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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 7 August 2, 2008     

LSA gets good marks for safety
By David Sakrison

Light-sport aircraft (LSA) are outperforming amateur-builts and all of general aviation in terms of safety, according to the FAA’s recent analysis of LSA accidents and fatalities. "This is the first time we really have a body of data that we can look at," said Pete Devaris, manager and senior analyst in the FAA’s Office of Accident Investigation. With a little more than two years worth of data and only 29 fatal accidents, the numbers are too small to be statistically significant, Devaris concluded, adding, "It’s early in the game, and we’re watching the numbers carefully, but we don’t see anything here to get excited about."

The LSA accidents suggest that the pilot is the issue more than the plane, said John Burton of the FAA. Devaris agreed "It’s early in the game, but I’m not seeing a community issue of LSA with structural [problems in] structural integrity." The No. 1 cause of LSA fatal accidents, said Devaris, is loss of control, and the No. 2 cause is fuel starvation. He noted that FAA assessment teams are checking LSA manufacturers’ production processes and systems, and "they’re not seeing problems there."

These comments came at an LSA safety check-in meeting Thursday at AirVenture, attended by EAA and FAA officials. Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, told the group that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has voiced some concerns about LSA, but that NTSB officials are pleased with the progress being made on ASTM standards and on an assessment of LSA production. "It’s a new class of aircraft," Lawrence said. "Safety is always a question." But, he added, the right pieces seem to be in place to assure the continued safety of LSA.

In 2007 and early 2008, more than 4,000 "fat ultralights" were registered as experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) and entered the general aviation (GA) registry for the first time. That’s changing the makeup of the GA airplane community, Devaris said. He added, "We have to watch the statistics very carefully, so we don’t compare apples to oranges."

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