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Steve Sliwa

Pipistrel has challenges with the FAA

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Steve Sliwa
A European light aircraft manufacturer is claiming the FAA has suspended imports of its aircraft to the U.S. because it couldn't locate one of its factories with a Google Earth search. Michael Coates, who handles U.S. distribution for Slovenia-based Pipistrel Aircraft, said the company has since provided ample proof that the factory does exist but have been given no indication when the importation ban might be lifted. "The FAA has used Google Earth to validate certification data," Coates told AVweb. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said she is looking into the matter but was unable to respond in time for our deadline. Coates said the Google searcher didn't plug the right data into his computer and the little pushpin landed on a traffic circle rather than an airport. The simple explanation is that the FAA staffer used the plant's mailing address, which is about 1,000 feet from the physical location of the factory in an Italian city near the border with Slovenia. "He just didn't zoom out enough," Coates said. However, it's more complicated than that. The action is related to anannouncement by the FAA in July that it would be cracking down on possible importation abuses in the LSA industry.

Slovenia does not have a bilateral agreement with the U.S. on aircraft certification so it cannot export aircraft to the U.S. To get around that issue, Coates said Pipistrel set up a manufacturing facility in Italy, which does have a bilateral agreement. He said the plant is operated in accordance with Italian regulations and the entire aircraft is built at the Italian plant. "Everyone knows it's there," he said. The Italian operation had to move recently but Coates said the FAA has been supplied with all the lease agreements with Fly Synthesis, which is renting Pipistrel temporary space for the next two years. Coates said Pipistrel has offered to fly FAA officials to Italy at its own expense to show them the plant and it's also said they are welcome to pay an unannounced visit. "We have an open-door policy," he said. In the meantime, there are customers waiting for aircraft and Coates said he has a hard time contacting anyone at the FAA. When someone does answer the phone, he said, they will say only that the issue is under review and cannot give a timeframe for resolution of the issue. Coates said he's asked for help from EAA and the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association but has been disappointed by their response. He said Sen. Jim Inhofe is aware of the issue and is knocking on doors in Washington.

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Steve Sliwa
A European light aircraft manufacturer is claiming the FAA has suspended imports of its aircraft to the U.S. because it couldn't locate one of its factories with a Google Earth search. Michael Coates, who handles U.S. distribution for Slovenia-based Pipistrel Aircraft, said the company has since provided ample proof that the factory does exist but have been given no indication when the importation ban might be lifted. "The FAA has used Google Earth to validate certification data," Coates told AVweb. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said she is looking into the matter but was unable to respond in time for our deadline. Coates said the Google searcher didn't plug the right data into his computer and the little pushpin landed on a traffic circle rather than an airport. The simple explanation is that the FAA staffer used the plant's mailing address, which is about 1,000 feet from the physical location of the factory in an Italian city near the border with Slovenia. "He just didn't zoom out enough," Coates said. However, it's more complicated than that. The action is related to anannouncement by the FAA in July that it would be cracking down on possible importation abuses in the LSA industry.

Slovenia does not have a bilateral agreement with the U.S. on aircraft certification so it cannot export aircraft to the U.S. To get around that issue, Coates said Pipistrel set up a manufacturing facility in Italy, which does have a bilateral agreement. He said the plant is operated in accordance with Italian regulations and the entire aircraft is built at the Italian plant. "Everyone knows it's there," he said. The Italian operation had to move recently but Coates said the FAA has been supplied with all the lease agreements with Fly Synthesis, which is renting Pipistrel temporary space for the next two years. Coates said Pipistrel has offered to fly FAA officials to Italy at its own expense to show them the plant and it's also said they are welcome to pay an unannounced visit. "We have an open-door policy," he said. In the meantime, there are customers waiting for aircraft and Coates said he has a hard time contacting anyone at the FAA. When someone does answer the phone, he said, they will say only that the issue is under review and cannot give a timeframe for resolution of the issue. Coates said he's asked for help from EAA and the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association but has been disappointed by their response. He said Sen. Jim Inhofe is aware of the issue and is knocking on doors in Washington.

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Steve Sliwa

Here is an update

Pipistrel Aircraft is back in business in the U.S. after the FAA re-examined its position on the manufacturing site of the speedy composite LSAs and ended an import ban on the aircraft. As we reported in Wednesday's AVwebBiz, Pipistrel spokesman Michael Coates said the FAA imposed the ban after a staff member was unable to verify the location of Pipistrel's Italian factory on Google Earth. After a late-night inquiry by AVweb on Tuesday, the FAA issued the following statement Wednesday:

Earlier this year, Pipistrel's Italian-based light-sport aircraft subsidiary submitted an application to the FAA for special LSA airworthiness certification on a Taurus 503 motor glider. The FAA wanted to ensure that the application included sufficient proof the aircraft were built in Italy. We now believe we have sufficient evidence that the aircraft are manufactured at the Italian facility. We will contact Mr. Coates of Pipistrel to resolve the remaining issues. In describing the various aspects of our inquiry, staff anecdotally indicated that the Pipistrel LSA SRL facility was not visible on Google Earth, but that was not an official factor in considering the application.

Pipistrel's home base is in Slovenia, a few miles from the Italian border. Because Slovenia does not have a bilateral agreement with the FAA on aircraft certification, it cannot send aircraft from its main factory to the U.S. To get access to the U.S. market the company built a factory in Italy, which does have a bilateral agreement with the U.S. Coates told AVweb the FAA has been invited on numerous occasions to visit the plant but has never done so.

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Steve Sliwa

Here is an update

Pipistrel Aircraft is back in business in the U.S. after the FAA re-examined its position on the manufacturing site of the speedy composite LSAs and ended an import ban on the aircraft. As we reported in Wednesday's AVwebBiz, Pipistrel spokesman Michael Coates said the FAA imposed the ban after a staff member was unable to verify the location of Pipistrel's Italian factory on Google Earth. After a late-night inquiry by AVweb on Tuesday, the FAA issued the following statement Wednesday:

Earlier this year, Pipistrel's Italian-based light-sport aircraft subsidiary submitted an application to the FAA for special LSA airworthiness certification on a Taurus 503 motor glider. The FAA wanted to ensure that the application included sufficient proof the aircraft were built in Italy. We now believe we have sufficient evidence that the aircraft are manufactured at the Italian facility. We will contact Mr. Coates of Pipistrel to resolve the remaining issues. In describing the various aspects of our inquiry, staff anecdotally indicated that the Pipistrel LSA SRL facility was not visible on Google Earth, but that was not an official factor in considering the application.

Pipistrel's home base is in Slovenia, a few miles from the Italian border. Because Slovenia does not have a bilateral agreement with the FAA on aircraft certification, it cannot send aircraft from its main factory to the U.S. To get access to the U.S. market the company built a factory in Italy, which does have a bilateral agreement with the U.S. Coates told AVweb the FAA has been invited on numerous occasions to visit the plant but has never done so.

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