View Full Version : VLA, Group A, Microlight, Permit to Fly, C of A, Sport etc...


MyData
3rd Oct 2006, 09:46
A question for those in the know out there. Can someone explain in simple terms what all the various classifications of GA aircraft means?

I see advertisements from Piper, Cessna, Cirrus etc. followed by the likes of Jaribu etc. At the end of the day they are all aircraft to get us from A-to-B as GA pilots (I'm discounting the fully IFR equiped kit here for serious airways flying). At first glance, why would someone buy one of the more expensive aircraft, and associated ownership costs, when one for a third (or less) can be bought with similar performance?



tangovictor
3rd Oct 2006, 09:56
I will let someone more knowledgeable answer your question, however I can throw some light on why people would spend more on a "serious" aircraft.
exactly the same reason, why some buy a Ferrari or Porsche,
you can only do 70mph, legally, so why are we not all driving around in 900cc
diahatsui's ? answer personal choice, if you have the money, why not,
spend it all, while you can enjoy it, rather than leave it to Brown

tonyhalsall
3rd Oct 2006, 10:31
It's about matching your cababilities and desires with that of the aircraft and the more money you are prepared to spend the less compromises you have to make - just like anything else in life really.

1 - You just want to be up there - try powered parachutes doodlebugs or similar. They will get you up there but you ain't going anywhere

2 - Minimalist but want to actually go places - very occasionally. Lower end microlights and PFA Permit aircraft are slow and maybe old or cumbersome - or both. May have weight limitations and lacking in avionics. Strictly fair weather VFR

3 - Cheap to run, good performance but with weather limitations. Most 'hot' BMAA factory built microlights and PFA kits have benefit of Permit affordability but cannot fly at night or in IMC - strictly daytime VFR and factory built micros have 'legal' weight issues. VLA/LSA types in this category soon (we hope!)

4 - 'Fair' weather tourers - C of A aircraft are certified and can be used at night and in IMC. Two seaters such as TommyHawks and C150's can be picked up cheap but on going maintenance and running costs could be alarming

5 - 'Fair' weather family tourers - 4 seat C of A aircraft such as PA-28 and C172 can take you and passengers all over Europe and beyond in IMC conditions and at night. On going costs need serious consideration !!

6 - ALL weather tourers. Turbocharged singles and/or twins that can take you over the clouds and through icing. Normally retractable and very expensive to operate you will be able to take the aircraft almost anywhere at any time.

OK - So this is an overly simplified list but you get the idea that to do (1) is going to cost you minimal money but there are operational limitations with what you can do. (6) on the other hand will cost you mega bucks to own but should rarely compromise you. Of course the other part of this equation is your personal abilities and limitations and matching them to the right aircraft.

Personally speaking I would go for Permit aircraft all day long as I have no desire to fly in clag and will happily walk away from a planned cross country in 'iffy' weather. I fly for the pure fun of it but you may have different idea's which is great because life would be very boring if we were all the same.

Confabulous
3rd Oct 2006, 10:35
why some buy a Ferrari or Porsche,
you can only do 70mph, legally, so why are we not all driving around in 900cc
diahatsui's ? answer personal choice, if you have the money, why not,
spend it all, while you can enjoy it, rather than leave it to Brown

Aha, but therein lies the rub. Fine buying a Ferrari or Porsche, but why buy one that was designed 40 years ago and hasn't improved since? And why buy one if a new Dihatsu will outperform it?

I would be surprised if more than 10% of pilots go on trips of over 100nm, or away from their own country. I used to be of the long distance touring bent, fantasising about long trips to Reykjavick (sp?) but I realised that, in my opinion, touring doesn't (bear with me here) celebrate the sheer miracle of flight, rather it turns it into a car journey. Naturally this really only applies to IFR flying.

