CAR 35 & the Light Sport Aircraft
From time to time during the service life of any aircraft some form of modification will be required.
Aircraft modifications are frequently quite minor, such as the installation of a new radio or an instrument, but sometimes the modification may be much more significant. Nevertheless, any modification to a certificated aircraft, no matter how trivial, must be carried out in accordance with ‘approved data’. In previous issues I have discussed the role of the CAR 35 engineer in properly designing and approving modifications to our aircraft. In some instances the aircraft manufacturer may authorise and approve modifications by way of a Service Bulletin, in other instances a Supplemental Type Certificate may be available for the modification we want to incorporate. For smaller, one off, or unusual modifications, however, the aircraft owner will usually need to seek the services of a CAR 35 engineer.
CAR 35 engineers have ‘Instruments of Appointment’ issued by CASA. This gives them the legal authority to approve modifications and repairs to Australian aircraft.
As I said before, modifications to all certified aircraft (i.e. not Experimental or Limited categories), no matter how trivial, must be approved. It makes no difference if it is a hot air balloon, an agricultural aircraft, a helicopter, or even a Boeing 747 – all modifications must be approved and a CAR 35 engineer can do it – or can he? Believe it or not there is one category that a CAR 35 engineer cannot approve a modification or repair to – no, it is not an Airbus 380 or a 300 seat helicopter – you would never guess – it’s a Light Sport Aircraft!
Ridiculous as it may seem, only the manufacturer of a Light Sport Aircraft can approve any modifications to it. As the regulations are written, not even CASA can! If you don’t believe me read regulations CASR 21.181 para (4), CAR 262APA paras (1)(d) & (7) as well as Advisory Circular AC21-42(1) para 7.3.1.
In particular the Advisory Circular sums it up well, and I quote: “For production LSA aircraft issued with a Special Certificate of Airworthiness, the manufacturer is responsible for approving all modifications. All modifications should be produced in accordance with the LSA standards applicable to the aircraft. Therefore, it is important to note that modifications issued by a person authorised under CAR 35 or an engineer authorised under CASR Part 146 (not introduced yet) still need approval from the manufacturer. Modifications that are not approved by the manufacturer will result in the revoking of the Special Certificate of Airworthiness. (refer to CASR 21.181(4)(b)).”
So where does this leave us? Well any modification that we wish to carry out to a LSA, no matter how trivial, must be approved by the aircraft manufacturer. It must be remembered just what constitutes a modification under the Australian regulations. It is anything that changes the aircraft from its original ‘as delivered’ configuration, including even minor things as the installation of a transponder, moving a switch, installing a strobe light etc. The reality is that, during the long life cycle of a product such as an aircraft, many requirements change, such as operational requirements, and even regulatory requirements. For instance will we all be required to install ADS-B in our aircraft in the future? (I hope not). However, in the event that we are, the installation would need to be approved. Will a LSA manufacturer in Romania, Russia or maybe the Czech Republic be interested? I doubt it but without their approval the installation would be illegal.
I have recently come across two examples of LSA aircraft that need CAR 35 approvals. Firstly, in the hanger next door to us there is a Dova Skylark; a factory built two seat, high performance all metal Light Sports Aircraft, designed in Canada and manufactured in the Czech Republic. The particular example to which I refer had been involved in a serious accident overseas, was repaired, then imported into Australia. In my opinion, as a CAR 35 engineer, the aircraft requires further extensive repair before it is safe to fly. Apparently the designer has stated that the aircraft is OK as is – I don’t agree. However, under the present regulatory regime, I am unable to approve any repairs to it…so on it flies!
The second example that has been presented to me recently also originates in the Czech Republic, a CZAW SportCruiser. This particular aircraft has been operated in a commercial flying school since it was imported into Australia in early 2008. The supplied instrumentation has been unsatisfactory from the start and is now completely unserviceable. The flying school that owns the aircraft has written to the manufacturer on several occasions to request factory authorisation to fit other more suitable instruments but, to date, has had no response or acknowledgement from them. The flying school then approached me to assist them. Unfortunately, unless the regulations are changed, I can’t help – the aircraft remains grounded.
I believe CASA needs to have a serious look at the highlighted regulations regarding LSA aircraft. Until this situation is resolved we are inviting unintentional technical breaches of the regs – let’s face it, aircraft can’t just be summarily grounded or, on the other hand, be allowed to fly while unsafe (albeit legally) due to bureaucratic nonsense. CASA has a duty of care to the aviation community and must recognise that this is the case.