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Regulations and relevant NAA advisories

Overview of the legislative framework enabling sport and recreational aviation

Rev. 47 – page content was last updated 12 November 2014

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The primary function of aviation regulation is to achieve safety in aviation. In common with the other member nations of the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO], aviation in Australia – and particularly that associated with public transport – is a highly regulated activity. Every sport and recreational pilot is subject to some parts of those regulations though it is evident that some members of this sector have insufficient knowledge of the legislation, or perhaps have insufficient regard for it. However it is essential that all persons associated with this sector of Australian aviation must maintain an acceptable level of knowledge pertaining to the legislation relating to aircraft ownership, maintenance and flight operations under the day visual flight rules [VFR] and outside controlled airspace.

The purpose of this document is to offer an overview of the structure and purpose of the legislation. The various operating rules and procedures, such as those appearing in the Aeronautical Information Publications [AIP] issued by Airservices Australia, are in addition to the legislation referred to in this document. Please note that – to be valid – any rule (i.e. a mandatory requirement) published in AIP must be backed up by an existing regulation or other legislation; Airservices Australia [AsA] should not create de-facto legislation via their AIP.


1. The Civil Aviation Act and the Regulations

The aviation Acts
Australian sport and recreational aviation, in common with all other forms of civil aviation, is subject to several levels of government regulations and rules. The primary legislative Acts are the Air Navigation Act 1920 which generally deals with Australia's international obligations in regard to international air transport in accordance with the 1944 Chicago Convention; and the Civil Aviation Act 1988, which latter is " ... an Act to establish a Civil Aviation Safety Authority [CASA] with functions relating to civil aviation, in particular the safety of civil aviation, and for related purposes. The main object of this Act is to establish a regulatory framework for maintaining, enhancing and promoting the safety of civil aviation, with particular emphasis on preventing aviation accidents and incidents."

The Act provides for the appointment of a Director of Aviation Safety who is responsible for the management of CASA. Thus, the CASA has the function of conducting the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australian territory, in accordance with this Act and by means of the Regulations which CASA prepares for promulgation. The CASA is also the Australian National Airworthiness Authority [NAA].

In the Act 'aircraft' is defined as 'any machine or craft that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air, other than the reactions of the air against the earth's surface'. So lighter-than-air hot-air balloons are 'aircraft', hovercraft are not. Similarly 'aeroplane' means 'a power-driven heavier-than-air aircraft deriving its lift in flight chiefly from aerodynamic reactions on surfaces remaining fixed under given conditions of flight, but does not include a power-assisted sailplane'. Thus powered-parachutes are 'aeroplanes', para-gliders, sailplanes, hang-gliders and gyroplanes are not.

Chapter 2 of the Criminal Code applies to all offences created by the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and a notable facet of the Act is that it specifies imprisonment for some specific offences related to Australian* aircraft operation. So, if charged by State or Federal police (for example) with an offence under the Act – the superior legislation – the penalty is likely to be more significant than if charged with an offence under the Regulations, where the penalties specified are generally fines. See 'Some noteworthy sections of the Civil Aviation Act 1988, the CAR 1988 and the CASR 1998'.

*Note: AUF/RA-Aus registered aircraft were re-classified as 'Australian aircraft' by a September 2004 addition to item 3 'Interpretation' of the Act, thereby removing an anomaly where AUF/RA-Aus aircraft were legally 'neither Australian aircraft nor foreign aircraft, but were effectively treated as foreign aircraft that were allowed to operate in Australia but did not have the nationality of any ICAO contracting state', and thus, perhaps, avoiding some of the penalties prescribed in the Civil Aviation Act. Prior to the publication of the RA-Aus/AUF operations manual issue 6 in 2008, the introduction to issue 5 (2001) of the manual contained a clause stating words to the effect that 'Where a regulation explicitly specifies Australian aircraft' it does not apply to ultralights. The continued existence of this clause in the operations manual for four years following the 2004 amendment to the Act caused some confusion. One benefit of the 'nationalisation' is that recreational aircraft may not be discriminated against by operators of public aerodromes; see CAR 91.

There are other Acts which affect sport and recreational aviation; for example, the Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise) Regulations 1984 and the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004. The latter restricts pilot access to the 'airside' area of aerodromes that have scheduled regular public transport movements, if the pilot does not have a valid Aviation Security Identification Card [ASIC].
The role of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority
'The primary function of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is to conduct the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australia and the operation of Australian aircraft overseas by means that include, amongst other things, developing, promulgating and implementing appropriate aviation safety standards and effective enforcement strategies to secure compliance with those standards, conducting comprehensive aviation industry surveillance and regular reviews of the system of civil aviation safety, and carrying out timely assessments of international safety developments. CASA also has a range of other safety-related functions, including, amongst other things, providing safety education and training programmes and aviation safety advice designed to encourage a greater acceptance by the aviation industry of its obligation to maintain high safety standards; fostering an awareness in industry management and the community generally of the importance of aviation safety and compliance with the civil aviation legislation; and promoting consultation and communication with all interested parties on aviation safety issues.'
The CARs and CAOs
The legislative tier below the Acts contains the wide-ranging Civil Aviation Regulations [CARs]. The CARs are the responsibility of CASA, but drafted by the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing, which is part of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department. New or amended CARs and CAOs must be tabled in the Federal Parliament – where they are subject to disallowance – and authorised by the signature of the Governor-General of Australia before they can become effective.

The level below CARs contains the Civil Aviation Orders [CAOs] which are issued by CASA under regulation 5 of the CARs. They include information on technical standards and specifications intended to amplify the generalised regulations contained in CARs. In particular, they contain detailed mandatory operational, airworthiness and safety requirements, including design requirements, standards, specifications, technical and administrative procedures and safety instructions. Also, as demonstrated by the seven sport and recreational aviation section 95 CAOs, they provide exemptions to some provisions of the CARs.

(CASA may also provide individual exemptions by means of miscellaneous legislative instruments. For example the students of some RA-Aus flight training facilities (e.g. at Launceston, Parafield, Cambridge and Coffs Harbour) are able to operate in controlled airspace, without having a CASA issued Pilot Licence*, through 'exemption instruments'. See the Sunshine Coast Aero Club's CASA EX40/10 'Exemption – solo flight training using ultralight aeroplanes registered with the RA-Aus at Sunshine Coast Airport'. Note the requirement for the student pilots to hold at least a CASA class 2 medical certificate.)

*Note: in Australia the CASA issues 'Pilot Licences' upon qualification of Private, Commercial and Airline Transport pilots, whereas the recreational aviation administration organisations issue 'Pilot Certificates'; the terms are not interchangeable. CASA-issued Licences are recognised by ICAO, the Certificates issued by the recreational organisations are not. (In the USA all qualified pilots – amateur or professional – are 'certificated' not 'licensed'.)

Over the years the CARs and CAOs have become somewhat of a mess – where they are in conflict CARs take precedence over CAOs and the Act takes precedence over the CARs. CASA believes the CARs and CAOs are ' ... overly prescriptive, ambiguous, disjointed, too reliant on exemptions, and difficult to interpret, comply with and enforce'.
The ongoing CASA regulatory reform program
Since 1994/1995 CASA has been in the process of reviewing and rewriting all the CAR and CAO legislation in the form of Civil Aviation Safety Regulations [CASRs]. These are being structured and formatted in Parts similar to the United States Federal Aviation Regulations [FARs]. The intention is also to harmonise the CASRs with U.S. and European standards and regulations; although the review is expected to retain, in the CASRs, 'aspects of current regulations which are considered superior to international legislation or better suited to Australian conditions'. The numeric listing of the CASR Parts within their operational clusters can be accessed from the CASA website.

According to CASA's regulatory criteria the new CASRs are:
  • focused on safety – a 'systems' approach
  • clear, concise and unambiguous
  • justified – necessary, cost-effective, based on risk management principles
  • consistent with international obligations
  • harmonised
  • outcome-based
  • enforceable
  • and provide for delegations of authority to the industry – RA-Aus for example.
The review program was initially oversighted by a Program Advisory Panel [PAP] appointed by the government Minister. The basic ground rules that were agreed by PAP in 1996 were that no one currently operating legally will be made an outlaw; that the rewriting of procedures manuals* will be minimal; and that Australia will move to the FAR style regulatory system with as little change as possible. The PAP delivered its report in 1998.

* For example the RA-Aus Operations and Technical Manuals comprise the RA-Aus Procedures Manual and the GFA Operational Regulations comprise their procedures manual.

The CASA is consulting with the aviation community, via a Standards Consultative Committee, in the development of each new Part, then releasing Notices of Proposed Rule Making [NPRMs] for final comment before the regulations are sent for Parliamentary scrutiny. A Notice of Final Rule Making [NFRM] is normally issued after assessing feedback comments.