One thing that alwway strikes me about flight is that at one time there were no planes, no cars, no houses... no people. And yet we somehow metered out the insane genius needed to take the enormous leap into, quite literally, the unknown. Nothing about the appearance or operation of an aircraft is immediately logical, especially when compared to our initial role models for flight, the birds. No engine, no vertical stab - they're obvious now, but back then this was an incredible, staggering departure from the norm, equivalent to conceiving of and building the aquaducts.

And that's the reason for my love of flight, and the reason we should appreciate it so much more. Apologies for the rant!

robin
3rd Oct 2006, 10:44
Probably because we all have different tastes. I've looked at some of the nice new toys but still prefer my 40-year old steed.

Actually, my car is old technology as well, in that it has no electronic gadgetry, and I can still understand well enough to fix it when it goes wrong.

MyData
3rd Oct 2006, 10:52
Thanks for the responses chaps. Point taken on how to spend the money.

TonyH, I guess I'm in categories 3 and 4 of your classification scale. The word 'permit' springs up again, what does this mean compared to CofA? Are they two different levels of assessment? Your point on C150 etc. ongoing costs is valid, I know of a long term PA28 owner and he doesn't like to think about how much he has sunk into the aircraft since buying it. Which is why I got to thinking about the VLA aircraft. The performance and capacity figures for modern VLAs compares favourably with the PA28s, C172s etc. with greatly reduced intial outlay and ongoing costs.

Daytime VFR only would be fine for me, I'd look to rent if I wanted IMC / night flying.

tonyhalsall
3rd Oct 2006, 11:28
The BMAA and PFA have delegated responsibility from the CAA to issue 'Permits To Fly' for certain categories of aircraft - homebuilt, some vintage and microlight types. The Permit system allows the Owner Operator to do all of the day to day maintenance of the aircraft and engine and thus the frightening costs of CofA scheduled maintainance are removed at a stroke.
Don't get me wrong flying is still expensive and if you are on a real budget it may still be cheaper to buy into a low cost or no equity group but Permit flying is - in my opinion - the way forward.
Modern Permit aircraft whether home built VLA versions or factory built microlight versions cost a lot buy but once they are bought (or built) they are very much cheaper to operate and will outperform most C of A stuff normally found at GA airfields.
The Rotax 912 engine will deliver 80 or 100hp and burn 10-18 litres / hour (of unleaded) depending on installation and delivers 100mph+ in most airframes.
I have chosen to abandon my group A stuff and have bought a factory built Eurostar microlight. I accept the 'legal' weight issue as a compromise but I don't see the point in maintaining my SEP priviliges when I can now go 500 miles + at 100mph burning 10 litres/hour and be able to do my own (minimal) maintenance - oil changes etc.
Try the following web sites
www.pfa.org.uk
www.bmaa.org
I started flying in 1987 but only 'discovered' the PFA in 2001 and I now consider the intervening 14 years as wasted. Do yourself a favour and join the PFA, or BMAA, or both and get a different outlook. Your flying should become fun and affordable.

robin
3rd Oct 2006, 11:31
I started flying in 1987 but only 'discovered' the PFA in 2001 and I now consider the intervening 14 years as wasted. Do yourself a favour and join the PFA, or BMAA, or both and get a different outlook. Your flying should become fun and affordable.

Nicely put Tony. I found that to be the case for me as well

Mike Cross
3rd Oct 2006, 12:11
Going back to the original point......

Why do we have so many different categories?

Well they are continually being invented primarily for 2 reasons, 1) for Airworthiness and 2) for Pilot Licensing.

IMHO we have rather too many ways of doing things.

Firstly, airworthiness:-
There seem to be a number of different categories under which a design can be approved but the two basic divisions are an ICAO compliant C of A or a National system such as the Permit to Fly. If it's ICAO compliant then it's accepted by all ICAO contracting states for flights in their airspace, if it's National then it's up to individual states to accept or otherwise.

It would be helpful, in the absence of ICAO agreement, if National requirements were harmonised as far as possible, however this is the wonderful world of aviation where standards are anathema.

