Are amateur-built aircraft operations
getting safer? Can industry identify any trends involving them and take
steps to improve their safety even further?
Those are the two main questions members
of the Amateur-Built Joint Safety Committee (AB-JSC) wrestled with
Tuesday on the grounds of EAA AirVenture 2010.
And in response to the committee’s
efforts new help is being developed to aid pilots’ understanding of
safety challenges specific to flying amateur-built aircraft.
Composed of EAA staff and FAA managers,
the committee met to receive updates on several of its ongoing projects—all
of which are designed to improve the safety record of amateur-built
One of the central problems with which
the committee is wrestling involves the quality of accident data.
While amateur-built aircraft have been
around for decades, the various records kept by the FAA, National
Transportation Safety Board, and others aren’t always sufficient to
identify trends, whether good or bad.
That’s because the available
information about many accidents involving experimental aircraft doesn’t
distinguish between amateur-built and other types of experimentals.
Regardless of ongoing efforts to refine
and ensure the accuracy of related data, some factors affecting
amateur-built aircraft safety are well-known.
They include training, poor fuel
management, weather-related loss of control, and a pilot’s
understanding of a specific aircraft’s characteristics—or lack
One way to address these accident causes—which,
after all, are not that different from those experienced with
certificated aircraft—is education.
That’s why the AB-JSC is nearing
completion on developing an FAA advisory circular designed to help
pilots and amateur-built aircraft owners identify and understand these
potential accident causes and the challenges they pose.
That advisory circular will be available,
at least in draft form, later this year.
Meanwhile, the AB-JSC will continue
working on ways to identify and quantify accidents involving
amateur-built aircraft, including information-collection refinements and
After all, if the homebuilt community
doesn’t take steps to improve safety, it’s likely someone will do it