Arlington Airport set to soar

  • By Evan Caldwell / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, August 8, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

New federal rules easing requirements on sport pilot licenses should pick up activity at the Arlington Airport, already a center for ultralight aircraft.

The rule allows people to pilot sport ultralights after as little as 20 hours of flight instruction,

“(The new rule) puts flying on par with snowmobiling and skiing,” said Barbara Tolbert, the executive director of the Arlington-based Northwest Experimental Aircraft Association. “This makes it much more feasible to fly. … It’s exciting.”

Adopted a few years ago by Canada and parts of Europe, the new rule allows these aircraft to be manufactured and sold after Sept. 1 without having to comply with the FAA’s detailed airworthiness standards.

“I think it has the potential to bring in lots of businesses and money,” Tolbert said. “It significantly reduces the cost of producing an aircraft” and may brings manufacturers to the Arlington airport.

With the easier requirements, more companies should start producing more affordable planes, said Brian Greene, Arlington airport commissioner.

“Instead of buying that SUV or a boat, people will now have the option to get an aircraft. That’s one of the biggest advantages (to this rule),” he said.

Greene said he thinks the demand for these aircraft and aircraft parts will increase, providing a niche for businesses to pop up.

“There have been people that have expressed interest in getting a business there and … people will start to make plans,” he said. “If there is a demand, someone will jump up and fill that void.”

Bruce Angell, owner of the Arlington Sport Aviation Park, predicts the new rule will invigorate the dwindling general aviation community. “We absolutely think the sport pilot will be no less than the salvation of general aviation,” Angell said. “It’s the best thing in the past 50 years.”

He said the rule puts aviation on a more level playing field when competing for consumers’ recreational dollars.

“With lower costs, we think that we’re going to see a huge influx of pilots and sport aircraft in the next three years,” Angell said. “The barriers are coming down – cost, training, license, insurance rates are all more affordable.”

Greene and Tolbert agreed that the new rule will woo back former pilots and new people to the industry, hopefully pumping money into the area economy.

Greene said the new rule allows him to get back in the skies after being forced out due to a medical condition.

“A lot of people have been calling expressing interest,” Tolbert said.

However, she said it will take about a year to get all the components in place to develop the proper curriculum and help train new pilots.

The rule sets safety standards for the 15,000 people who will now earn FAA certificates to operate more than 15,000 existing uncertified ultralight-like aircraft. Another 12,000 pilots and new aircraft will be certified throughout the next 10 years, according to the FAA.

The rule’s safety requirements should also give this general aviation community better access to insurance, financing and airports.

Greene said another advantage to the rule is now sport and experimental aircraft have their own category – “N.”

“It will enhance the acceptance of the aircraft because before there was a feeling that it was off by itself,” Greene said.

The new classification also allows for streamlined repair, registration and manufacturing of the aircraft, making it easier for these businesses to operate.

Prior to the rule, sport and experimental aircraft flying hours did not count toward another flight activity, but now people can use these aircraft as a launching pad to more complex flying.

“The dream to fly is still out there,” Angell said, “just that now people can afford it.”

Reporter Evan Caldwell: 425-339-3475 or

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