Not unnaturally there are different design approval requirements depending on the physical characteristics of the aircraft, however, whatever method is used to arrive at design approval, the overall goal is to arrive at a design that is airworthy within its operating limitations. Similarly the objective of the continuing airworthiness system of inspections is to ensure that the aircraft continues to be airworthy.

If it's airworthy, then the risk of an inadvertent plummet is acceptably low to the certifying authority, so why can't a Permit aircraft fly at night, over a built-up area, or under IFR? If it's safe enought to let loose in the sky then why the restriction? The aircraft has no idea whether it's dark outside, there's a town underneath, or if the pilot has elected to fly under IFR so it's no more likely to plummet.

Pilot Licensing is another ball game altogether.

Mike

Rod1
3rd Oct 2006, 12:48
I have gone from an 180hp AA5B to an MCR01 Club (which is in the VLA class). Apart from the IFR issue in the UK the VLA will vastly out perform the AA5 at a fraction of the running costs. Both aircraft recently toured France and on one day, following the same route I took 20% less time and burned 64 of fuel to the AA5s 240.

I am at a loss as to why the 1950s designs are so popular, especially as resale values are starting to drop. The AA5B is for sale, as most of the group now want to go VLA, but it is not selling. The comparison similar to a Ford Anglia v a modern sports car.

Rod1

gasax
3rd Oct 2006, 13:58
I'm afraid that hoping for any level of rationality in these sort of rules is likely to be invain. The CAA have had a mindset of gold plating everything for a very long time. With their income stream now threatened by EASA they are even less likely to think sensibly and help create a rational risk based approach. EASA presently has some proposals which at the moment look promising but you only have to look at the CAA's insistance that they must inspect already certified EASA aircraft before they can go on the CAa register to see their real motivation.....

Genghis the Engineer
3rd Oct 2006, 15:38
A question for those in the know out there. Can someone explain in simple terms what all the various classifications of GA aircraft means?
I see advertisements from Piper, Cessna, Cirrus etc. followed by the likes of Jaribu etc. At the end of the day they are all aircraft to get us from A-to-B as GA pilots (I'm discounting the fully IFR equiped kit here for serious airways flying). At first glance, why would someone buy one of the more expensive aircraft, and associated ownership costs, when one for a third (or less) can be bought with similar performance?


CofA = ICAO compliant Certificate of Airworthiness, potentially allowing unrestricted international flight and use for training and aerial work.

Permit to Fly = UK only document issued to microlights, amateur builds and warbirds (mostly). Allows VFR private flight in the UK, and generally similar in other countries for short trips, subject to faxed request and permission.

VLA = Very Light Aeroplane, actually means a non-aerobatic 2-seater under 750kg MTOW with a stall speed below 45 knots.

Group-A, this used to be a legal term, is now just generally understood jargon for a single engine, non-microlight, light aeroplane.

Sport Aircraft - an American term, doesn't apply here, it lies somewhere between microlight and VLA.

Microlight - a single seat aeroplane with a maximum take-off weight under 300kg, or a 2-seater with MTOW under 450kg, and a stall speed under 35 knots. Basically these are simple(r) light(er) aeroplanes that are cheaper to own and fly than "Group A". (with a few exceptions on each side).


The main reason for buying a CofA aeroplane as opposed to a PtF aeroplane is the ability to fly IMC and night.

The main reason to buy group A rather than microlight is that you want group A hours (e.g. for an ATPL), more than 2 seats, to fly aerobatics - or just something bigger and more powerful (such as a Yak, Pitts, Arrow...).


As for why 1950s / 1960s designs are so popular? Probably, I'd venture because that's what most pilots learned on, and they are sticking to what they know.

G

tangovictor
3rd Oct 2006, 16:27
I also agree with tony and rod, although its personal choice, a rotax engined machine, is the way to go, in my opinion, either microlight or vla

MyData
3rd Oct 2006, 16:57
Things are becoming a little bit clearer...

