Homebuilt Safety in the Spotlight
In last month’s issue of Experimenter, we reported the release of the FAA’s revised amateur-built certification policy, commonly known as the 51 percent rule. Since then we’ve had time to dig a little deeper into the new documents and also have had some input from EAA members who are completing their projects. So far it doesn’t seem that the new policy has had a negative effect on builders getting their aircraft certificated. I’ve performed two certifications since the new policy came into effect and for the most part these two inspections have been identical to those I performed under the previous policy. We still have some things to learn as we go forward and as more applications are submitted from builders who used commercial assistance. I suspect there may be some growing pains involved in those cases. If you have a project that you are concerned may have difficulties with the new rule, please contact us so that we may be of assistance.
One thing the new policy has brought us is the FAA National Kit Evaluation Team (NKET). I had the pleasure of meeting all the NKET members when they were in Oshkosh performing a portion of their training, and was able to observe them in action as they used the new policy and checklist to evaluate the kits offered by Sonex Aircraft LLC. The Sonex kits are already on the FAA’s list of evaluated kits and are thus “grandfathered” and do not require re-evaluation, but NKET used Sonex as a baseline to refine their evaluation process. I was very impressed with the members of the NKET and I feel the FAA will do a great job of evaluating amateur-built kits going forward.
Regarding homebuilt safety, this month we have important information concerning all variants of the Zenith CH 601XL and CH 650 aircraft, including special light-sport category aircraft (S-LSA), experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA), and experimental amateur-built aircraft. On November 7 2009 the FAA issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) regarding recommended modifications to the wing and fuselage structures of these aircraft; and Zenith/AMD has issued a safety alert / safety directive to be followed with modification kits and instructions. Further, the FAA has issued a moratorium on issuance of new airworthiness certificates to experimental and special light sport CH 601XLs unless its wing structures are modified in a manner consistent with the information in the AMD safety directive. Builders and owners of existing CH 601XLs are encouraged to make the recommended modifications to their aircraft. The FAA is taking a close look at safety of amateur-built aircraft, so we need to do everything we can to keep things moving in the right direction.
- Joe Norris, EAA's Homebuilders Community Manager