The ASTM committees for light sport aircraft recently voted to prohibit the use of special light sport aircraft in actual instrument meteorological conditions. The committee members have not yet agreed on whether SLSA should be operated in IMC, but they have elected to go ahead with the indefinite ban until such an agreement can be made.
The ban still requires further approval and FAA acceptance before it takes effect and even when it does it will not be retroactive. All currently flying SLSA that are properly equipped and operated by qualified pilots will be allowed to operate in actual instrument conditions. This will not prevent the aircraft from being used as instrument trainers or operating on IFR flight plans provided they remain under visual conditions. Additionally, the ban has no affect on operation of SLSA at night.
The ban is intended to limit liability concerns until the committees can establish a standard for IFR-capable SLSA. Once such a standard is developed, manufacturers would be permitted to remove placards prohibiting flight in actual instrument conditions from compliant aircraft. Regardless of standards, individual manufacturers can prohibit operation of their SLSA in actual instrument conditions.
This is an important development in the area of SLSA and one that could have far reaching implications in price and adoption of SLSA. In order to meet potential requirements for instrument flight, SLSA manufacturers would see increased costs that could drive up the sticker price. Additionally, many instrument-rated pilots and flight schools who might have adopted SLSA could elect to stick with FAA-certified aircraft, which would represent a significant blow to SLSA markets.
How could this affect your flying? If you are considering an SLSA, would a permanent ban on flight in actual instrument conditions change your mind?