July 3, 2014 - The FAA is inviting public comments on a new EAA-supported program designed to give homebuilders better access to safety and flexibility during Phase 1 flight testing. The Additional Pilot Program will be an option available to builders of kit planes that meet certain basic criteria that allows them to carry an additional pilot during Phase 1 flight testing.
EAA was deeply involved in the creation of this program, and the current proposal is the product of a yearlong collaboration between EAA and the FAA. It is based on successful pilot programs in recent years and is supported by a safety recommendation in the NTSB’s 2012 study on amateur-built aircraft safety. The EAA team active in the project included members of EAA’s Homebuilt Aircraft Council, Safety Committee, and staff.
Under the program, an experienced pilot who meets certain qualifications may be added during the first eight hours of Phase 1 testing, and before the aircraft and builder complete a series of flight-test objectives to establish the fundamental airworthiness of the aircraft and the familiarity of the builder to the aircraft. Thereafter, the Additional Pilot standards relax to allow most current pilots to fly with the builder as an observer, provided there is a stated purpose for the observer’s role in the flight (e.g. spotting traffic while systems are calibrated or monitoring engine information).
“By adding an appropriately qualified additional pilot during Phase 1 flight testing – particularly early in the process, we will mitigate the possibility of a loss of control, which is the dominant factor in fatal accidents during that time,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “This optional program allows a homebuilt aircraft builder or owner to remain involved in the flight-test program with an additional layer of safety. We are very proud of the end product, because it is an excellent example of how to enhance safety while reducing regulatory barriers.”
Any aircraft built from a kit listed on the FAA’s Revised Listing of Amateur-Built Aircraft Kits with fully functioning dual controls and a powerplant “recommended, supported, or provided by the kit manufacturer” is eligible. The aircraft must also complete basic pre-first-flight tests, most notably fuel flow testing.
A builder or owner of an aircraft meeting the above criteria may request an operating limitation enabling the use of the Additional Pilot Program. The program itself is described in a draft FAA advisory circular, numbered AC 90-APP. The program may be used on any flight during Phase 1 flight testing, at the builder/owner’s option.
The draft of AC 90-APP is currently available for review. The public comment period is open through July 29, 2014. EAA will also be providing additional information on this program in a July 17 webinar and at an EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 forum presentation scheduled for Monday, July 28, at 11:30 a.m. in Forum Building 10.