The older CARs are known as CAR 1988 and the new CASR parts that have been, or are being, developed to replace CARs and CAOs are being released as CASR 1998 though sometimes, for expediency, they are released as revised/new CARs. Note that RA-Aus aircraft are exempt from the current CASRs provided the conditions in CAO 95.10, 95.32 and 95.55 respectively are met, but see the note under Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998. This situation will remain until CASR Parts 103 and 149 are promulgated.

The content of these various Acts and Regulations can be found via the following links: Note: the Acts retain the initial year of promulgation in their titles. The current revision of the Air Navigation Act 1920 bears no resemblance to the first version.
CASR structure
Just to make your day, here is an extract from the CASA guide "How to use the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998" – perhaps demonstrating the formulation of the new 'clear, concise and unambigous' CASRs.

' ... note that 'the Regulations' contains many 'regulations' within it. In other words, Regulations means the whole statutory document; a regulation is a particular kind of part of it. The Regulations are divided into Parts, each Part dealing with a particular topic. A Part may be divided into Subparts, and a Subpart into Divisions. Divisions are divided into regulations, but a Part or Subpart can also be divided directly into regulations (that is, a Part need not have Subparts, and a Subpart need not have Divisions). An individual regulation may be divided into subregulations, a subregulation into paragraphs and a paragraph into subparagraphs. A regulation that is not divided into subregulations can be directly divided into paragraphs.'

That quite clear?
Supplementary documents – CAAPs and ACs
There are two similar series of CASA documents which supplement the CARs, CAOs and CASRs.

The Civil Aviation Advisory Publications [CAAPs] relate to the CARs only. They 'provide guidance and information in a designated subject area, or show a method acceptable to an authorised person or CASA for complying with a related regulation. The CAAPs should always be read in conjunction with the referenced regulations.' The CAAPs are in three sections – operational, airworthiness and aerodrome – and are supposed to be written in simple language.

For examples see CAAP 166-1 'Operations in the vicinity of non-controlled aerodromes' and CAAP 166-2 'Pilots responsibility in collision avoidance in the vicinity of non-controlled aerodromes using 'see and avoid'.

Advisory Circulars [ACs] support the CASRs only. They are intended 'to provide recommendations and guidance to illustrate a means, but not necessarily the only means, of complying with the Regulations; or to explain certain regulatory requirements by providing interpretive and explanatory material.' For an example see AC 21-42 'Certification requirements for a Light Sport Aircraft manufacturer'.

Note that CAAPs and ACs do not define 'standard operating procedures'. They may suggest what appears to be a de facto standard but it is purely advisory, not compulsory.

2. The recreational aviation administration organisations and the sport aviation bodies

Recreational aviation administration organisation functions
Recreational aviation administration organisations [RAAOs] are 'not-for-profit' associations of like-minded individuals that administer a particular sector of sport and recreational aviation (via a delegation from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) for the benefit of Australian sport and recreational aviation in general and their members in particular. The five existing flight training RAAOs are: ABF, GFA, HGFA, RA-Aus and the Australian Parachute Federation make up the five sport aviation bodies identified in Civil Aviation Regulation 2.

As stated in NPRM 0704OS the regulatory authorisations involved may be:
  • acceptance of a factory-built or home-built/kit-built aircraft type into their jurisdiction
  • issue of the certificate of registration required for aircraft over 70 kg empty weight
  • issue of airworthiness certificates (where applicable)
  • issue of pilot qualifications
  • issue of maintainer qualifications
  • approval of associated flying training and maintenance training facilities
  • surveillance activities of members of the organisations
  • enforcement action where members are in breach of the regulations.

CASA oversight of the RAAOs
The arrangement with CASA is that the RAAOs are responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of standards and operational rules in accordance with the individual RAAO's CASA-approved rules and procedures manuals. Such rules and procedures are designed to meet CASA's required safety outcomes for the 27 000 RAAO members. CASA oversights the RAAOs via their sport aviation office, the Self-administering Sport Aviation Organisations Section, which is part of the Office of the Director of Aviation Safety. That oversight includes creation and monitoring of systems for the enhancement of RAAO governance and of safety management effectiveness. The organisations operate under an annual deed of agreement [i.e. a contract] with the CASA for the self-administration of their sector. (RA-Aus members can view their current deed of agreement via the members log-in page). CASA needs to be fully confident that RAAOs have the risk treatment and governance capacity to provide the safety outcomes required.

The Sport Aviation Self-administration Handbook 2010 provides further detail on CASA's expectations for RAAOs and their management committees in ensuring that self-administration is providing a safe environment for sport aviators and their passenger*, as well as other airspace users and people and property on the ground. Also see SMS for Aviation - a Practical Guide to Safety Management System basics and the CASA Surveillance Manual - Annex 14 RAAOs.

*Note: an 'obvious risk' of personal harm is commonly associated with sport and recreational aviation activities, perhaps to the point that the activity may be legally considered as a 'dangerous recreational activity'. Sport and recreational aviators and the single passenger allowed, are defined by CASA as informed participants in the activity being pursued. The following are extracts from CASA NPRM 0603OS for the proposed CASR Part 103:

Section 3.5.6 'Because people who engage in sport and recreational aviation are voluntary participants in an aviation activity, where they have indicated an understanding and acceptance of the risks of participation, CASA regulates the activity on the basis that it involves informed 'participants' rather than as 'passengers' for whom the operator is responsible'.

Section 3.5.52 'Participants in sport and recreational aviation are regarded by the regulations as being informed persons who have given their informed consent to being involved in the activities and to voluntarily inform themselves of procedures for their own protection and safety'.

Section 3.6.5 '... in sport and recreational aviation, risk is under the control of informed participants who are encouraged to take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions but given the responsibility to make such informed choices'.

Sport aviation bodies
The Civil Aviation Regulation CAR 2 defines RA-Aus, ABF, GFA, HGFA and the Australian Parachute Federation [APF] as 'sport aviation bodies'. In this context, and to most aviators, the 'sport' term probably denotes some degree of competitive achievement, being particularly relevant to GFA, HGFA and APF. Competitive achievement is not so noticeable with RA-Aus pilots; however sport aviation within RA-Aus is formulated by the RA-Aus constitution's 'Statement of Purpose' paragraph B3: '... to encourage, undertake and exercise control of competitions, sporting events, displays, tests, records and trials and to hold either alone or jointly with any other association, club, company or person, recreational aircraft meetings competitions (including international competitions), matches, exhibitions, trials and receptions and to accept, offer, give or contribute towards prizes, medals and awards in connection therewith ...'

Before issue 6 of the RA-Aus Operations Manual was finally published in 2008, section 1.03 of the manual was a statement of the duties and responsibilities of the National Flying Coach (NFC). Duty item 1 was 'Plan and formulate flying competitions at state, national and international level'. Item 6 was 'Consult with the FAI [Fédération Aéronautique Internationale], the Australian FAI representative and member bodies to ensure that competition terms are kept up-to-date'. The NFC position was active for many years but the the last person to hold that position relinquished it around 1997/1998. Since then there has been no NFC appointment, even though the statement of duties and responsibilities for the position continued in the CASA-approved manual until 2008.

See section 9 The civil legislation governing sport and recreational aviation administration organisations for further information.
RAAO involvement in the legislation review program
Since 1996 the recreational aviation administration organisations have been deeply involved in the consultations with CASA and the aviation industry on the CASR Parts that are of particular interest to recreational aviation. Those Parts are:

          •   Part 21 to 35: Aircraft certification and airworthiness standards.

          •   Part 43: Aircraft maintenance.

          •   Part 47: Aircraft registration.

          •   Part 61: Certification of pilots and instructors.

          •   Part 91: General operating and flight rules (Part 103 generally replaces Part 91 for sport and recreational aviation).

          •   Part 103: Sport and recreational aviation operations (see NPRM 0603OS).

          •   Part 105: Parachuting operations from aircraft

          •   Part 149: Recreational aviation administration organisations (see NPRM 0704OS).

Some Parts have been implemented and Parts 103 and 149, which are of most interest to recreational aviation, are unlikely to be promulgated before 2015/2016. Parts 103 and 149 are an example of how CASA is moving its classification system (albeit very slowly) from a purely operation-based scheme to a more contemporary 'risk-oriented, activity-based' system. This should be helpful to recreational pilots as much of the legislation relevant to them will be contained within Parts 103 and 149.

3. Aircraft Type Certification and Certificates of Airworthiness

When is aircraft type certification and airworthiness certification necessary?
Generally* powered aeroplanes registered with RA-Aus, HGFA and ASRA are not required to have a Certificate of Airworthiness [CoA] so they are not exposed to the same certification standards to which the manufacturers of CASA registered aircraft must comply. However, an Australian manufacturer of sport and recreational aeroplanes wishing to provide aircraft for flight training activities (or if contemplating export) must comply with the relevant Type Certification and Production Certification standards and seek CASA certification.

