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2FlyAgain

ELSA to SLSA

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During a conversation with Mr. Edsel Ford at the FAA office in Oklahoma City today, I learned that it is now possible to convert an experimental light sport (ELSA) aircraft back to a special light sport aircraft (SLSA).  The relevant information can be found in FAA Order 8130.2J, Airworthiness Certification of Aircraft.  See the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) Category.  More specifically, see Chapter 9 section 4 that describes "Changing From Experimental to Special LSA Category".  One has to verify that the aircraft was not "altered without the manufacturers approval" and meet some other requirements.  Of course, all safety directives must have been complied with.  But, the good news is that going experimental is no longer a one-way street so to speak.

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It's been allowed for as long as I know. It always required the manufacturer to sign off on it though.

Maybe now they're allowing you to convert back if you leave it unaltered.

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I'm thinking that the reasons most will go experimental is to be able to maintain and modify their LSA airplane without manufacturer's approval.  If all modifications (if any are made) are well documented and can be proven to have been reversed in a manner that the FAA inspector is satisfied, going back to SLSA might be possible.  I actually had to do this recently.  My mechanic happened to be going thru my paperwork at my last conditional and discovered that, by mistake, the FSDO in Arizona erroneously changed my airworthiness from SLSA to Experimental prior to my purchase of it.  Luckily, the local FSDO here in Michigan recognized this was only a paper error, made by the Arizona FSDO, and they worked with my mechanic to reinstate my SLSA airworthiness.  Be careful if you are planning on going Experimental with intent to some day go back to SLSA.  My experience with this indicates that the FAA will be "from Kansas" and will very cautiously allow this only when is has been proved to them that all of the "t's" are crossed.

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While you're think:

Go in with your eyes open on cost:

It's a good education, but takes time and money.

Going to LSM school gets you out of grade school into middle school on your learning curve. Then you have a straight up learning curve to get past the high school level. Then add Rotax school. At least Service and Line maint. classes.

LSRM school. Class is $4K plus 3 weeks hotel, food and travel. Approximate total $7K

Rotax classes. $550 for each class, plus air fare, hotel and food for 5 days. Approximate $2500

Total cost approximately $9500

An alternative is to send an A&P at your airport or the area to Rotax school and for his training he gives you a break for a while. Just a thought that others have done.

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I bought a new premium SLSA in 2012. Annual inspections have been cheap & cheerful [for SF Bay area] at $350 to $500.  If I was thinking about buying a new SLSA I would not convert to ELSA just to save on annual inspections. Plus my mechanic is way better than I would be.   

Also, If I were buying a used LSA I would pay more for an SLSA knowing it was not a first-time builder selling me a plane.  So S-LSA makes it more marketable. But if you really need IFC operation...

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11 hours ago, Howardnmn said:

I bought a new premium SLSA in 2012. Annual inspections have been cheap & cheerful [for SF Bay area] at $350 to $500.  If I was thinking about buying a new SLSA I would not convert to ELSA just to save on annual inspections. Plus my mechanic is way better than I would be.   

Also, If I were buying a used LSA I would pay more for an SLSA knowing it was not a first-time builder selling me a plane.  So S-LSA makes it more marketable. But if you really need IFC operation...

Everybody has a different take on this and comfort level with S-LSA or E-LSA.  An S-LSA converted to a E-LSA, like my CTSW, is every bit as much a factory-built airplane as any other, it's only the maintenance and operating limitations that are different.   

The "just to save on annual inspections" is a little misleading.  The reality is you can save on ALL aspects of maintenance, not just annuals.  In the first nine months after my E-LSA conversion, I did my annual, Rotax 5 year rubber change, pulled the wings and replaced the sight tubes and inspected the spars, and a bunch of other minor maintenance.  That alone saved me $2500-3000.  A few months from now I will be doing a complete ADS-B in/out installation, that will save me another $500-1000.  Next year I will have to remove the BRS for repack and rocket replacement, that will be another several hundred dollars saved. 

As I have said in the past, it all depends on where you want to save money.  You can save it at sales time, maybe.  I have had two DARs tell me that E-LSA have no less resale value than S-LSA, they just have slightly different audiences.  An "Ask The DAR" column in Kitplanes magazine a few months back said the same.  So, while an S-LSA might be more marketable to you, that does not make it less marketable overall.  Besides, if your mechanic will do a better job than you on maintenance, you are not the right kind of owner for an E-LSA anyway.

On the other side of the coin, I am confident in my ability to perform maintenance that is not highly technical (like composite repair or heavy engine maintenance).  I'm also 100% sure than nobody has a better incentive to get things right than the guy whose ass will be in the left seat.  And my savings are already banked.  If save an average of $1000 per year in maintenance costs (easy, my annual is half of that), and own the airplane for ten years, that is $10k saved.  Will my E-LSA sell for $10k less than an equivalent S-LSA in ten years?  Maybe, but I doubt it based on my research.  And if so, who cares?  An airplane is a depreciating asset, not an investment vehicle.    :)

There are also other benefits to E-LSA:

1)  I know my airplane inside and out.  I know how it's put together, what to watch for, and where failures are likely to occur.  I'm not going to get that level of intimate knowledge by letting others do all the work on it.  This has real safety benefits.  You could get the same benefit on an S-LSA, but it will cost you in the form of the LSRM class.

2)  I never have to wait on somebody else's schedule for maintenance.  If I show up at the airport to fly, and find a minor maintenance issue, I don't have to call an A&P and wait for him to fit me into his schedule.  I just make the repair and then go fly.  Also, if my airplane has a problem at some podunk airport, as long as I can get parts and have tools, I can get myself flying again without having to track down an A&P (who has likely never touched a CT before) in an unfamiliar area and wait for him to have time for me.

3)  If I want to make a change to my airplane (like install ADS-B), I'm outside the whole MRA/LOA structure and no longer need factory permission.  I just do it, or find somebody to do it, and make the logbook entry.  Done, no more factory fees (even more money saved, yay!).

I'm not saying you're wrong to keep your airplane S-LSA, at all.  What I'm saying is that for a lot of people it makes sense to go E-LSA, and pointing out there are some real advantages, and not just saving money.  Are there disadvantages?  Yes, but to me they are minor.  The only one I consider significant is that you can't conduct flight training for persons that don't own it in the airplane.  But I'm not an instructor and won't be leasing my CTSW back to a flight school, so that's a non-issue for me. 

It's a "six of one, half-dozen of the other" choice for me, it's all about who you are, what you enjoy, how involved you want to be with your airplane, and what you are comfortable with.  There are no wrong answers. 

 

 

 

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Thanks Bill.  My point was not that people *should* go E-LSA, since that's a personal choice and everybody has their reasons one way or another.  I just wanted to point out there are some good reasons why the E-LSA crowd does what they do, and not all the reasons are to save a buck.

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