Are light sport aircraft safe?

In recent years, light sport aircraft or LSAs have gained in popularity as sport pilot licenses require less training and hence, are more affordable to obtain. Moreover, LSA are more affordable to operate in light of gyrating fuel prices and other cost associated with other general aviation aircraft. However, just how safe are LSAs?

A recent article in General Aviation News by Dan Johnson noted:

According to FAA records in the four-year period from August 2005 to June 2009, Special LSAS experienced 12 fatal accidents resulting in the loss of 18 lives. In 10 of the 12 accidents a licensed pilot was in control (that is, not a Sport Pilot). Altogether, 10 manufacturers were affected. Only one, variations of the CH-601 produced by three companies, had multiple accidents and that veteran design is now the subject of a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin.

In 2007, a year of high sales and activity, the industry experienced five crashes and eight fatalities. All other years had half that or less.

The bulletin mentioned by Dan was issued November 7th on variants of Zodiac CH601XL and CH650 airplanes due to several in-flight structural failures. Zenith Aircraft Co., the plane’s manufacturer, has responded by developing an upgrade package to address the concerns outlined in the SAIB.

Nevertheless, Dan comes to the conclusion that “while every loss is tragic to family and friends, LSA fatalities are not bad.” (Then again, it should also be noted that Dan is in the LSA business)

However and as we have noted in the past, LSAs seem to have an image problem as being a plane for “old men”:

Show up to any LSA event and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about– those in the cockpits, asking the questions, and working the controls are 70 year old pilots who see an LSA as their only way to keep flying and avoid spending all their money on golf.

Hence, what do you think? Are LSAs a safety risk or are there perhaps some safety issues involving those who fly them?

3 Responses to Are light sport aircraft safe?

  1. Randy November 13, 2009 at 23:00 #

    I started flying and soloed in 1969 at age 16, got my private at 17, commercial and instrument at 18. I have no health issues that would prevent issuance of a medical.

    I bought my Flight Design CTLS last Spring at age 55. I wanted a modern plane, with glass panel, Garmin 696, and all the goodies. I wanted a relatively fast cross-country plane that I could afford to buy and afford to fly.

    At half the purchase price of a comparably equipped 172, and less than half the operating cost, the CTLS fits the bill for me perfectly.

    As a bonus, I don't have the hassle of getting periodic medicals. Yes, I'm limited to two people and I cannot fly IFR or night any more, but I can live with that.

    Hopefully, I'll be able to keep flying it long enough to become one of those 70-year olds in your stereotype.

  2. Andy November 14, 2009 at 03:16 #

    In my area near Atlanta I'm sure that we could get more 'young' starting recreational pilots signing up for sport training if it were an option, but C172/C182 seem to be in great supply in the rental/training fleets. That may change when C162s start to become available but the CFIs that train on sport aircraft focus on people buying and not looking to rent. That seems to limit the market artificially.

  3. Max Trescott January 27, 2010 at 00:10 #

    Last year, I test flew the Remos and CTLS. Last week I test flew the SkyCatcher and I flew the new PiperSport yesterday at the Piper factory. These are all impressive aircraft that are fun to fly, though many of them are sensitive in pitch making them a little more challenging to land. Look for my report on the PiperSport on my web site later this week.

Leave a Reply