*Owners of aeroplanes (or gyroplanes or gliders) in the light sport aircraft [LSA] category must hold a 'Special CoA' if the aircraft was factory-built or an 'Experimental Certificate' issued by a person authorised by CASA if home-built from a factory-supplied kit.

The airworthiness standards for sailplanes and powered sailplanes are contained in CASR Part 22 which encloses the European airworthiness standards set out in the certification specification EASA CS-22.

As the subject of 'certificated aircraft' or 'certified engines' continually crops up, the following may be of interest. Be aware that, at first glance, some of the terms are very similar, but they may have quite different regulatory meanings – and are often misused or misquoted.

(The certification and airworthiness requirements for aircraft and parts are contained in CASR Part 21.)
The Type Certificate
Type Certification is the assessment by the national airworthiness authority [NAA] of an aircraft type and model (or engine or propeller) for compliance with an international airworthiness design standard (that is recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organization) for a particular airworthiness category – normal, utility, acrobatic and primary are some of those categories. Type certification design standards (e.g. FAR Part 23 and CAO 101.55) are a set of commonsense rules, graded according to the activity for which the aircraft is designed, that have evolved over the past 100 years or so, which – while not providing absolute safety in all conditions – do provide an airworthy and reasonably stable and controllable aircraft; providing it is operated within the specified flight envelope and is maintained according to a maintenance schedule defined by the manufacturer. Under those conditions, for an FAR Part 23 aircraft, there is an expectation of not more than one serious accident due to structural failure per million type flight hours. The Type Certificate [TC] is issued by the NAA (initially in the country of origin) to the manufacturer (the 'TC holder'). The TC for earlier aircraft may be referred to as the Type Approval Certificate or the Certificate of Type Approval.

Aircraft registered under CAO 95.55 para 1.2 (f) [RA-Aus registration 24-xxxx] are commercially-built in Australia, or by a manufacturer in another ICAO member nation. The manufacturer must hold a Type Certificate, a Certificate of Type Approval or an equivalent document issued by a NAA; such aircraft may be used for flight training. The manufacturer must also hold a Production Certificate for the aircraft.

Note: manufacturers of light sport aircraft don't hold a type certificate issued by any NAA or need to hold a production certificate. Instead the manufacturer of the LSA issues a Statement of Compliance document – with each aircraft delivered – certifying that this aircraft complies with the approved LSA standards and that the regulatory criteria for a 'qualified manufacturer' has been met. The compliance statement forms the basis for subsequent issue of a Special Certificate of Airworthiness by CASA. Not having to go through the type certification and production certfication processes is one of the benefits of the LSA concept to manufacturers.

A Type Certificate Data Sheet [TCDS] is included with the TC. An Australian manufacturer of recreational aircraft who wishes to export would probably need to hold a TC for the product to be accepted by a foreign NAA. For an example of a TC and TCDS issued in the primary category see Airborne's TC and TCDS for their Edge XT/Streak 3 wing aircraft.

The terms certified or type certified design are in common use and may apply to an aircraft, an engine or a propeller for which the particular manufacturer holds a TC. Generally, NAAs do not themselves 'certify' or 'guarantee' anything, they issue 'certificates' to the manufacturer after accepting that the manufacturer has proven their product will meet the authority's defined standard/s.

For commercially manufactured aeroplanes the design (and the prototype aircraft) must be type certificated and the manufacturer issued with a TC before any individual production series aircraft can be issued with a CoA – for its intended operating category – by any NAA; e.g. the FAA in the USA, the EASA in the European Union and the CASA in Australia.
Type Acceptance Certificate for imported aircraft
In Australia (to enable the issue of an Australian CoA and thus 'VH' registration) CASA must issue a Type Acceptance Certificate [TAC] for an imported aircraft type and model whose manufacturer holds a TC issued by one of the 'recognised' NAAs.

The RAAOs do not approve factory-built aircraft; however, RA-Aus (for example) is authorised to issue an RA-Aus Type Acceptance Certificate signifying only that a particular factory-built aircraft type and model is accepted for registration by RA-Aus under CAO 95.55 para xx on the basis of a Type Certificate, Type Approval Certificate or other equivalent document issued by a NAA.
Production Certificate
Production Certification is carried out by a NAA to assess a company's manufacturing and quality assurance systems and procedures. If satisfied that all aircraft produced will meet the quality standards established by the Type Certificate the authority will issue a Production Certificate. If the TC holder does not also hold a Production Certificate then every aircraft produced must be inspected by a representative of the NAA before its CoA can be issued.
Certificate of Airworthiness
The standard Certificate of Airworthiness [CoA] for an individual factory-built aircraft is issued on the basis of evidence that the individual aircraft complies with the Type Certificate and that it has been constructed and assembled satisfactorily by the holder of a Production Certificate for manufacturing and given an individual constructor's serial number. The various airworthiness categories and designations in which Australian CoAs may be issued are described in detail in Advisory Circular AC 21.1 'Aircraft Airworthiness Certification Categories and Designations Explained'. CoAs are not required for ASRA, RA-Aus and HGFA registration except for the aircraft in the light sport aircraft [LSA] category, but see 'A few pointers from the RA-Aus Technical Manager concerning LSA registration.'
Certificates of Approval (of company operations)
After receiving an audit request CASA may, under CAR 30, subsequently issue a Certificate of Approval to a person or company engaged in any stage of design, documentation, manufacture, distribution or maintenance of aircraft, aircraft components or aircraft materials. That certificate indicates that CASA is currently happy with the quality assurance aspects of the specified activities of the company's operations and recognises that the holder has met the civil aviation regulatory requirements for the granting of their Certificate. Note that it is not a Certificate of Type Approval nor is it a Production Certificate. An approval holder might advertise themselves or their services (but not their wares) as "CASA approved".
RAAO acceptance of aircraft for registration
RA-Aus acceptance processes, for example, apply to commercially manufactured aircraft kits available to RA-Aus amateur builders, to ensure that the kits comply with the 51% 'major portion rule'. See the Technical Manual section 3.3.1 'Amateur built aircraft registered as ultralight aircraft'. RA-Aus acceptances also apply to commercially available aircraft plans.

For the design and airworthiness certification Orders for recreational aviation see the design and airworthiness certification Orders for powered recreational aeroplanes below.
CASA approval of sport and recreational aircraft engines
Various requirements are applied to the flight of recreational aeroplanes in controlled airspace. One such requirement relates to the engine which must have either a Type Certificate, a Type Approval Certificate or is of a type that has been approved by the CASA as being appropriate for use in controlled airspace. The latter is usually applied to non-Type Certificated engines that display a proven history of reliability; it is the most common Australian means of meeting the engine approval requirement for non-certified engines. CAO 101.55 section 6.1 is referred to in the CAO 95-series exemption orders.

4. Exemption aircraft

'Exemption' aircraft are those specified in the CAO 95-series, and are not classified as categories in the airworthiness sense. Thus, excluding sailplanes, RAAO registered aircraft may not be 'type certificated' or reflected as a category in either 'standard' or 'special' or 'experimental' CoA, except for those in the LSA classification. However, depending on their design standards and modes of construction, certain sport and recreational aircraft could also be registered on the National aircraft register (i.e. 'VH' registration with CASA) and issued with a special CoA or an experimental certificate in the 'amateur-built aircraft acceptance' (ABAA), 'amateur-built' or 'kit-built (experimental)', 'primary' or 'intermediate' categories.

Seven CAOs provide sport and recreational aviation with the necessary operating exemptions from some sections (listed within each CAO) of the Regulations but, of course, all other current CARs, CASRs and CAOs (plus the Civil Aviation Act itself) could apply to RAAO registered aircraft and RAAO certificated pilots. It is expected that with the implementation of CASR Part 103 and Part 149 the seven CAOs will be rescinded but their intent will be incorporated partly within the two CASR parts but chiefly as rules/requirements/procedures within the RAAOs Operations/Technical Manuals. The content of the seven CAOs has been made as uniform as possible.

Four of the exemption CAOs are CAO 95.4 for GFA sailplanes and CAO 95.8 for HGFA hang-gliders and paragliders (including powered variants). CAO 95.12 is for ASRA gyroplanes with empty weight not more than 250 kg plus CAO 95.12.1 for LSA gyroplanes of maximum gross weight not more than 600 kg. CAO 95.54 is for ABF hot-air balloons and hot-air airships.

Also an exemption order (CAO 95.14) exists for parasails and gyrogliders, but these vehicle- or boat-towed aircraft are restricted to operations below 300 feet above surface level.

