May 8, 2013 - This week Sonex Aircraft LLC announced T-Flight, a new transition training program that will offer aircraft-specific familiarization training to Sonex builders and those who purchase used Sonex aircraft.
"Sonex is proud to be a leader in the kit manufacturing industry by bringing E-AB transition training in-house," said Jeremy Monnett, Sonex CEO. "We think that this is an important step not only for our customers, but for our entire industry. There are real safety benefits to be gained from ensuring that pilots are familiar with the flying qualities of sport aircraft before they take their first flight, or fly solo."
The for-compensation use of company-owned experimental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft for training is allowed under a Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA) that Sonex recently received from the FAA.
Type-specific transition training is one of the major NTSB recommendations outlined in its recent safety studyfor reducing the fatal accident rate of E-AB aircraft. To facilitate the training, the NTSB encouraged the FAA to develop and publish an advisory circular or similar guidance for a LODA "to conduct flight instruction in an experimental aircraft, to include sample documentation and sample training materials." The FAA created aguidance order, and Sonex used that to interact with the Milwaukee FSDO to obtain the LODA.
"The FAA did a good job on its guidance and made the process clear," said Joe Norris, Sonex chief flight instructor. "I thought that it was very well done, and the Milwaukee FSDO was very helpful. The whole LODA process took about three weeks, which I thought was incredibly fast."
The LODA permits Sonex to provide flight instruction to properly certificated pilots, meaning that if a builder wants to do transition training in one of Sonex's conventional-gear aircraft, the builder must have at least a sport pilot certificate with a tailwheel endorsement prior to receiving training.
"We are not a flight school, and we do not see this service as a revenue stream," said Mark Schaible, Sonex general manager. "This is purely intended to make our customers comfortable with the transition to our sport planes and increase safety."
EAA was quick to praise the program's development and implementation.
"We hope that Sonex's transition training program and others like it will become models for the industry," said Sean Elliott, vice president of advocacy and safety. "EAA is very excited that Sonex took the initiative to create its own highly tailored training program. This is a significant enhancement to safety for the kit manufacturer community."