The US Federal Aviation Administration is expected to release the findings from an internal review of the 26 light sport aircraft manufacturers that sell the two-seat, fixed-wing aircraft into the US market after upper management completes its review of the document.

Although the report will have recommendations, recent comments by FAA administrator Randy Babbitt at the AirVenture 2009 show in July in Oshkosh, Wisconsin would suggest the five-year-old industry will receive a passing grade. Light sport aircraft are built to ASTM consensus standards that the FAA then accepts in lieu of certification.

Babbitt says that the accident rates for factory-built light sport aircraft "are very compatible with what's goes on in the rest of the general aviation world".

The sentiment was reflected in a response to recent calls by the US National Transportation Safety Board to ground one particular S-LSA, the Zenair CH-601 XL, after fatal accidents that the board says were linked to flutter. In his official response, Babbitt wrote that the FAA lacked "adequate justification" to ground the two-seat low-wing metal aircraft.

"Data indicates the CH-601XL has a safety record similar to other S-LSA and appears capable of safe flight and operations if maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations," he continued in the response.

According to the FAA, there are 1,101 factory-built fixed-wing S-LSA aircraft registered in the USA, compared with 2,997 fixed-wing LSAs registered as experimental.

Commenting on the progress of the light sport industry in general, Babbitt says: "This is a whole experiment for this category of aircraft where the manufacturers themselves have said 'we are going to design these aircraft, we are going to have statistics and design specs and all of those things people have to follow'.

"And the FAA has said to them as long as you comply with your own high standards then you will be fine. They have done that. I think they have excelled, have succeeded [at meeting] those standards."

"The statistics reflect it. Light sport accidents rates are very compatible with what's goes on in the rest of the general aviation world. So they are doing what they said they would do and the numbers reflect it."

Source: Flight International