The remaining three CAOs are applicable to RA-Aus and HGFA aeroplanes and together form the most complex of the exemption orders. These CAOs sparked and sustained the outstanding growth in Australian powered recreational aviation; they are CAO 95.10, CAO 95.32 and CAO 95.55.

5. The exemption Orders specific to 'aeroplanes'
      – CAOs 95.10, 95.32 and 95.55

In the Australian regulatory context the term 'aeroplane' means a power-driven, heavier-than-air aircraft deriving its lift in flight chiefly from aerodynamic reactions on surfaces remaining fixed under given conditions of flight. Powered parachutes are classified as aeroplanes (their ram-air wings remain fixed in normal operations) but not gyroplanes, power-assisted hang-gliders or power-assisted sailplanes – the latter are still classified as 'sailplanes or gliders' (CAR 2). So, in this document, the term 'recreational aeroplanes' refers only to aeroplanes registered with RA-Aus and the HGFA. Powered hang-gliders or powered para-gliders registered with the HGFA are not included.
Operating airspace allowed, pilot qualifications and equipment required
  • The Class G and Class E airspace over the Australian continent, below 10 000 feet above mean sea level in day VMC conditions, is available to recreational aviation – around 20 million cubic kilometres of airspace to explore. However flight over cities and towns is restricted.

  • Carriage and use of a VHF transceiver is mandatory for operations above 5000 feet; in the vicinity of non-towered aerodromes and in controlled airspace. A Mode A/C or S transponder is also necessary in some control zones and in Class E. Please read 'Class E airspace' in the navigation tutorial.

  • A two-place aircraft undertaking a flight more distant than 50 nautical miles from its departure point must carry an approved ELT. Please read the information on distress beacons contained in the 'Safety and emergency communication procedures' tutorial.

  • Class C and D controlled airspace is not available to recreational pilots who do not also hold a valid pilot licence that allows flight inside such airspace, a current aeroplane flight review and at least a class 2 medical certificate; except if there a legal exemption instrument in place for a particular control zone that facilitates access by the student pilot certificate holders of a particular RA-Aus resident flight school. Those student pilots must also have a valid class 2 medical certificate. For flight in Class A airspace, the pilot of a recreational aircraft must seek and receive written permission from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for the flight.

    For operations in controlled airspace the aeroplane must be:
    • certificated to the design standards of CAO 101.55
    • or is entitled to a type certificate for an aircraft in the primary category by meeting the criteria specified in CASR 21.024 paragraph (1) (a)
    • or is entitled to a type certificate for an aircraft in the intermediate category by meeting the criteria specified in CASR 21.026 paragraph (1) (a)
    • or is entitled to a type certificate for an aircraft in the Light Sport Aircraft category by meeting the criteria specified in CASR 21.186
    • or approved under regulation CAR 262AP 'Experimental aircraft - operating limitations' in relation to flights over closely-settled areas. See 'Flight over the built-up area of a city or town'

    The engine must be of a kind to which paragraph 6.1 of CAO 101.55 applies, or that CASA has approved as being suitable for use in a recreational aircraft in controlled airspace and is not subject to any conditions that would prevent the flight.

    For more detailed information on the requirements for recreational aircraft operations in controlled airspace see CAO 95.55 paragraph 7.3, CAO 95.32 paragraph 7.3, CAO 95.12 paragraph 6.3, CAO 95.12.1 paragraph 7.4 or CAO 95.10 paragraph 6.4.

    For information on recreational aircraft clearances for operations in restricted areas, see 'restricted and danger areas'.

  • All recreational powered aircraft wishing to operate at or above 10 000 feet amsl in Class G or Class E airspace, must apply to CASA and receive written CASA permission for each planned flight. The aircraft must be equipped with an operating Mode A/C or S transponder and the Australian Civil Aviation Order 20.4 sub-section 6 specifies use of supplemental oxygen systems.

Flight over closely-settled areas
Note: while CAR 262AP uses the term 'built-up area of a city or town', the subordinate 95 series CAOs use the term 'closely-settled area' meaning an 'area in which, because of man-made obstructions such as buildings and vehicles, and the characteristics of the aeroplane; the aeroplane could not be landed without endangering the safety of persons unconnected with the aeroplane or damaging property in the area'.
  • Flight over closely-settled areas is prohibited to all CAO 95.10 aircraft.

  • CAO 95.55 subparagraph 1.2 (a), (e) and (h) aircraft [i.e. those with 28-nnnn and 19-nnnn registration] plus CAO 95.32 paragraph 1.3 and 1.4 aircraft [i.e. E-LSA and 51% owner-built powered parachutes and trikes] are – for the purpose of flight over closely-settled areas – all regarded as 'experimental' and may not operate over such areas, unless holding a written authorisation to do so.

    CAR 262AP deals with operating limitations for experimental aircraft; subregulations 4 and 5 state:
    (4) A person must not operate an experimental aircraft over the built-up area of a city or town unless authorised to do so under subregulation (5).
    (5) CASA or an authorised person may authorise a particular aircraft to be operated over the built-up area of a city or town subject to the conditions and limitations CASA or the authorised person considers necessary for the safety of other airspace users and persons on the ground or water.

    The penalty for non-compliance is 50 penalty units [about $6000].

    For RA-Aus registered aircraft the Technical Manager is the authorised person who may issue the written approval. The period of validity for an authorisation is variable, the approval will expire when or if cancelled by CASA or the authorised person.

    An aircraft must not be flown over a closely-settled area at a height from which it cannot glide clear of the closely-settled area to a suitable landing area and the minimum height is 1 000 feet above ground level. 'Suitable landing area' means an area in which an aeroplane can be landed without endangering the safety, or damaging the property, of persons unconnected with the aeroplane.
Aeroplane take-off weight limits
All the sport and recreational aviation exemption orders specify a limiting take-off weight (in a few cases, a limiting empty weight) for each aircraft class defined in the CAO. The take-off weight defined is the total weight of the aeroplane when it begins to taxi before taking off. 'Gross weight' and 'all-up weight' have the same meaning as 'total weight'.

The maximum allowed take-off weight [MTOW] has a number of connotations.
  • The first is the class regulatory limit set by the CASA for recreational aeroplane operations and currently specified in the exemption orders; it is generally 600 kg but it could be less – and up to 850 kg for sailplanes. Those CAOs allow an individual aeroplane to be registered, within a class defined by one particular CAO sub-category, for operation not above a specified take-off weight. In addition there may be a maximum stalling speed in the landing configuration or a maximum allowed wing loading specified in those orders.

  • The second connotation is the structural design weight limit which is the maximum all-up take-off weight permitted by the aircraft designer, for structural safety and/or aircraft stability and control reasons; usually accompanied by a limitation of the fore and aft positions of the centre of gravity.

    An aeroplane which, by design, is capable of operating safely at a greater weight than the class regulatory limit may still be able to be registered with an RAAO, provided the pilot does not operate the aeroplane at an all-up weight that exceeds the class regulatory limit – including the maximum stall speed – defined by the relevant CAO. Many small, light, composite aircraft are imported from Europe where the European Union certification standard for very light aircraft is CS-VLA (formerly JAR-VLA) with a class regulatory limit of 750 kg. These modern technology aircraft have a comparatively low empty weight and potentially high fuel capacity, so it is quite feasible to operate them as two-place 600 kg aeroplanes – provided the combined weight of the occupants is not excessive.

  • There are other older design, two-place, light aircraft where the structural design weight limit is significantly higher than the class regulatory limit. It may be that an RAAO might accept such an aeroplane after negotiation, but these are required to carry a cockpit placard stating that the MTOW does not exceed 600 kg – or whatever the class regulatory limit might be. Because such aircraft have a comparatively high empty weight they must be operated as a single-seat aircraft so permanent removal of the passenger seat, seatbelt, passenger-side controls etc would be required to ensure operation only as a single-place aeroplane.

  • In the type approval process, an aircraft might be assessed by a NAA to determine that the structural design weight limit is considered safe. Subsequently, the third connotation – a maximum total weight authorised [MTWA] – may apply. The MTWA may be less than the structural design weight limit and may be less than the class regulatory limit.

  • The situation is further complicated when overseas factory-built aircraft are imported into Australia for registration with an RAAO. An example is the European countries who certify their aircraft to an European ultralight standard of 450 kg or 472.5 kg (the 22.5 kg is the addition for a parachute recovery system). If imported into Australia and registered with an RAAO, that organisation has no choice but to limit the aircraft to 450 kg/472.5 kg MTOW even though the class regulatory limit might be 600 kg. However, if the manufacturer certifies them to another standard at a greater weight – providing that certification is accepted by a certifying body in a country that is an ICAO signatory – then an Australian RAAO can accept that higher weight, but only up to our regulatory cut-off point. Australia is an ICAO signatory and the CASA is a certifying body.

