Exploring E-LSAs: Experimental Light Sport Aircraft

E-LSA stands for experimental light sport aircraft. Let’s explore what E-LSAs are, the types, and why they’re important!

The realm of aviation has always been a space for innovation and creativity. From the initial flights of the Wright Brothers to the advent of modern supersonic jets, the aviation industry has ceaselessly sought to expand our capabilities and horizons. One of the most recent and exciting developments in this field is the E-LSA – Experimental Light Sport Aircraft.

An E-LSA is a unique blend of technological advancement and ease of accessibility. It’s the category of aircraft that allows amateur-built aircraft and light-sport aircraft to push boundaries, testing new concepts, and exploring the limits of flight. This combination of innovation and flexibility makes E-LSAs a fascinating subject in the current aviation landscape.

This website is reader-supported, which means we may be paid when you visit links to partner or featured sites, or by advertising on the site. For more information please read my Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

e-LSA, light sport aircraft
One of the most revolutionary applications of the E-LSA category is the development of electric propulsion.

Light-sport Aircraft

Light-sport aircraft (LSA) are a class of simple, low-performance aircraft that are lighter and easier to fly than most general aviation aircraft. They were introduced to increase the accessibility of flight, and include both factory-built S-LSAs (Special Light Sport Aircraft) and E-LSAs. All LSAs, whether experimental or special, must meet certain criteria including weight, speed, and complexity limitations.

“A Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) is a small 2 seat aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 600kg. The LSA category was first introduced into the US in 2004 followed by Australia in 2006.”


Defining E-LSAs – what is an experimental light sport aircraft

E-LSA stands for Experimental Light Sport Aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States has designed this category for light aircraft used for non-commercial purposes. An E-LSA is primarily intended to be used for sport and recreation, flight training, and aircraft demonstration.

What distinguishes E-LSAs is their accessibility to private individuals and hobbyists. The aircraft can be self-constructed from a kit, modifying an existing aircraft, or entirely self-designed. The owner/builder must perform the majority of the build process, often referred to as the ‘51% rule.’

This rule makes building your own aircraft an achievable goal, allowing for countless creative designs and cutting-edge innovations.

LSA, light sport aircraft, evektor harmony
The Evektor Harmony – a Czech Republic-made LSA 
Photo Credit: Evektor.com

Why Are E-LSAs Important?

There are a few reasons why E-LSAs are gaining popularity in the aviation world:

  1. Innovation: E-LSAs allow for considerable creativity and innovation in aircraft design. Experimenting with E-LSAs, designers can test new materials, aerodynamic features, propulsion methods, and more.
  2. Education: Building an E-LSA can be an invaluable learning experience. It offers hands-on education about aerodynamics, mechanics, electronics, and other aviation-related fields.
  3. Accessibility: E-LSAs make aircraft ownership and operation more accessible. Building your own aircraft can be a more affordable route to aircraft ownership, and flying an E-LSA requires only a Sport Pilots License, which is easier and less expensive to acquire than a Private Pilot License.
  4. Green Aviation: The E-LSA category makes it possible for innovators to explore electric and hybrid propulsion systems. This exploration will contribute to the ongoing quest for greener, more sustainable aviation.
viper SD4 attack, LSA
The Viper SD4 Attack – a 2 seater LSA, ideal for recreational flying.
Photo credit: tomarkaero.com

The E-LSA and Electric Propulsion

One of the most revolutionary applications of the E-LSA category is the development of electric propulsion. While electrically powered aircraft have been in conceptual development for decades, practical implementation has been limited due to challenges like energy density and weight issues.

The E-LSA category provides an opportunity for researchers, inventors, and hobbyists to experiment with electric propulsion in a real-world setting. Many aircraft enthusiasts are drawn to electric propulsion for its environmental benefits and the promise of more straightforward, cheaper maintenance.

It opens doors to a greener and more sustainable future in aviation.

Sport Pilot for Certified Pilots

The Sport Pilots License is a crucial aspect of E-LSA operations, providing a more accessible path to the skies for those interested in recreational flying. Designed to be simpler and more affordable to acquire than a full Private Pilot License, it nonetheless requires thorough training and certification.

