The US Federal Aviation Administration has completed the draft proposal for a new sport aircraft category and a corresponding operating certificate in readiness for review by the Department of Transportation (DoT).

The proposal - one of the most complicated the FAA has addressed in years - involves changing aspects of several Federal Air Regulations, including FAR 1, FAR 23, FAR 61, and FAR 91, the FAA said at the Experimental Aircraft Association Sun 'n' Fun show, which took place at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Florida, on 8-14 April.

"The amount of co-ordination required to harmonise the different areas is substantial," says Mike Gallagher of the FAA's small aircraft directorate. Achieving consensus among the various interest groups involved has already taken more than five years.

The proposal covers aircraft weighing no more than 560kg (1,232lb), with up to two seats and a cruise-configuration stall speed of no more than 37kt (68km/h), for personal and recreational use in daytime visual flight rules conditions. As well as recreational and personal flying, the aircraft that qualify - including about 10,000-plus experimental and so-called heavy ultralights - will be eligible for use in flight instruction and rental fleets. Unlike the existing experimental/amateur-built category, these aircraft will also be approved for sale ready-built under the proposed regulations.

The accompanying licence proposals would allow pilots to qualify medically to fly the aircraft using either the third class medical certificate examination or by holding a valid automobile drivers licence. The proposal under development envisions a 20h flight-instruction syllabus for new pilots and an endorsement checkout for pilots with current licences.

The final notice of proposed rule making still faces several reviews before its release for public comment, however. Following DoT review, the Office of Management and Budget will examine the cost impact of the proposed rule changes - a process that could take anything from two months to a year. This would be followed by publication in the Federal Register and a public comment period. "Based on past experience, it would be surprising to see the final rule ready for release in anything under 18 months," says an FAA source.

A number of manufacturers are ready for the rule change as soon as it takes effect. "If they do it, we can start selling some of our designs as ready-built almost immediately because we've already started the quality control and maintenance programmes that we expect to go with this," says Randy Schlitter, president of Hays, Kansas-based kitplane manufacturer Rans.

Source: Flight International