  • Where an aircraft type does not quite fit the parameters outlined above an RAAO can make a decision regarding the allowable MTOW.

From a flight operation and safety viewpoint, the most important MTOW is the structural design weight limit, which may be less than, or greater than, the MTOW allowed under the relevant CAO or by the RAAO. The distribution of that weight – the aircraft balance – is equally important.

The structural design weight limit is related to the category of operation and the flight envelope. In the 'normal' category, applicable to all ultralights, the structure, particularly the wing, is required to cope with minimum structural limit load factors of +3.8g to –1.5g. Thus, the wing of a non-aerobatic aircraft with a certificated MTOW of 600 kg is required to cater for a design limit load of 600 × 3.8 = 2280 kg plus the 50% safety factor for the ultimate load = 3420 kg. The design limit loads in the LSA category are +4g and –2g.

No matter which CAO class regulatory limit recreational aircraft are generically permitted to operate at, no aircraft may fly legally above the RAAO accepted MTOW for that particular aircraft type, which may not be as much as the class regulatory limit or the structural design weight limit.
Civil Aviation Order 95.10
Civil Aviation Order 95.10 is an instrument which legalises the flight of a single-place low-momentum* ultralight aeroplane registered with RA-Aus or HGFA (if weight-shift controlled), without it (or any part of it) being certificated to any airworthiness standard for design, materials or construction. There is no restriction on the flight control system (i.e. three-axis, weight-shift or hybrid), the number of engines, the type of propulsion, the type of propeller system (or even the existence of such – it could be a pulse jet) or type of undercarriage; i.e. it could be retractable. Of course the 300 kg MTOW and maximum 30 kg/m² wing loading tends to limit choices. There is an additional weight allowance of 20 kg for a parachute recovery system and/or 35 kg if equipped to land on water – a four-engine amphibian has been flown.

*Note: a 'low momentum ultralight aeroplane' is not yet defined in the regulations except that it has a low maximum take-off weight and a low wing loading but it may also indicate an ultralight aeroplane which has a maximum cruising speed no greater than 55 knots, which would accord with Part 103 of the United States ultralight aviation regulations. On the other hand momentum equals mass × velocity so 'low momentum' does not necessarily infer low maximum speed.

The legislation was initially promulgated in 1976 as ANO 95.10 by a forward-thinking authority, to allow the 'minimum aircraft' movement to build their own aircraft from any commercially available materials. It also provided an exemption from the then existing Air Navigation Orders – provided the aeroplane was not flown above 300 feet agl, or within 300 metres of a sealed road or within 5 km of an airport; the intent being that the only person put at risk was the pilot.

The current version (June, 2014) of CAO 95.10 can be viewed in pdf format.

The operating restrictions in 95.10 were loosened in 1983 – with the inception of the AUF/RA-Aus – and there have been small, gradual gains since. Now 95.10 aircraft, with current RA-Aus registration documents (or Hang Gliding Federation of Australia registration if weight -shift controlled) may be flown by an unlicenced, but RA-Aus/HGFA certificated pilot, up to 10 000 feet amsl, and not over closely-settled areas. In Australia, CAO 95.10 put in place the platform on which low-cost, minimum aircraft aviation was built; particularly for the truly innovative amateur designer/builders. See 'Benchmark events in Australian powered recreational aviation history'.

A CAO 95.10 ultralight aeroplane may be:
  • partly manufactured by a commercial manufacturer in kit form (that must be RA-Aus/HGFA approved) and then completed by a private builder (i.e. kit-built)
  • or built from purchased plans or even designed by the private builder (i.e.scratchbuilt). If a scratchbuilt aeroplane is built in accordance with commercially-supplied drawings and/or a data package, these documents must be RA-Aus/HGFA approved
  • and if designed by its builder(s) the aeroplane need not comply with any promulgated design standard; though it would be a most imprudent designer/builder who did not follow some recognised standard route in the development of his/her aircraft.
The current CAO 95.10 does not allow for an aeroplane to be completely built by a commercial manufacturer (i.e. factory-built) – as was available prior to 1990.

CAO 95.10 continues to provide the only means by which an enthusiastic private (i.e. not commercial) builder or small group (maximum of four private builders – who are not required to have any aeronautical or engineering experience) can now design and build a low-cost single-place aeroplane, whether the design is conventional or unconventional, with no restrictions, except that:
  • the class regulatory take-off weight must not exceed 300 kg with an additional allowance of 20 kg if equipped with a parachute recovery system and/or 35 kg if equipped to land on water. The designer/builder/airworthiness certifier may limit the take-off weight to a value lower than 300 kg, in which case the maximum legal take-off weight [MTOW] will be the lower of the class regulatory value and the designer/builder/airworthiness certifier's MTOW.
  • wing loading must not exceed 30 kg/m² (about 6 lb/ft²) at maximum all-up weight.
  • a placard must be placed in the cockpit warning that neither the CASA nor RA-Aus/HGFA guarantee the airworthiness of the aeroplane and pilots operate it at their own risk.
If kit-built from an approved kit supplied by a commercial entity there is no stipulation regarding the minimum extent of fabrication or assembly input to be provided by the builder/s. See the RA-Aus Technical Manual section 3.4.1 "Approval of a kit for a CAO 95.10 ultralight aircraft" and section 3.4.2 "Approval of a kit for a CAO 95.10 ultralight aircraft based on history of safe operation".

There is no requirement that the aeroplane be built under supervision and the design may be modified as the builder sees fit. The RA-Aus registration marking is 10-xxxx.

Unfortunately the interest in scratchbuilding has declined markedly and very few CAO 95.10 new builds are being registered. In 1994 there were about 550 CAO 95.10 aircraft representing 47% of the RA-Aus register. In January 2012 there were 226 such aeroplanes remaining, less than 7% of the register. The number of 95.10 aircraft has decreased by more than 100 machines during the past five years.

David Rowe's UFO The photograph shows an aircraft from designer/builder David Rowe – his UFO or "Useless Flying Object". This aircraft is a consequence of David's curiosity about the behaviour of round wings and illustrates the educational and true experimental essence of 95.10 and its importance to the ultralight movement. It also emphasises that, in 95.10, the designer/builder is likely to be the test pilot.
Civil Aviation Order 95.32
CAO 95.32 is a very popular operational standard providing exemption from some provisions of the Civil Aviation Regulations for factory-built, kit-built and amateur-built single-place or two-place weight-shift controlled aeroplanes ('trikes' or 'microlights') and powered parachutes. CAO 95.32 aircraft comprise 15% of the RA-Aus aircraft register; more than 200 (or 40%) of these aircraft are powered parachutes from Aerochute Industries.

The current version (April, 2011) of CAO 95.32 can be viewed in pdf format.

The aircraft must be registered with RA-Aus or the HGFA (trikes only). Trikes have a regulatory take-off weight limitation of 600 kg (650 kg if equipped to land on water), there is no weight allowance for a parachute recovery system and the stall speed must not exceed 45 knots CAS. Powered 'chutes have a weight limitation of 600 kg. Unlike CAO 95.10 the CAO 95.32 does not provide an additional weight allowance for a parachute recovery system.

Paragraph 1.1 of the CAO refers to a factory-built or kit-built aeroplane where the manufacturer of the aeroplane, or kit, must hold some form of Certificate of Approval or Production Certificate or airworthiness certification acceptable to CASA; or complies with the British airworthiness requirement BCAR-S for small light aeroplanes; or there is similar approval or acceptance from a NAA – whether the aircraft or kit is Australian-made or imported. (32-xxxx RA-Aus registration marking.)

Paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3 cover aeroplanes in the light sport aircraft category. If factory-built the aeroplane must be manufactured by a qualified manufacturer (as defined in CASR 21.172. If kit-built CASR 21.191 sub-paragraphs (j) or (k) apply, but there is no minimum amount of the fabrication and assembly labour to be done by the owner. The aircraft owner must hold a current 'special certificate of airworthiness' if factory-built or a current 'experimental certificate of airworthiness' if kit-built. For more information see the LSA category in CAO 95.55 and 95.32 below.

Paragraph 1.4 refers to amateur-built aeroplanes where the major portion (51%+) of the fabrication and assembly work is done by the owner, the balance being supplied by a commercial manufacturer, usually in kit form. For further information see the same category in CAO 95.55 para 1.2 (e).
Factory built certified weight-shift aeroplanes and powered parachutes are allocated the '32' registration mark prefix, amateur built weight-shift aeroplanes and powered parachutes are now allocated the '18' registration mark prefix while (kit-built) experimental LSA weight-shift aeroplanes are now allocated the '17' registration mark prefix.

