Have not been on here since June 2012. The reason was that my thoughts were well known in my small group of friends. But now there is a good reason to start contributing to my blog once more. As the header shows I own and fly a J3 Piper Cub (yes that is a picture of my airplane taken a few years ago). The major debate in aviation has always been how we keep flying safe without becoming so restrictive that no one but the very rich can enjoy flying. Many of us older pilot/owners have opted to fly under a relatively new set of rules that created the category of LSA (Light Sport Aircraft). This brand new category comes with a Light Sport license (below Private) that is restrictive to very light airplanes and got rid of almost all Ultra light aircraft that had virtually no design standards and did not require any license to fly. LSA level aircraft require a valid Pilots LSA or above) and drivers license. All other requirements In both driving and flying you must make sure you are fit to do so. Carrying a FAA issued physical certificate does not mean that fitness to fly can be ignored.
What the LSA category has shown that many of the pilots that had stopped flying have passed there bi-annual flight review and started flying again. Most of these folks could not afford the FAA redo of tests to prove their ”fitness”. Prof of this is the LSA experience is that in almost 10 years there has not been one accident due to a physical problem of the pilot. Overall the Light Sport category has proven to be at least as safe as Private Pilots with physicals.
Now the FAA, AOPA and EAA have been working on allowing at least some of the Private Pilots to fly without a class 3 physical. Current restrictions are: Single engine, maximum of 4 seats, a maximum 180 HP engine, no constant speed propeller and no retractable landing gear. Like the negotiations for the LSA category, many of these restrictions show the lack of understanding what is required to fly a given aircraft safely. The FAA has again mixed the requirements of flight between activities. One is if you fly without a physical, you can no longer calculate weight and balance. This has supported the FAA proposed restriction of having only one passenger onboard. With over 30 years of flying with a physical I cannot remember a Doctor asking me to calculate weight and balance (flight instructor on a bi-annual may). The horsepower issue was dropped under the LSA category because of having problems determining the HP of an engine opening the cowl and looking at it. Constant Speed propellers and retractable gear are both easily identified. Allowing full use of 4 place aircraft and changing the engine HP to a maximum displacement would be much easier to identify for the FAA to enforce.
The flying community is not totally on board with this proposal either. Some feel that if you put all Cessna 172’s, the most popular single model of airplane that would be included, that the air traffic would increase so much that unsafe conditions could appear in high traffic areas. It is true that the decrease of costs will allow some people to reenter the population of active pilots. If it were not for the LSA category these numbers could be relatively high. However Light Sport has taken care of most of this because of cost. If a pilot not currently flying can afford a $40,000 172, then buying a used LSA with full electrical and sometimes is more capable then the 172 would already be flying. Some of the LSA aircraft fly faster then most 172’s, have been designed to carry two 190 lb. persons with 50 lbs. of luggage and full tanks to be at gross weight of 1,320 lbs. Most of the criticism from the pilot side is a lot to do about nothing.
Much of the debate is trying to find a new set of rules that does not hurt safety and at the same time lowers cost. With the powers above the FAA applying sequestration I would like to see the cost cutting that could be mad by not requiring any third class physicals. Maintenance costs of up to date records on the Private Pilot is probably high enough that if dropped totally would be enough money to keep the control towers open. Hey FAA, think out of the box! The current administration wants as much pain as possible to go to the little guy, so let us fly and be responsible for our own actions.