Recreational Aviation Australia is preparing to introduce a new category of aircraft to accept the new 760-kg maximum take-off weight expected to be granted next month.
Group G will cover aircraft with MTOWs between 601-760 kg as permitted under an amendment to CAO 95.55 scheduled for 2 December.
The CAO amendment is needed to introduce the new weight limit after the CASA's technical working group rejected the draft manual of standards for CASR Part 103, which would have replaced the exemptions currently in the CAOs.
"Our members have been asking for this for many years," said RAAus CEO Matt Bouttell in an industry briefing last night. "So many staff in RAAus, past and present, and board members have worked tirelessly for many years to get us to this point where it's going to be written into l-a-w, law.
"Very shortly we expect to see an amended CAO come out from CASA and that will have in CAO 95.55 a pathway to operate at 760 kg in some circumstances.
"It's great for our whole industry. We're about making aviation accessible, more affordable ... all of those kind of things, and if we can expand what it is that RAAus does, that can only be a good thing for our whole industry."
The new Group G will include both certified and amateur-built aircraft provided the MTOW does not exceed 760 kg, the aircraft has a stall speed not exceeding 45 knots in the landing configuration, and the aircraft is not certified only in the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category.
The LSA category is standard of the ASTM International, which is not impacted by changes made outside the standard and aircraft operating in the LSA category must remain at 600 kg MTOW unless re-certified in another category.
Jared Smith, RAAus Head of Airworthiness and Maintenance, said in the briefing that the new weight limit was expected to see an influx of new aircraft registrations and an increase in membership.
"The reason for the original application ... was primarily to increase aviation participation in Australia," he said. "We have 160-170 flying schools in Australia that are not currently operating Cessna 150s and this provides opportunities moving forward.
"We've seen an increase in participation at every weight increase implemented, from 300 kg to 450 kg; from 544 to 600, our aircraft register membership has grown to the stable numbers we have today."
Smith also said that the current Group A single-engined, three-axis aircraft would continue to be limited to 600 kg MTOW and operations weren't impacted by the introduction of Group G.
"To be clear, the introduction of a new category does not affect the current Group A operations in anyway; not negatively, not positively. So an aircraft that is registered in Group A will be required to be registered in the new proposed Group G to operate above 600 kg maximum take-off weight."
Smith also said that Group G aircraft would have definite parameters on the weight with no room to massage the MTOW as has been done with some aircraft, such as the Cessna 150, in Group A.
"RAAus will now be able to accept certified or amateur-built aircraft of 760 kg MTOW or less. The weight increase does not apply to LSAs. And 760 kg is the line in the sand. RAAus will not be able to accept an aircraft capable of operating above 760 kg."
When considering how to implement the new permissions, Operations Manager Jill Bailey said RAAus considered the most efficient way was to create a new category of aircraft registration and Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC).
"The intent was to leave Group A to be Group A, so if you don't want to operate in the increased category world, then you don't need to do anything different; things stay the same," she explained.
"A Group G RPC is from 601-760 kg ... if you think about the difference of the weight that's going to be impacting your aircraft, it's effectively about one third of the weight you're at now ... that's like having another person on board the aircraft and there are going to be some differences operationally."
Bailey cited the need for pilots to understand mixture controls in aircraft like the C150 as a change that training for Group G will need to accommodate, as well as how the Lycoming and Continental engines differed in performance from the Rotax and Jabiru engines most RAAus pilots are used to operating.
On the question of maintenance for Group G aircraft, RAAus is anticipating that Group G aircraft will need to be maintained by a Part 66 licence holder when the CAO amendment comes out, unless it is amateur-built, in which case the owner can maintain after completing a training course.
CASA this week deferred making the CASR Part 103 MOS, opting instead to grant the new MTOW limit though an amendment to CAO 95.55. RAAus has shaped Group G based on what they believe the amendment will contain.
"The CAO amendment that is due to come out on 2 December has not been sighted by RAAus," Smith explained, "however we are aware of the likely make-up of the requirements in the first instance.
"I do want to reiterate that this is the first instance because RAAus will continue to work with CASA during the Part 103 MOS drafting to further align Group G operations with current Group A privileges."
The full video briefing including the status of the controlled airspace proposal is on You Tube via the RAAus website.