Civil Aviation Order 95.55
CAO 95.55 is an operational standard which provides exemption – for certain three-axis controlled, single-engine, single-propeller, single-place or two-place ultralight aeroplanes with a Vso stall speed not greater than 45 knots CAS and with valid RA-Aus registration – from some provisions of the Civil Aviation Regulations. (Engine type; e.g. internal combustion, is not specified.) There are eight classifications within 95.55 – four 'home-built' and four 'factory-built'. Unlike CAO 95.10 the CAO 95.55 does not provide additional weight allowance for a parachute recovery system.

The current version (April, 2011) of CAO 95.55 can be viewed in pdf format.

The relevant paragraphs of the CAO are:

Para 1.2 (a): the amateur-built aircraft acceptance [ABAA] category. An amateur-built aircraft is an aircraft, the major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by a person or persons who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation. The ABAA is a type approval for an amateur-built aircraft.

The aeroplane must comply with the design standards specified in part 3 of CAO 101.28; plus MTOW not exceeding 600 kg for a landplane and 650 kg for a seaplane/amphibian. Such aircraft were registered by RA-Aus with a 28-xxxx marking.

Para 1.2 (b): an aeroplane described in paragraph 1.1 of CAO 101.55 which limits MTOW to 450 kg, maximum power cruising speed to 100 knots CAS and Vso stall speed not exceeding 40 knots CAS. RA-Aus registration marking 28-xxxx. The RA-Aus amateur-built aircraft (see para. 1.2 (e) below) has now largely replaced the ABAA aircraft. There are less than 100 ABAA aeroplanes remaining in the RA-Aus register and new registrations in this classification are no longer accepted.

Para 1.2 (c): a commercially-built aeroplane meeting the design standards of CAO 101.55. Maximum weight and Vso can be 480 kg and 42 knots CAS respectively if the product of the square of Vso (knots CAS) and the MTOW (kg) does not exceed a value of 768 000. Straight and level speed under full power is not to exceed 100 knots but may be approved with a control flutter substantiation. Maximum 2 places. Can be used for training. RA-Aus registration 55-xxxx but there have been few new registrations in recent years and now new registrations in this classification may not be accepted.

Para 1.2 (d): covers the two-place ultralights commercially-built in a CASA approved factory to a CASA certificated design and registered under the old CAO 95.25. The latter was originally issued in 1985 – as both an operational and a quasi-design standard – when, because of a high accident rate in 95.10 aircraft, the need for two-place training aircraft was determined which facilitated the production of aircraft such as the Thruster and Drifter. The specified airworthiness conditions included rather basic performance and structural tests and a demonstrated history of safe operation. CAO 95.25 also introduced the CASA certificated design for factory-built single-seaters with a 340 kg MTOW such as the Sapphire and Vampire.

The CAO 95.25 was an emergency document, finally cancelled in 1990, and is now superseded. The RA-Aus registration is 25-xxxx but new registrations in this classification are no longer accepted. Existing aircraft may not be modified without the approval of a CAR 35 engineer. There were various iterations of acceptable MTOWs as 95.25 was developed, the final one being 450 kg for two-place aircraft meaning that the MTOW for any particular 95.25 aeroplane is the MTOW specifically approved for that aeroplane either at the time of manufacture or as later approved under the regulations by an engineer with CAR 35 qualifications.

Although the design specification was limited the 95.25 aircraft proved to be very successful, training most of the RA-Aus pilots; but nowadays operators need to remain vigilant in ensuring the continued airworthiness of the airframe.

Para 1.2 (e): RA-Aus (AUF) Amateur Built Aircraft [AABA]. Introduced in 1998 and, in effect, an expansion of 95.10 allowing a heavier, but more durable, structure. (Sometimes referred to as "Experimental" but the AABA is only a sub-set of the Experimental Category.) An aeroplane where the major portion (i.e. at least 51%) of the total construction work must be the owner's construction input. The aeroplane is intended for educational or recreational purposes, plus MTOW = 600 kg or 650 kg if equipped to land on water; maximum two places. The aircraft need not be designed to an approved standard, or constructed from certified type materials, and can be of any origin but must be built in accordance with the RA-Aus Technical Manual section 3.3.1.

Can be built from scratch (own design or purchased plans) or from a kit supplied by a manufacturer who may or may not hold a CASA Production Certificate, but the kit must also be eligible to comply with the 51% 'Major Portion Rule' under CASR Part 21. The same conditions apply in CAO 95.32 para 1.4 for weight-shift controlled aeroplanes.

There is no requirement that the aircraft be built under supervision. A pre-cover/pre-closure inspection is highly recommended, and there must be a pre-flight final inspection, observed by RA-Aus/CASA authorised inspectors, but that final inspection does not determine airworthiness – the owner/builder must accept entire responsibility for that, and sign a document to that effect before the first flight. As with CAO 95.10 the aircraft must carry a cockpit placard warning that the aircraft is not required to comply with the safety regulations for standard aircraft and persons (passengers) fly in it at their own risk. RA-Aus registration 19-xxxx. (The same conditions apply in CAO 95.32 para 1.4 for weight-shift controlled aeroplanes.)

Taildragger Jabiru
The photograph shows a Jabiru where Peter Kayne, the owner/builder, modified a standard tricycle undercarriage kit to produce an experimental taildragger configuration. This was so successful that the Jabiru company produced kits for the new model. These kits would comply with the AABA category.

  – Para 1.2 (f): allows the commercial manufacture of a heavier aircraft than allowed under CAO 95.25 and CAO 95.55 para 1.2 (c). The aircraft is commercially-built in Australia or overseas for sale by the holder of a Type Certificate, Type Acceptance Certificate or a Certificate of Type Approval or an equivalent document issued by a National Airworthiness Authority – CASA for aircraft manufactured in Australia. The manufacturer must also hold a Production Certificate for the aircraft. RA-Aus registration 24-xxxx. Such aircraft may meet the RA-Aus registration requirement that only certified and properly approved factory-built aircraft should be used for flight training.

The MTOW is 600 kg, or 650 kg if equipped to land on water, and the aircraft must have a minimum useful payload. This minimum payload in kg is calculated with a formula which allows 80 kg for each seating place plus 23% of the engine rated power (in units of brake horse-power) for fuel. Thus the minimum payload for a two-place 100 hp aircraft would be 80 + 80 + (0.23 X 100) = 183 kg or, deducting that from the 600 kg MTOW, the aircraft empty weight (including engine oil and unusable fuel) must be less than 417 kg.

Note: CAO 95.55 paragraph 1.3 provides two different algorithms, one for rated power in brake horse-power units and weight in pounds, the other for power in kilowatts and weight in kilograms. The horse-power/kilogram algorithm above uses the more common terms and provides the same results.

  – LSA categories in CAO 95.55 and 95.32: Light sport aircraft [LSA] is a certification category of general aviation and sport and recreational aircraft which became legal for RAAOs, in January 2006, by amendments to the exemption CAOs. LSA as a category did not replace any previously existing category nor was it intended for existing aircraft already operating under a different airworthiness category. It is a single-propeller, two-place aircraft with MTOW not exceeding 600 kg [650 kg as a seaplane], 45 knot Vso CAS. It may be factory-built or it can be a kit-built aircraft of the same make and model as the factory-built aircraft; the LSA category also exists for trikes, powered 'chutes, gyroplanes and sailplanes.
  • CAO 95.55 para 1.2 (g) and CAO 95.32 para 1.2 refer to a ready-to-fly aircraft manufactured by a qualified manufacturer (as defined in CASR 21.172. The aircraft owner holds a special certificate of airworthiness for the aeroplane. RA-Aus registration is 24-xxxx for 3-axis aeroplanes (but the November 2014 issue of the RA-Aus Operations Manual introduced the 23-xxxx prefix for new registrations) and 32-xxxx for weight-shift controlled aircraft.

  • CAO 95.55 para 1.2 (h) and CAO 95.32 para 1.3 refer to a a kit-built version of the same make and model as the ready-to-fly LSA aircraft. CASR 21.191 sub-paragraphs (j) or (k) apply. The 51% 'Major Portion Rule' does not apply to LSA; i.e. the manufacturer can supply a much more advanced kit than allowable under the 51% owner input Amateur Built category however, the kit-built aircraft must be inspected and the aircraft owner issued with an Experimental Certificate by a CASA 'authorised person' before it can be registered with RA-Aus as 17-xxxx for both 3-axis and weight-shift aircraft.

    Read the Synopsis: the Light Sport Aircraft category particularly the notes from RA-Aus Technical Manager. Also see the CASA advisory circulars AC 21-42 LSA Manufacturer's Requirements (but note the reference to the 'PICA 26' standard in Appendix 1 para 3.1 is not valid) and AC 21-41 LSA Certificate of Airworthiness – both pdf documents.

The foregoing CAO 95.55 material is summarised below:

CAO 95.55
MTOW Vso Construction Airworthiness
standards reference.
Other requirements RA-Aus registration
mark prefix
1.2 (a)* 600/650 45 Own design,
drawing or kit
101.28 section 3 nil 28*
1.2 (b)* 450 40 Own design,
drawing or kit
101.55 para 1 nil 28*
1.2 (c)* 480 42 Factory-built 101.55 para 1.2
and design standards
Vno=100 55*
1.2 (d)* 450 ? Factory-built 95.25 nil 25*
1.2 (e) 600/650 45 Own design,
drawing or kit
Tech. manual 3.3.1 51% major portion
rule applies to kits
Pre-flight final inspection
1.2 (f) 600/650 45 Factory-built 101.55 Min. payload 24
1.2 (g) 600/650 45 Factory-built S-LSA standards nil 24 & 23
1.2 (h) 600/650 45 Home-built
from factory kit
X-LSA standards 51% major portion
rule not applicable

*New registrations under CAO 95.55 para's 1.2 (a), 1.2 (b), 1.2 (c) and 1.2 (d) [i.e registration mark prefixes 25, 28 and 55] are no longer available.

6. The exempted Regulations

If (and only if) the conditions set out in CAOs 95.10, 95.32 or 95.55 are complied with in relation to an aeroplane to which each CAO applies, the aeroplane/pilot is exempt from compliance with the following Parts of the Regulations and a few individual Regulations. In most cases the exemption from the Part or an individual Regulation is replaced to some extent by rules or requirements stated in the CAO or in RAAO Operations and Technical Manuals. For example the exemption from CAR 157 'Low flying' is offset by CAO 95.55 sections 7.1 (b) (h) (i), 8.1 and 8.2 plus RA-Aus operations manual section 2.01 para 10.

Some of the exemptions will not apply to aircraft operating in Class A, B, C and D airspace and flown by a CASA-licensed pilot, particularly those exemptions associated with pilot qualifications.

Failure to comply with the rules/requirements of the operations and technical manuals renders the exemptions null and void thus the exemption Regulations below, and associated penalties, become immediately applicable and may be severe. Read the opening paragraphs of the document Some noteworthy sections of the Civil Aviation Act 1988, the CAR 1988 and the CASR 1998.

Some of the CAR 1988 Parts/Regulations mentioned below may have been replaced by CASRs but the CAO may not yet be changed to reflect this.

Exemptions common to 95.10, 95.32 and 95.55
  • Part 4A. Maintenance
  • Part 4B. Defect reporting
  • Part 4C. Flight manuals
  • Part 4D. Removal of data plates and registration identification plate
  • Part 5. Qualifications of flight crew
  • Subregulations 83 (1) (2) and (3). Aircraft radiotelephone operator certificate of proficiency in respect of VHF equipment only. CASA HF radiotelephone operator certificate still applicable
  • Regulation 133. Conditions to be met before Australian aircraft may fly
  • Regulation 139. Documents to be carried in Australian aircraft
  • Regulation 155. Flight rules - acrobatic flight
  • Regulation 157. Flight rules - low flying
  • Regulation 207. Requirements according to operations on which Australian aircraft used
  • Regulation 208. Number of operating crew
  • Regulation 230. Starting and running of engines
  • Subregulation 242 (2). Testing of radio apparatus
  • Regulation 252. Provision of emergency systems
  • Regulation 258. Flights over water

Exemptions common to 95.10 and 95.32 only
  • Part 4. Airworthiness requirements
  • Part 13 division 4. Lights to be displayed by aircraft
  • Regulation 166A (2) (f) maintaining track from take-off until 500 feet [only in respect of powered parachutes ]

Exemptions common to 95.32 and 95.55 only
  • Regulation 210. Restriction of advertising of commercial operations; insofar as advertising of flying training to qualify for a pilot standard specified in the RAAO Operations Manual is concerned
  • Note: the prior exemption to CAR 252A dealing with carriage of emergency locator transmitters was rescinded in April 2011.

Exemptions applying to only one CAO
  • Part 7. Navigation logs [unique to 95.32]
  • Regulation 36A. Use of aircraft material in the maintenance, servicing and operation of Australian aircraft [unique to 95.55]
  • Regulation 37. Permissible unserviceabilities [unique to 95.55]
  • Regulation 163AA. Formation flying [exemption unique to 95.32 facilitating airtow of hang-gliders]

7. The design and airworthiness certification Orders for powered recreational aeroplanes

Civil Aviation Order 101.28
CAO 101.28 is a combination of rules – originally promulgated in 1976 – covering the airworthiness certification requirements, and design standards, for light general aviation aeroplanes in the Amateur Built Aircraft Acceptance [ABAA] category. For ultralight aeroplanes the limitations expressed in CAO 95.55 paragraph 1.2 (a) over-ride the weights and stall speeds given in CAO 101.28. The aircraft is to be used for educational or recreational purposes and the owners construction input must be more than 50% of the total construction input.The general design standards are in accordance with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's FAR Part 23 or the British Civil Airworthiness Requirements Section K. The flight handling quality standards are also in accordance with FAR Part 23. The full CAO 101.28 can be viewed in pdf format.

The ABAA certificate is an acceptance by the CASA that the aircraft complies with CAO 101.28. CAO 101.28 is not a standard acceptable in the ICAO sense, so any CoA (for a CASA registered aircraft) under 101.28 is not an ICAO recognised CoA. It is only recognised in Australia as qualifying the aeroplane to be registered on the national register as VH-xxxx. In view of the legislative minefield involving Certificates of Airworthiness and the ICAO convention, it is to DCA's (the old Australian Department of Civil Aviation ) great credit that a system was developed and is continuing in Australia giving national registration and its attendant privileges to 'Home Built' aeroplanes under CAO101.28.

Note too that the building process involved strict control under the eye of the CASA , and while the regulatory authority of the day actually performed surveillance on the building process, this activity was delegated to the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA). CAO 101.28 has been "sunsetted" in CASR 21.190 and ABAAs for new types were no longer issued after 30 September 2000. New types are now covered under CASR 21.191 which introduced the Experimental Amateur Built category. These aircraft require no building supervision, are registerable as VH although operational restrictions apply until they are removed under the authority of a 'CASA Delegate' – if the aircraft can meet the necessary requirements.
Civil Aviation Order 101.55
All commercially manufactured and sold recreational and GA aircraft should be designed to an acceptable standard, certificated as meeting that standard, and manufactured under a Certificate of Approval of the production and quality assurance process. CAO 101.55 is a set of rules covering the aircraft certification requirements for a TC or Certificate of Type Approval – including minimum design, manufacture, operational and safety standards – for commercially-built single-engine/single-propeller very light aeroplanes and kits. Take-off weight not exceeding 450 kg and Vso not exceeding 40 knots CAS [Vs1 45 knots]. Under some conditions these figures may be increased to 480 kg and 42 knots CAS. The aircraft may have no more than two places.

Under CAO 101.55 the aircraft must comply with one of the three following international design standards:
  • the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's FAR Part 23
  • the British Civil Airworthiness Requirements Section K
  • the European Aviation Safety Agency's certification specification CS-VLA (formerly JAR-VLA) which is the very light or sports aircraft legislation covering one or two place, non-aerobatic, VMC only aircraft up to 750 kg* MTOW, 45 knots maximum Vs1 and a type certified engine.
  • or some other acceptable standard or combination of standards.
CAO 101.28 encloses only FAR Part 23 and BCAR K. It should be mentioned that neither airworthiness certification CAO mandates the establishment of a safe fatigue life for the airframe or components.

CAO 101.55 also mentions the requirement for noise certification:
9.1 General. The Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise) Regulations 1984 introduced noise certification for aeroplanes subject to ANRs [CARs] with effect 2 August 1984.
9.2 The noise certification scheme applies noise standards to aeroplanes to which this section of the CAOs apply. It is the applicant's responsibility to apply to Airservices Australia for the issue of a noise certificate.

*Note 3: Since November 1996 the published RA-Aus policy has been that the MTOW for aeroplanes registered by RA-Aus that have been CS-VLA certificated [to 750 kg] could be extended to the 750 kg of the European design standard, or any other suitable design standard that allows 750 kg. CASA had a low priority certification project [CS 06/01] underway which might have resulted in the inclusion of that change in CASR Part 103 but CASA decided not to proceed with CS 06/01 and it was closed 9 October 2009.

The full CAO 101.55 (2004 issue) can be viewed in pdf format.

8. The proposed CASR Part 103 'Sport and recreational aviation operations'

Part 103 will apply to all manned balloons and hot-air airships; powered aeroplanes; gliders including sailplanes, hang gliders, paragliders and their power-assisted variants; rotorcraft including gyroplanes, gyrogliders and other light rotorcraft. It generally substitutes for Part 91 in sport and recreational aviation, see NPRM 0603OS.