So, if I go for a VLA with a PtF then I'm not allowed IMC/IR or night flying. That's OK. I'm also not allowed to overfly built up areas - is there a definition of what this means? When does a house, or collection of houses, become a built up area?

Are there restrictions on CAS entry? Would a VLA be classed as a microlight for those airports/airfields which don't allow microlights?

And finally for now... does a PtF still require a periodic certification check to revalidate the Permit? And if so, is this as 'strict' as a CoA or something much simpler?

Reason for the questions: I'm currently toying with the thought of diving in and making an outright purchase or joining a group and want to get to know what's what.

dublinpilot
3rd Oct 2006, 17:02
Is there any clear statically proven safety benefit to flying a CofA machine over a Permit machine?

Genghis the Engineer
3rd Oct 2006, 17:11
Are there restrictions on CAS entry? Would a VLA be classed as a microlight for those airports/airfields which don't allow microlights?

None of any real significance - class A is closed to most of us and that doesn't change, and you need a radio for most CAS penetration and that doesn't change.

A VLA wouldn't be classed as a microlight anywhere that I'm aware of.



And finally for now... does a PtF still require a periodic certification check to revalidate the Permit? And if so, is this as 'strict' as a CoA or something much simpler?

An annual inspection and check-flight, taking typically half a day to a day - much simpler and cheaper than a CofA renewal. For a CofA renewal it's basically a strip-down inspection with the licenced engineer (or maintenance organisation) taking responsibility for the airworthiness of the aircraft. For a permit renewal, it's essentially an audit of the owner's good care and maintenance of the aeroplane, so the owner continues to have primary responsibility.


Is there any clear statically proven safety benefit to flying a CofA machine over a Permit machine?

My stats are a bit out of date, but circa 2001...

PtF light aeroplanes: 1 fatal per 33,000 hrs
Microlights: 1 fatal per 50,000 hrs
CofA light aeroplanes: 1 fatal per 70,000 hrs

(Gliders and light helicopters are about the same as microlights). Offering an opinion, I think that the differences here are almost entirely down to differences in the way the classes are operated, and not the basic safety of the various aircraft. For example, PtF light aeroplanes tend to be more operated from "solo" strips, microlights from clubs where there's a lot of safety support, and CofA aeroplanes spend most of their time around flying club environments which are quite strictly regulated by the local CFI. [This is however purely opinion!]

G

Mike Cross
3rd Oct 2006, 17:46
I am of the view that a good regulatory regime and a good aircraft design can both be achieved by the same method:-
"Simplicate and add lightness"

An annual inspection and check-flight, taking typically half a day to a day
We must be doing it too well. Two and a half days is typical for us with three of us working on it. Compression check on the engine, oil and filter changes, a thorough strip out and clean, rocker covers off for a rocker pivot lug inspection, drop the lift struts for a spar inspection, spar carry through inspection, gascolator clean, contol wire and fuel pipe inspections, remove all fairings and inspection panels, go over it with a fine tooth comb and fettle anything that needs it. Timing check, remove all spark plugs, clean repaint and refit. Remove and clean wheel bearings, pack with new grease and reassemble. Check and adjust brakes. Engine ground run and airtest and do all the paperwork.

Mike

tonyhalsall
3rd Oct 2006, 17:55
We must be doing it too well. Two and a half days is typical for us with three of us working on it. Compression check on the engine, oil and filter changes, a thorough strip out and clean, rocker covers off for a rocker pivot lug inspection, drop the lift struts for a spar inspection, spar carry through inspection, gascolator clean, contol wire and fuel pipe inspections, remove all fairings and inspection panels, go over it with a fine tooth comb and fettle anything that needs it. Timing check, remove all spark plugs, clean repaint and refit. Remove and clean wheel bearings, pack with new grease and reassemble. Check and adjust brakes. Engine ground run and airtest and do all the paperwork.
Mike

Strewth.........................................

