aircraft for your biannual revalidation flight with the instructor.
12. I Have a UK Part-FCL LAPL with valid SEP privileges. Can I Fly a 600kg Microlight?
As above. You will not need to get a Microlight Class Rating, however you may be required to undertake differences training. You will be able to count any hours amassed for revalidation purposes and you will be able to use the aircraft for your biannual revalidation flight with the instructor.
13. Will differences training be compulsory or discretionary?
Differences training is compulsory under the Air Navigation Order.
14. I have an amateur-built SEP aircraft with an MTOM of 480kg – it was originally a microlight at 450kg, can I convert it to a 480kg microlight in due course?
The Type Approval holder (factory-built aircraft) or the LAA/BMAA (amateur-built aircraft) would need to approve a modification that can be applied to individual aircraft to allow this change. The aircraft may need assessing against the revised version of BCAR Section S.
15. I have an aircraft on an EASA Permit to Fly – can I transfer it to a UK Permit to Fly under this definition?
No. If an aircraft has already been EASA or UK Part-21 certified then past, present and future examples of the type would be Part-21 aircraft and not eligible to be a sub-600kg microlight.
16. Can I Take a 600kg Microlight Abroad?
Microlights have a national permit to fly and therefore do not have the automatic right of overflight that ICAO compliant aircraft have. However some European countries do allow microlights to visit. You are advised to check with the National Aviation Authority of the countries you wish to visit.
17. What Aircraft Will Be Available in the New Category?
We are already seeing existing UK-based factory manufactured microlight manufacturers coming up with new, heavier variants of their existing types which will be released as soon as the CAA release the amended BCAR Section S – or even before, if the manufacturers choose to use a higher-level code that already exists such as CS-VLA.
We’ll then see new manufacturers – including some who are already familiar to us as kit manufacturers – applying to the CAA for A8-1 approval of their facilities to design and manufacture, and approval of their designs as compliant with the revised BCAR Section S design code requirements. Hopefully it’ll be possible to provide as much recognition as possible of what regulatory hoops existing designs from abroad have already ‘been through’, while also ensuring a level playing field with UK-based manufacturers waving the flag for Team GB.
18. I am the manufacturer of a 600kg light aircraft that is currently an LAA/BMAA amateur-build kit. What do I need to do to sell it as a ready-to-fly Microlight?
The factory will need to obtain approval under BCAR Section A8-1 and the design will need to be re-evaluated against revised BCAR Section S, or CS-LSA or CS-VLA requirements. It may be possible to take some credit for compliance demonstrations already made for the kit version of the aircraft, if this is still applicable.
19. I am the manufacturer of a 600kg Microlight, which I want to be able to sell in the UK. What approvals do I need if I want to sell aircraft ready-to-fly?
The manufacturer will need to obtain CAA A-1 approval under BCAR Section A8-1 and demonstrate that the design complies with the revised BCAR Section S or CS-LSA/CS-VLA with variations. If you are a non-UK manufacturer and have EASA or national design and production approvals, credit will be given for your application.
20. What About the Future. Could We Have an Electric 600kg Type?
A very significant benefit of the new class of aircraft is that it would allow scope for the likely weight of batteries for a two-seat electric powered aircraft, be it all-electric or hybrid, or other types of powerplant. The 450 Kg limit didn’t allow any weight margin for experimenting in this field, but 600 Kg hands industry the opportunity to get moving in this area. Even with the power density of today’s batteries, an extra 100 Kg or so available for battery weight would likely make a big difference to the potential range and endurance of such a craft. In the future. Well, the sky’s the limit!
Of course, as the process of introducing these types progresses, there may be some changes. We therefore recommend that you also check the CAA website and in particular CAA CAP 2163
Photography (mostly) Neil Wilson
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