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Sun n' Fun: Light sport makers set sights on Europe

The US-based Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) announced at Sun 'n Fun the establishment of a European arm, LAMA-EU, whose mission will be to push the European Aviation Safety Agency to adopt the US Federal Aviation Administration's definition of the light sport aircraft sector and accept ASTM standards in certificating aircraft.

EASA is expected to establish an LSA-like category in 2015 and is considering requiring production certificates and audits. That approach, says Johnson, would be needlessly costly compared with the self-certification ASTM approach used in about a dozen countries, including the USA, which established the LSA category in 2004.

Johnson says all the major European light sport manufacturers have joined LAMA-EU, which will be an independent section of LAMA headed by Jan Fridrich from the Czech Republic's Light Aircraft Association.

Ultimately, says Johnson, the industry wants to see a single, global system for certificating its products, as the ability to sell across the globe is critical for light aircraft manufacturers. Many have struggled in the current economic downturn.

Johnson says only 234 additional aircraft were registered last year in the USA, compared with 491 aircraft in 2008. "It's been a bloodbath out there," he says, adding that while 2010 has been slow so far, manufacturers are starting to report an increase in queries.

There are more than 1,000 fixed-wing special-light sport aircraft (S-LSA) operating in the USA. A majority of these were produced by European manufacturers that have very limited home markets because of regulatory restrictions.

In addition to including all the light two-seat aircraft now covered under LSA in the USA, EASA is looking at a establishing a second, larger subcategory under ELA that would include four-seat aircraft weighing up to 2t.

The market is intensively competitive, with more than 100 models certificated in the USA. At Sun 'n Fun, two new models for the US LSA market were unveiled, including the Vulcan C-100 from Italy's SAB Aerospace and the low-wing Alto 100 from the Czech Republic's Direct Fly.

The Vulcan C-100 is based on the wooden Stelio Frati-designed Falco, which first flew 55 years ago and is sold today as a kit aircraft.

Brazil's Paradise Aircraft also said at the show that it is looking at introducing later this year a new low-wing two-seater for the US market to complement its high-wing P-1.

Paradise, which produced 36 light aircraft in 2009 in its old cramped factory, opened a new 7,000m² (75,350ft²) facility earlier this year with capacity to produce up to 120 aircraft annually.

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