Current pilots holding higher level certificates, such as a Private Pilot License, can also exercise the privileges of a Sport Pilot without the need for a separate sport pilot certificate, but they must still check the aircraft’s operating instructions and adhere to sport pilot flight rules and aircraft limitations when piloting an E-LSA.

Experimental amateur-built aircraft

E-LSAs fall under the broader category of experimental amateur-built (EAB) aircraft. These are aircraft where the majority of the building process, often referred to as the ‘51% rule’, is carried out by an individual or group who undertakes the project for their own education or recreation. EAB aircraft are not limited to light sport and can encompass a wide variety of designs, sizes, and performance capabilities.

Airworthiness of E-LSA’s

When it comes to airworthiness, E-LSAs must pass an initial airworthiness inspection by a Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR) or an FAA inspector. They are then issued a special airworthiness certificate. Afterward, the responsibility for ensuring continued airworthiness lies with the owner and is not subject to the same level of oversight as production-built aircraft. E-LSA owners can perform their own maintenance and make modifications, but they must maintain a comprehensive log of all work completed.

Experimental Amateur-Builts

Experimental Amateur-Built (EAB) aircraft is part of the experimental aircraft categories and is a category that allows aircraft to be constructed by individuals for their own education and recreation. EABs encompass a wider range of aircraft than E-LSAs and include projects that can range from traditional aircraft to the most innovative designs. The key stipulation is that the builder must be involved in the construction process and that the aircraft is not intended for commercial use.

“Under FAA regulations, if an individual builds at least 51 percent of an aircraft, the aircraft is eligible to be registered in the amateur-built category.  They are available in kits (where some of the airplane is already fabricated), or plans (where the builder purchases or manufactures all the parts and assembles them).  These airplanes are also commonly known as “homebuilts,” for the obvious reason that many individuals construct these aircraft at home, often in their garages.”


FAA § 21.191 Experimental Certificates

The FAA’s § 21.191 outlines the conditions under which experimental certificates are issued. These include research and development, showing compliance with regulations, crew training, exhibition, air racing, market surveys, and operating amateur-built and light-sport aircraft. This wide-ranging regulation is key to understanding the various types of experimental aircraft, including E-LSAs.


While all three of these categories fall under the larger umbrella of light sport aircraft, there are crucial differences between EABs, E-LSAs, and S-LSAs. EAB aircraft can be of any design and complexity, so long as the builder plays a significant role in its creation. E-LSAs, on the other hand, are specific to the light-sport category, are simpler in design, and may be used for recreational flying and flight instruction. Meanwhile, S-LSAs are factory-built light sport aircraft that meet consensus standards and cannot be altered without factory or FAA approval.

LSA, Rans S20 Raven
The Rans S-20 Raven – Rans is a popular kit plane manufacturer
Photo credit: rans.com

Summary of E-LSAs: The Future of Aviation

With their unique blend of accessibility, innovation potential, and educational opportunities, E-LSAs represent an exciting frontier in aviation. They provide a platform for both aspiring and experienced pilots to push the boundaries of what is possible, leading to potential breakthroughs that could reshape the entire industry.

From the development of more efficient electric engines to advancements in aerodynamic design and materials science, the light sport aircraft category offers a proving ground for the technologies that may drive the future of aviation. By creating an accessible way for people to participate in this process, the E-LSA category could help democratize aviation and spur a new wave of progress.

While it’s hard to predict exactly what the future will hold for E-LSAs, their potential for fostering innovation is undeniable. As more people get involved with building and flying these unique aircraft, the sky is truly the limit.

The rise of E-LSAs is a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of aviation. It offers a unique blend of tradition – the age-old dream of flight – with the promise of a future that could change the way we see and interact with the world. It’s an exciting time to be part of the aviation community, and we look forward to seeing where these innovations will take us next.

Have you flown or wanted to fly light sport aircraft? Let us know about your experience in the comments section!

proaviationtips banner ad
ken johnson


Ken is a passionate aviator, a professional pilot and flight instructor. He has over 17 years of flight experience across hundreds of aircraft ranging from recreational, aerobatic, historic, commercial and military aircraft, training hundreds of students along the way. Find out more.

Ken has 124 posts and counting. See all posts by Ken

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *