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EAA Experimenter

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Homebuilt Aircraft Council

By Fred Keip, Member – Homebuilt Aircraft Council, EAA  93236

Fred Keip

Editor's note: Since the first issue of Experimenter, this space was reserved for Joe Norris who recently retired from his position at EAA as the Homebuilders Community Manager. Through the evolution of this newsletter, the column became less of an editorial piece and more of a teaching aid, where Joe's years of experience as a DAR was graciously passed along to our readers. While EAA searches for his replacement, we'll fill this space with other homebuilding voices, starting with this issue and message from  Fred Keip, the newest member of the Homebuilt Aircraft Council.

I’d be willing to bet that many of you folks haven’t heard of the EAA Homebuilt Aircraft Council (HAC), and for those of you who have, I’ll bet most of you don’t have a clue as to who we are and what it is that we do. Well, let me attempt to tell you a little about us and a little more about what we’re trying to do.

First of all, a few introductions are in order. Right now, there are three of us on the HAC: Rick Weiss, who became chairman in late 2009; Joe Gauthier, who has been on the council for eight years; and me. I’ve been on the council since October 2009.

Rick is currently flying his Kitfox V, which he started building in 1994 and first flew in 2009. He’s building an RV-7A now and hopes to complete it this year. Rick has flown a large number of GA aircraft, is type rated in a variety of jet aircraft, holds an instructor rating for airplanes, seaplanes, and helicopters, and is an A&P mechanic. He’s a technical counselor and flight advisor for EAA Chapter 288 in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he resides with his wife, Brenda.

Rick graduated from Parks College in Saint Louis, Missouri, with a Bachelor of Science in aero engineering and from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, with a MSM. After a short tour in the Navy, he began his professional career with NASA at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as a propulsion engineer on the Saturn V and 1B rockets, having launched all the missions to the moon and the Skylab. He was also KSC’s lead main propulsion systems engineer on the Space Shuttle. Rick left NASA for the FAA where he held increasingly responsible engineering, flying, and management positions including director of GA and Vertical Flight Research and Development and technical assistant to the administrator.

He retired from the FAA and worked for EAA as its Washington, D.C., representative until he became a pilot for Delta/Atlantic Southeast Airlines where he was also a member of the ALPA Safety Committee and chief accident investigator until he retired as a captain in 2006.

Joe is the council’s elder statesman, and I mean that with all due respect. He has built four homebuilts and is currently working on a Glastar. He’s an active technical counselor and a flight advisor in the Connecticut area. Joe is an A&P, and CFII specializing in homebuilt transition and instrument as well as tailwheel and spin training. He serves the FAA as a designated airworthiness representative for homebuilts and light-sport aircraft. Joe has made 52 first flights in homebuilts. He’s a member and officer of EAA Chapter 166 in Hartford, Connecticut, and volunteers at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh every year in the Workshop Plaza. He has been honored with a number of EAA awards, such as the Tony Bingelis Award, Major Achievement Award, and President’s Award, and has achieved FAA Region CFI of the Year and Safety Counselor of the Year. Joe resides in Cromwell, Connecticut, and is retired from Bell Telephone.

And then there’s me. I’m the newest member of the council. I’ve been a private pilot since 1974 and a member of the EAA and EAA Chapter 18 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, since 1975. I served as chapter president for 10 years, have held all of the other chapter officer positions except treasurer, and am currently the vice-president. I’ve been an EAA technical counselor since 1987, specializing in tube and fabric and aluminum construction.

I scratchbuilt a Sonerai IIL, which I’ve been flying since 1986. I’ve also built a set of wings for an EAA Acro Sport and a set of wings for a Sonerai IILS, and I’m currently scratchbuilding a Wag-Aero Wag-A-Bond, which is at the “90 percent done, 90 percent to go” stage. I was honored with the EAA Major Achievement Award in 1995. In 1997, I became the editor/publisher of the Sonerai Newsletter, and I retired from that position at the end of 2010. I’ve presented the Sonerai Builders Forumalong with numerous other forums at EAA Oshkosh since 1997.

I earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1972 and have worked in mechanical engineering and technical service support in the mining and construction equipment industries most of my career. I currently work as a technical support specialist for CNH America LLC in Racine, Wisconsin, and reside in Franksville, Wisconsin, with my wife, Marian.

So, that’s a little bit about us, but what is it that we do? Well, we’re tasked to do four things:

  1. Represent the needs and interests of the homebuilder community and to focus on bringing value to EAA members within the community.
  2. Provide advice and analysis to the EAA staff and the EAA Board of Directors (the chairman of the HAC serves as a member on the EAA Board of Directors) regarding the needs and interests of the homebuilder community.
  3. Provide direct assistance, where appropriate, with direct actions to meet identified needs, like assistance with government advocacy and AirVenture activities.
  4. Act as advocates of EAA and promote the benefits of EAA membership.

Over the past couple of years, our efforts have been largely focused in two areas. The first is the improvement of the homebuilder experience at AirVenture. And the second is participating in EAA’s effort to lower the homebuilt fatal accident rate.

We’ve been involved in the AirVenture efforts on two fronts. First, we provide input and guidance in improving the various homebuilder programs that take place during the convention. These include the forums, workshops, the Homebuilt Fly-by, the Homebuilts in Review, the Homebuilders Dinner, the Homebuilt Awards Ceremony, Donut Day, and the activities in and around the new Homebuilders Hangar.

Second, we provide input and guidance in the evolution and enhancement of the homebuilders portion of the AirVenture grounds at Oshkosh.In particular, we’re looking to improve and expand the Homebuilders Hangar, the Homebuilders Headquarters, the homebuilt parking areas, the homebuilt camping area, the forums, and the workshops areas.

Both of these AirVenture activities are long-term efforts that we hope will show significant enhancements in the homebuilder experience while at the convention. Of course, the three of us can’t accomplish this in a vacuum, so we always welcome input from everyone.

The other major effort that we on the HAC have been participating in this year is to help address the homebuilt (i.e. the experimental amateur-built) aircraft safety record. As most of you know, the FAA has recently placed a significant priority on lowering the GA fatality rate, and in particular, the experimental amateur-built fatality rate. In response, the EAA has made it a top priority to participate in the effort to decrease the number of fatal accidents in the homebuilder community. The areas that we feel can have the largest impact are the EAA Flight Advisor and EAA Technical Counselor programs.

The HAC has become involved in the process of reviewing these two programs and making recommendations to modernize and streamline both to make them more effective. I think you’ll see some good things happen to these programs in the near future.

So that’s who we are and what we’re trying to do. Like I said earlier, we’re doing our best to represent you, the homebuilder, but we can’t do it in a vacuum. We’d really like to hear from you; we have an e-mail address: hac@eaa.org. Please feel free to send us your comments and ideas related to making the homebuilder experience more worthwhile.

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