I have to say that Eurostar first year Permit check took no more than an hour (OK two if you count taking off the inspection panels) plus the flight test. Taking into account messing around, cups of tea and tinkering I'd say half a day was about right.
I guess older aircraft with more complex engines would take longer though.

Genghis the Engineer
3rd Oct 2006, 18:01
I have to say Mike, that sounds much more like the LAMS annual than the PFA Permit renewal. What the heck is a PFA inspector doing removing rocker covers ???????

G

robin
3rd Oct 2006, 18:49
Things are becoming a little bit clearer...
So, if I go for a VLA with a PtF then I'm not allowed IMC/IR or night flying. That's OK. I'm also not allowed to overfly built up areas - is there a definition of what this means? When does a house, or collection of houses, become a built up area?


Have a look at the PFA website on this. They have made an application to the CAA to revisit this rule as it is almost impossible to follow the 'overfly' rule.

Whereas Cof A a/c are allowed to fly under the 'land clear' rule, PtF a/c are forbidden to overfly anything at any height. This leads to the nonsense of the Sally B or any of the 'warbird' jets having to avoid buildings even when they are at 15,000'!!

Given the safety record of the PFA fleet, this is obviously stupid, but that has never stopped the Campaign Against Aviation before!

Rod1
3rd Oct 2006, 18:54
I'm also not allowed to overfly built up areas - is there a definition of what this means? When does a house, or collection of houses, become a built up area?

Real world answer is that nobody has ever been prosecuted for this and the PFA are in an advanced stage of negotiation to get this restriction removed.

Are there restrictions on CAS entry?

None that would not apply to a C of A machine

Would a VLA be classed as a microlight for those airports/airfields which don't allow microlights?

I fly a VLA, which has an almost identical Micro version. The airfields which only accept micros welcome me, the airfields which only accept SEP (Group A) accept me, but the really good bit is that I often get charged the micro landing fee at airfields which accept both Micro and SEP!

Rod1

slim_slag
3rd Oct 2006, 18:59
Reason for the questions: I'm currently toying with the thought of diving in and making an outright purchase or joining a group and want to get to know what's what.Ah, in that case you question you should be asking is what the "various classifications of GA aircraft" are going to be like in five years time, and what the regulatory burdens are going to be on each.

Rod1
3rd Oct 2006, 19:01
I thought that PFA maintenance had to be based on LAMS unless a manufacturer schedule was available which was approved by the PFA?
Rod1

Genghis the Engineer
3rd Oct 2006, 19:33
I thought that PFA maintenance had to be based on LAMS unless a manufacturer schedule was available which was approved by the PFA?
Rod1

It is, but there's a difference between the owner maintaining the aircraft to LAMS, and the inspector deciding to do a duplicate LAMS annual at permit renewal time.

Of-course, there's much to be said for co-inciding them: i.e. asking the inspector to come along and inspect just as you're finishing the annual, then he gets a much better view of the maintenance practices on that aircraft than otherwise. But, you need a reasonably local and patient inspector for that.

G

Mike Cross
3rd Oct 2006, 20:12
What the heck is a PFA inspector doing removing rocker covers ???????

Well he's not, we are. There's an AD on the C85 that requires the cast lugs on the cylinder heads through which the rocker shafts pass to be inspected for cracks. Someone has to do it! BTW I missed off removing the heater jackets so the exhaust can be inspected for cracks. Also on the Luscombe the prop has to come off to remove the cowling so that has to be to re-torqued and safety wired.

Fair do's, I'm 57 and the aeroplane was born a year before me so it's had time to accumulate the odd AD. It's also more likely to need fettling than something only a year or two old. This time it was a couple of baffle braces and we were going to replace the tailwheel pivot bush but guess who ordered the wrong size?

Mike