There is a nervous cloud
hanging over this week's ASTM Sport Pilot F37 Consensus Standards
meeting in Salt Lake City. When the light sport aircraft community
decided to climb onboard with ASTM International, (originally known
as the American Society for Testing and Materials), in order to
deliver the mandated industry consensus standards demanded by the
FAA for a full Sport Pilot program, the fear was that there was no
way that such a standard could be delivered soon enough after the
expected rule to avoid months, or even years, of chaos.
ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards
development organizations in the world and has become a trusted
source for technical standards for materials, products, systems,
and services -- ultimately, an inspired selection for the
burgeoning Sport Pilot industry.
A few years later; the situation the industry finds itself in is
far more precarious than what first concerned them. The ASTM F37
committees, made up of sport aircraft airframe,
equipment, engine manufacturers and other industry personnel
(including ANN's Jim Campbell) did something amazing... they put
together dozens of standards with a minimum of rancor and conflict,
and did it so fast and so well that ASTM's senior organization is
now pointing to F37 as a model of efficiency and professional
This would have been all the more impressive had there
actually been a Sport Pilot rule to take advantage of the
extraordinary work done by this amazing assemblage.
Interestingly; one of the pivotal partners in this program has
been the FAA itself... who while usually having no lack of things
to be criticized for, actually supported this program with great
enthusiasm and zeal... and may have single-handedly saved the
program at least once along the way when it might otherwise have
been killed off by other government interests.
For now, though, the Sport Pilot rule stands in bureaucratic
limbo and may be in more trouble than the industry has here-to-fore
let on. Problems laid at the doorstep of OMB have stalled and
nearly killed off the much-promised and over-hyped rule. Senior
members of the ASTM program, who have directly consulted with OMB
seem to think that the problem lies with OMB's previous inability
to understand the need for the rule and the ability of the
government to administer a new aircraft certification and licensing
program. While no one is actually saying that the rule is in danger
of getting killed off, there is a very nervous undercurrent this
week among many of the ASTM attendees who have patiently waited for
a rule whose absence has crippled sales and industry growth due to
the sense of expectation that has come about through the
over-promotion of what was promised (for years) as an imminent
In the meantime, though, it's business as usual... while many of
the more comprehensive standards have been worked out quite well,
attention is now being paid to the minutia that will need attention
in the not too distant future. Committees dedicated to emergency
parachute recovery equipment and programs are not only working on
sport pilot matters but developing materials that may have an
effect on certificated use of such systems, as well. The
weight-shift community is working through a number of objections to
various proposals in order to deliver a set of completed standards
for this growing portion of sport aviation. The sport
rotorcraft/gyroplane groups have been pretty much absent from the
latest meetings, though we know that a lot of work is going on via
online communications and some progress is being made.
Much off the primary
documentation for basic fixed wing aircraft standards and
powered parachutes is long completed, so a lot of attention is now
turning to more specific aspects of the industry. Powerplant
standards are being worked on though recent attempts to develop new
working groups for diesel and engine conversions have been tabled
until sufficient interest develops to allow for their staffing. New
proposals involving potential standards for airparks are being
circulated and have met with a positive and interested response
from much of the group at the SLC meeting.
A potentially important development are the discussions being
undertaken over noise issues. With the mess up in the Northeast USA
(and elsewhere, I regret to note) over such ridiculous assaults on
aero-civil liberties such as those proposed by those "Stop The
Noise" clowns, the Sport Pilot industry is well aware that idiocy
like that is going to continue to be a problem in the future.
Building consensus standards for noise emissions may turn out to be
an important defense tactic in the future against those who would
attack aviation for their own selfish purposes.
Other programs looking at insurance and industry promotion
issues are being discussed and developed as well...
More info to follow...