In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration created a new category of airplanes, called Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), to make it easier and cheaper for manufacturers to certify simple, fun-to-fly airplanes.
The new rules have allowed for the creation of dozens of new two-seat airplane designs. None of these are electric, however, because in the preamble to the rule, the FAA wrote that all planes in this class must have “a single, reciprocating engine, if powered.”
The point of the rule, FAA officials acknowledge, was to keep more powerful turbine engines out of the picture. The banning of electric powertrains is unfortunate collateral damage.
“This is the thing that has scuttled electric aircraft’s significant development, for years,” says Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturing Association, a trade group. “Just by changing six or eight words, you could undo the problem — but we can’t get there.”