For the purposes of Part 103 the powered recreational aircraft will be divided into two classes:

The first powered class covers aeroplanes that have only one seat, MTOW no more than 300 kg (plus allowances of 35 kg if equipped to land on water and 20 kg for a recovery parachute system) and a maximum wing loading of 30 kg/sq.m. There is no restriction on the number or type of engine/s or propeller/s, stalling speed or maximum level flight speed. Thus, this class perpetuates the fundamental CAO 95.10 concept and will consequently be identified as 'low-momentum ultralight aeroplanes' rather than '95.10 aircraft'.

Note: momentum equals mass × velocity so 'low momentum' does not necessarily infer a low maximum cruise speed, such as the 55 knots specified in the United States FAR Part 103.

The second powered class covers all aircraft that have one or two seats, MTOW no more than 600 kg (plus an allowance of 50 kg if equipped to land on water) and (for aeroplanes) a maximum stalling speed in the landing configuration (i.e. Vso) of 45 knots CAS. This category also includes the gyroplanes (maximum rotor disc loading 20 kg/sq.m.), powered-parachutes and weight-shift aeroplanes (but not power-assisted sailplanes) that meet the criteria, but there is no additional weight allowance for water landing or recovery parachutes.

Thus, any single-engine, one or two-place, land aircraft with MTOW less than 600 kg (and any similar aircraft equipped to alight on water with MTOW less than 650 kg) may be eligible to operate under Part 103 if Vso does not exceed 45 knots and it is accepted for RAAO registration.

Existing aircraft operating within CAO 95.32 and CAO 95.55 limits, and others that do not conform to the new standard, will continue to operate as now in accordance with the RAAOs procedures manuals; i.e. the Operations and Technical Manuals. Such aircraft will still be limited to the lower of their design weight or type certificated weight. Factory-built aircraft may be able to operate at the 600 kg weight if certified to that or higher weight. As in the past the RAAO procedures manuals will continue to be subject to CASA approval scrutiny before amendment/re-issue.

The acceptable CASA standards for design and performance of recreational aircraft are:

Fixed-wing, 3-axis aircraft
  • ASTM LSA standard F2245 (USA)
  • British Civil Airworthiness Requirements Section S [BCAR-S/CAP 482] Small light aeroplanes
  • European Aviation Safety Agency Certification Standard – VLA (ex JAR-VLA)
  • CAO 101.55 (Australia)
  • DaeC (BFU) 10/95 (Germany)
  • UL/2 PT2 (Czech Republic)
  • PICA 26 (Australian airworthiness design requirements for aeroplanes of conventional design in the primary and intermediate category – CASR Part 26; however the PICA 26 standard is no longer sponsored or maintained by CASA)
  • DS 10141E (Canadian microlight)
  • Plus any existing or recognised aviation standard acceptable to the CASA; e.g. FAR Part 23.

  • ASTM LSA standard F2352-04 (USA)
  • British Civil Airworthiness Requirements Section T
  • ASRA Gyroplane Spec (Australia)

Lighter-than-air aircraft
  • ASTM LSA standard F2355-05 (USA)
  • BCAR Part 31– balloons (Britain)
  • FAR Part 31– balloons (USA)
  • CAO 101.54 (Australia)
  • BCAR Q – airships (Britain)
  • FAA AC-21-17-1– airships (USA).

  • ASTM LSA standard F2244 (USA)
  • BCAR Section S (Britain)
  • DS 10141E (Canada).

Weight-shift control aircraft
  • BCAR Section S (Britain)
  • DS 10141E (Canada).

  • To be advised, but possibly a sub-set of the EASA certification standard CS-22.

9. The civil legislation governing sport and recreational aviation administration organisations

Recreational Aviation Australia Incorporated [RA-Aus] is an association whose governance could be considered representative of other sport and recreational aviation associations.

Operationally, RA-Aus is a sport and recreational aviation administration organisation operating under a constitution that defines the nature of the association and its governance. From an aviation safety viewpoint the organisation's governance and compliance are oversighted by CASA. Legally, it is a not-for-profit, member-based association incorporated under the Australian Capital Territory Associations Incorporation Act 1991 and consisting of ordinary members with voting rights, affiliated clubs and other types of members without voting rights.

'Incorporation' is the creation of a legal entity which has rights and liabilities (e.g. to enter into employment agreements and legal agreements, own assets or borrow money) that are separated from its ordinary members. This means that any financial claim against the Association could only be pursued up to the extent of the Association's assets rather than (if RA-Aus was not incorporated) all of the ordinary members being liable for any claims against RA-Aus; but see rule 8 of the RA-Aus constitution. There are no shareholders, no one 'owns' RA-Aus or any part of it. Surplus income is used to further the objectives of the association, not to provide personal gain for members. If the association should be wound up the surplus property will be distributed in accordance with rule 38 of the constitution and the ACT Associations Incorporation Act.

Because RA-Aus operations are not confined to the Australian Capital Territory, RA-Aus comes under the jurisdiction of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission [ASIC], who regard it as a registrable Australian body whose internal governance operates under its own constitution. Registrable Australian bodies include bodies corporate that are not companies, recognised companies, exempt public authorities, foreign companies or financial institutions. ASIC has assigned RA-Aus an Australian Registered Body Number [ARBN 070 931 645]; it is not a 'business' number. ASIC's only interest in RA-Aus is to ensure proper governance.

RA-Aus is not required to provide financial statements to ASIC, only the personal details of current board members as changes occur; plus updated, certified copies of the constitution, so that if complaints are received from association members' ASIC can start calling on the board members.

The Board. An incorporated association must have a committee responsible for managing the association. In RA-Aus the state member representatives, elected by the ordinary members for a two-year term, form a committee described as the 'Board' and its members are 'Board members' (not 'directors'). The board members may make by-laws for conducting its own proceedings and general management of the Association's affairs. By-laws proposed shall be notified to the ordinary members and take effect after 30 days from the time of such notification, subject to the approval of the Board. By-laws may be repealed, varied or added to at any time and from time to time by the Board.

The operational and regulatory activities of RA-Aus are governed by the Operations Manual and Technical Manual, both of which are published and amended following approval by CASA. RA-Aus administers the Operations Manual and the Technical Manual on behalf of the CASA. The maintenance of the recreational aircraft airworthiness standards are governed by the provisions of the Technical Manual. Owners of sport and recreational aircraft are responsible for ensuring the standards expressed in the Technical Manual are met and maintained, and registration of an aircraft by the RA-Aus is not to be held out as certification that the aircraft is airworthy. Similarly, the standards for operations of sport and recreational aircraft are governed by the provisions of the Operations Manual. Owners/operators of recreational aircraft are responsible for their operation in accordance with the standards provided for in the Operations Manual.

Sport aviation within RA-Aus is formulated by the constitution's 'Statement of Purpose' paragraph B3: '... to encourage, undertake and exercise control of competitions, sporting events, displays, tests, records and trials and to hold either alone or jointly with any other association, club, company or person, recreational aircraft meetings competitions (including international competitions), matches, exhibitions, trials and receptions and to accept, offer, give or contribute towards prizes, medals and awards in connection therewith ...'

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) was founded in 1905 and is the international governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records. The FAI Sporting Code deals with three major areas: firstly, organised sporting events such as championships and competitions, secondly, records, and thirdly the validation of specified performances for Certificates of Proficiency or Colibri badges. The Australian Sport Aviation Confederation (ASAC) is the national confederation of sport and recreational aviation organisations (the ABF, GFA, HGFA and APF) acting as a lobbying body in respect to Commonwealth and State governments and Commonwealth aviation authorities. RA-Aus is not a member.

Before issue 6 of the RA-Aus Operations Manual was promulgated in 2008, section 1.03 of the manual was a statement of the duties and responsibilities of the National Flying Coach (NFC). Duty item 1 was 'Plan and formulate flying competitions at state, national and international level'. Item 6 was 'Consult with the FAI [Fédération Aéronautique Internationale], the Australian FAI representative and member bodies to ensure that competition terms are kept up-to-date'.

The NFC was active until 1997/1998; since then there has been no NFC appointment, even though the statement of duties and responsibilities for the position continued in the CASA-approved manual until 2007, and paragraph B3 of the constitution has not been rescinded.

The next module in this 'Joining sport and recreational aviation' series is a categorised index (covering the period from 1998 to 2010) of selected articles available in the online version of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's bi-monthly magazine Flight Safety Australia. The articles listed are all pertinent to sport and recreational aviation under the day visual flight rules and are recommended reading. They expand on, or complement, material contained in the Fly Safe! tutorials. Some publications from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau are also provided.

This 'Joining sport and recreational aviation' series

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