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Glider Importing and Sample Program Letter

Following is a discussion on importing a Glider or Motorglider into the United States. Following the discussion is a sample Program Letter that may be used when applying for an Experimental Air Racing or Exhibition Airworthiness Certificate and the accompanying Special Flight Authorization (SFA).

The controlling regulation is FAR 21.191(d) and the relevant document for licensing of Experimental gliders is FAA Order 8130.2D (and subsequent changes). The most relevant sections of 8130.2D for gliders are Section 8 Certification and Operation of Aircraft Under the Experimental Purposes of Exhibition and Air Racing. This starts on Page 117, Paragraph 136. SSA members are cautioned to consult with their local Flight Standards District Office or Manufacturing Inspection District Office prior to applying for the Experimental Airworthiness certificate for Experimental Air Racing or Exhibition purposes. FAA will assign a number of restrictions to the Special Flight Authorization, recognizing the experimental (and not yet certificated in the United States) nature of the aircraft. An application will be required, and FAA will require an initial Program Letter from the applicant, as well as annual updates. Owners are cautioned to make sure that their specific aircraft and serial number is covered under the FAA regulations.

When importing a sailplane, the FSDO or MIDO will require:

1). A certificate of non-registration (for new gliders) or a certificate of de-registration from the exporting country;

2). An Export Certificate of Airworthiness from the exporting country (with various required statements depending on whether the glider model has been granted Type Certification in the United States);

3). Application for registration in the United States;

4). Application for an FAA Airworthiness Certificate, and possibly other documents to prove ownership or eligibility for airworthiness certification in the United States.

In every case, consult with an individual in the FAA FSDO or MIDO for the latest requirements and for their advice before importing a foreign glider. Also seek advice from your dealer or broker when you intend to import a glider so all details are simplified as much as possible. Dealers for major manufacturers should provide assistance in the licensing and continuing airworthiness of the gliders they import into the United States. There is less paperwork and much less restriction when importing a glider that has already been type-certificated in the United States.

Members should note that FAA will most likely assign a proficiency flight area for experimental gliders as follows: "All proficiency flights shall be conducted within the geographical area described in the applicant-s program letter and any modifications to that letter, but that area will not exceed 300 nautical miles of the aircraft-s home base airport" (Ref: FAA Order 8130.2D, Page 129, Par 142, Note 32.).

Members should also note that proficiency flights for experimental gliders may be allowed by FAA: "without geographic restrictions when conducted in preparation for participation in sanctioned meets and pursuant to qualify for Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) or Soaring Society of America (SSA) awards. These flights may only take place as defined in the aircraft program letter and prior to the specific FAI or SSA event. The pilot in command must submit a description of the intended route and/or geographical area intended to be flown to the local FSDO." (Ref: FAA Order 8130.2D, Page 129, Par 142 , Note 33.).

If specific questions arise in this process, call the SSA for assistance from the volunteer Chair of the Aircraft Certification Subcommittee.

As part of the experimental certification application a Program letter (with annual updates) will be required. Following is a sample letter that may be modified to fit the exact needs of each specific applicant.

Jim Short 

Sample Program Letter

Posted: 4/21/2002


Government Liaison Committee 

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