Monday, January 11, 2010

LAMA: FAA Survey Does Not An FAA Endorsement Make

LAMA President Dan Johnson released the manufacturer organization's first newsletter of 2010 with some interesting news. There's lots in there: I'll endeavor to summarize:
In the beginning, there was FAA, and FAA created Light Sport, and saw that it was good.
And FAA decided it could rest, but first it said, "We shall smile down and only monitoreth long as thou provideth third-party oversight."
"Forsooth, thou shalt police thine own act to maintain compliance with The Rule, lest fedgov lightning bolts shall rain down in the form of aggressive compliance auditing and other regulatory interferences."
To forestall FAA's wrath, third-party oversight is offered by LAMA through extensive audits of LSA company procedures and documentation.
An initial LAMA audit costs roughly $7,000. Several - but not nearly all - manufacturers have signed up for LAMA audits.
Evektor, European producer of the SportStar, was the first company to successfully complete a LAMA audit.
Meanwhile, FAA conducted a spot survey of 30 manufacturers and importers, (U.S. only). Purpose? To provide a snapshot of industry compliance. Result? Not bad...but the industry needs to do better...much better.
The LAMA newsletter summarizes FAA's survey report, as analyzed by FAA Evaluations and Special Projects Manager Brian Cable, who notes: "SLSA manufacturers and importers are trying hard to follow requirements...but many companies are falling short."
Relax, Chicken Littles. Light sport flivvers will not fall from the sky. Cable says much of the discrepancies have to do with paperwork. Specifically, incomplete or improperly done paperwork.
Some details:
In general, Cable highlights shortcomings in airworthiness documentation, maintenance procedures and documentation, assembly procedures and documentation, and compliance with design standards.
One key observation: although LAMA audits are intended to help members resolve problems before they become issues for the FAA, it appears companies were under the impression that they had done well on the (FAA) survey—which didn't cost anything - and therefore wouldn't need an independent audit.
Not true. The one-day survey by design could only hit the highlights. Yet, although 22 LAMA members signed up for audits before the survey, most subsequently declined to follow through.
Wrong conclusion.
LAMA's caveat: a reasonably good survey result does not an FAA endorsement make.
LAMA enjoins manufacturers not to cavort too long before the golden idol (shirking audits to save money) lest fire and brimstone (mandatory -and vastly more expensive - oversight by the almighty FAA itself) descend down upon the land.
Okay, I know this is a lot of dry stuff, but here's what to take from this: the LSA experiment is meant to find out whether aviation can keep its own sandbox clean. It's not guaranteed to go on forever, especially if airplanes do start falling out of the sky for lack of proper compliance with the rule.
So when you see that LAMA sticker on the LSA you're thinking of flying or buying, think "Good Housekeeping Seal": it means that manufacturer is doing everything it can to make sure you fly safe, legal, and with minimal government intrusion.
Ask your LSA sales rep if his/her company plans on getting an LAMA audit. If the answer comes back "No", ask why not. If you don't like the answer, consider looking elsewhere.

No comments: