Ask the DAR

Exhibition category certification.


The Russian-built Bear 360 is a design flying in the U.S. on an Experimental/Exhibition license, which, in part, permits it to be flown for demonstration at airshows.

Question: I was too late to get my two-seat powered parachute certificated as an ELSA. Is there another classification I can use, such as Experimental/Exhibition?

Answer: A lot of people missed the January 31, 2008, deadline for being grandfathered into Light Sport. To be eligible for certification in the Experimental Light Sport (ELSA) category, the aircraft registration must have been in the system before this date. The most frequent excuse I hear is, I wasn’t aware of the deadline. Well, the deadline was there for more than three years. Almost all of these aircraft have two seats and were legally flown for INSTRUCTION ONLY. They were even so placarded. To be flown legally, they had to be flown by an instructor, and the instructor should have known the rules. If they were primarily flown by other than an instructor, then they were being flown illegally anyway. To my knowledge, there is no other certification classification available under these circumstances.

While getting your aircraft certificated under Experimental/Exhibition is possible, it is not within the primary purpose of the classification. If you go to FAR part 21.191(d), you will see that Exhibition is for Exhibiting the aircrafts flight capabilities, performance, or unusual characteristics at airshows, motion picture, television, and similar productions, and the maintenance of exhibition flight proficiency, including (for persons exhibiting aircraft) flying to and from such airshows and productions.

Some DARs and even some FSDOs are known to use the Experimental/Exhibition classification for certificating aircraft that don’t fit anywhere else. Personally, I consider using the Exhibition class in this instance as skirting the rules. This is one reason that I do not do Exhibition certifications at all.

Aircraft certificated as Experimental/Exhibition require that the owner annually submit a program letter to the FSDO stating what airshows he will be attending. If a show comes up after the program letter is submitted, the program letter must be amended. For flights other than demonstrating at airshows, the aircraft must be flown from the assigned airport and return to that airport. If the pilot needs to go to another airport, he must submit an amendment to the program letter stating why this is necessary. There is also a 300-mile limitation from the home base airport, but that should not be a factor for a powered parachute.

The bottom line is, yes, you can do it by the letter of the rule, but not in the spirit of the rule. As you might have guessed, Experimental/Exhibition is not my favorite topic. I think it is greatly abused. Good luck.

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

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Mel Asberry
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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