Ask the DAR

Night VFR in an ELSA, flying from the right seat, ELSA certification for an original design.


Question: My Carbon Cub ELSA has a day VFR restriction from the factory since it was originally an SLSA. Since it has the appropriate lighting for night VFR and has been changed to an ELSA, can a logbook entry make it night VFR legal, or does it have to remain the same since it is in the LSA category, even if a Private Pilot is flying it?

In the past, I had a couple of E/A-B planes signed off as day VFR, but the DAR said as soon as I got the lights installed to just make a logbook entry that it is capable for night VFR, so I’m wondering.

Answer: Once an aircraft has been changed from SLSA to ELSA, it is no longer in the Light-Sport category. It is now in the Experimental category. At ELSA certification, new operating limitations will be issued that will include the following paragraph:

“Day VFR flight operations are authorized. Night flight operations are authorized if the instruments specified in 91.205(c) are installed, operational, and maintained in accordance with the applicable requirements of part 91. Instrument flight operations are authorized if the instruments specified in

91.205(d) are installed, operational, and maintained in accordance with the applicable requirements of part 91. All maintenance or inspection of this equipment must be recorded in the aircraft maintenance records and include the following items: date, work performed, and name and certificate number of the person returning the aircraft to service.”

Of course a Sport Pilot is limited to day VFR. However, the aircraft may be flown at night and/or IFR if it is properly equipped and flown by a qualified pilot.

Question: I like the idea of flying with my right hand on the stick and left hand on throttle. Since I’m building a plane with side-by-side seating, that means I’ll be flying from the right seat. Are there any regulations that say you must fly a side-by-side plane from the left seat? Are there any disadvantages to flying from the right seat?

Answer: There are absolutely no rules against flying from either seat as long as the seat you choose has full flight and engine controls. Lots of people fly from the right seat. I have an RV-6 in my shop right now for a condition inspection that the owner flies from the right seat. That said, my recommendation is that you don’t install “non-standard” controls. I have seen people install the throttle to the right of the mixture because they were going to be flying from the right seat. It’s much better to keep things standard.

Question: Is it possible to construct an ELSA of my own design as long as it meets LSA weight and speed requirements and is found to be airworthy by the FAA?

Answer: The only paths to ELSA are:

• FAR part 21.191(i)(2). This is a certificated ELSA kit offered by the manufacturer and must be submitted with an FAA Form 8130-15, certificate of compliance from the kit manufacturer.

• FAR part 21.191(i)(3). This is a conversion from Light Sport to the Experimental category.

Even though you cannot certificate an aircraft as an ELSA, you can register it as Experimental/Amateur-Built. As long as it meets LSA parameters, regardless of the type of certification, it may still be flown by a Sport Pilot.

Please send your questions for DAR Asberry to [email protected] with “Ask the DAR” in the subject line.

Mel Asberry is an experienced Designated Airworthiness Representative specializing in Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft. He and his wife, Ann, have built seven amateur-built airplanes including two ultralight types, a Moni Motorglider, a Dragonfly Mk2, two RV-6s and a Zenair CH 601HDS. They are currently building a scratch-built biplane.


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