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FAA warns light-sport aircraft makers about safety rules

June 29, 2012|Bloomberg News

U.S. regulators warned manufacturers of so-called light-sport aircraft that many of them are violating safety standards and could be shut down.

Most makers aren't following rules that were streamlined to help a struggling industry, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a Federal Register filing Thursday.

Manufacturers audited by the agency couldn't prove that planes were properly built and inspected, and weren't able to notify plane owners of safety directives, the FAA said. In some cases, planes built in unapproved nations were shipped through third countries to make it appear they were properly constructed, according to the FAA.

"They are just getting started," Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Assn., said of the FAA crackdown. The Port Orange, Fla., group represents 60 firms in the industry, according to its website.

Although he didn't dispute the FAA's findings, Johnson said there's no indication that planes are unsafe. The association sent a letter June 8 urging plane makers to keep adequate records and comply with FAA regulations.

Light-sport planes must weigh no more than 1,320 pounds, can't hold more than two people and can't fly faster than 138 miles per hour. Manufacturers include Textron Inc.'s Cessna subsidiary and Tecnam North America, a division of Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam in Italy.

Other manufacturers include Rans Designs Inc. of Hays, Kan., and IndUS Aviation of Dallas, according to Johnson's website.

The FAA created the light-sport category in 2004 in an attempt to boost the flagging private-plane industry, Johnson said. Through 2011, 2,235 of the planes have been registered in the U.S., he said.

The FAA allowed the industry to develop its own consensus standards for safety instead of imposing the manufacturing requirements for traditional aircraft builders.

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