July 31, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - EAA
and amateur aircraft builders are anticipating a victory when the FAA
publishes its final report, slated for August 17, on changes in agency
policies for administering the Amateur Built Aircraft rules. Earl
Lawrence, EAA vice president for government and industry relations, said
the draft final report leaves intact an amateur builder's freedom to build
any kind of aircraft, of any type, size, and complexity, so long as he or
she completes "the major portion" of the project-the "51%
The draft report would also preserve the
option for commercial builder assistance and affirms that existing
amateur-built kits would be grandfathered to minimize the impact of FAA
policy changes on kit manufacturers and amateur builders and to ensure a
fair transition to the new policies over time.
The draft report abandons the so-called
"20/20/11" formula. Last year the agency proposed requiring
amateur builders to show that at least 20 percent of the amateur-built
project involved "fabrication," and no more than 20 percent
involved "assembly," with the remaining 11 percent (up to a
total of 51 percent) could be a combination of fabrication and assembly.
EAA and amateur builders argued that the proposed policy did not draw a
clear distinction between fabrication and assembly, and moreover, that the
20/20/11 would be unnecessarily complicated and would do little to curb
abuses of the 51% Rule.
The draft report defines
"fabrication" in more detail:
"...to perform work on any material, part or component,
such as layout, bending, countersinking, straightening, cutting, sewing,
gluing/bonding, lay-up, forming, shaping, trimming, drilling, de-burring,
machining, applying protective coatings, surface preparation and priming,
riveting, welding or heat treating, transforming the material, part or
component toward or into its finished state."
Along with the new definition, the draft
report calls for the FAA to update the amateur-built construction
checklist for each kit on the FAA approved kits list. The existing
checklists use a "did it/didn't do it" format for each task. The
new checklists would allow the builder to document his or her contribution
to each task in more detail, without unduly complicating the process of
Under the draft report, the FAA would also
establish a National Kit Evaluation Team (NKET) to evaluate new and
existing kits to determine their conformity with the 51% Rule. (Kits that
are already on the FAA's list of approved kits will NOT be re-evaluated.)
A single team evaluating about 20 kits a year should provide quicker and
more consistent evaluations of kits at a lower cost to manufacturers.
Finally the draft report also notes that previously type-certificated (TC)
aircraft that have been altered, modified, or repaired cannot be
certificated as experimental amateur-builts-that converting a TC aircraft
to an experimental does not meet the 51% Rule.
Two years ago, FAA officials argued that
new policies on amateur-built aircraft were needed to curb abuses of the
51% Rule, especially abuses involving commercial builder assistance. The
agency chartered an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), co-chaired by
Lawrence and Van's Aircraft founder Dick Van Grunsven, to consider what
policy changes were needed. After the FAA issued its proposed policy
changes in July 2008, thousands of EAA members and other amateur builders
commented, overwhelmingly in opposition to the FAA proposal. The ARC
reconvened in early 2009 to consider all the comments.
"The draft report embodies many of the
ARC's recommendations," said Lawrence. "Last year, EAA amateur
builders argued that the FAA could effectively curb abuses of the 51% Rule
by consistently enforcing the rules and policies then in place. The new
policies adopted by the FAA will help amateur-builders to document their
projects more accurately and help the FAA to enforce the 51% more
consistently, without unnecessarily complicating the lives of amateur
Van Grunsven said that EAA and industry
participation in shaping the new policy draft "was very beneficial.
If the FAA had just gone off into its smoke-filled room to do this, I
can't imagine what might have happened."
Joe Bartell, president of Lancair Aircraft,
told the audience, "Without EAA, this would not have taken