May 2008 Issue

LSA Engine Safety

The engines powering light sport aircraft have been around a while, but not long enough to establish a safety record, good or bad.

Aircraft engines these days come in a lot more flavors and configurations than they used to, thanks largely to the advent of two forms of alternative aviation: most recently, the light sport aircraft (LSA) market and, much earlier, the 1990s surge in experimental/amateur kit-built aircraft. Where some of the more-popular experimental designs and several legacy-S-LSA models employ familiar powerplants, the majority fly with engines from BRP-Rotax in Austria, HKS in Japan and Jabiru in Australia. Who are these companies and what’s their track record in making flying-machine engines? How do they compare to the "traditional," FAA-certified offerings from Continental and Lycoming? Who sets the standards? And what’s their safety record? These newer engines can spur concerns among ardent fans of the familiar, tried-and-true air-cooled flat aircraft engines from Textron Lycoming and Teledyne Continental Motors. Often, it seems, those concerns grow out of unfamiliarity. The differences in care and feeding and in systems fuels debates about their reliability and, in turn, safety of the newer engines.

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