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EAA Seeks To Preserve Homebuilt Enthusiasts' Rights

Association Co-Leads Amateur-Built Aviation Rulemaking Committee

September 14, 2006 — With mounting concern that some builders-for-hire and commercial providers are performing too much of the aircraft-building tasks when assisting clients, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on September 6 assembled the first meeting of the Amateur-Built Aviation Rulemaking Committee. EAA holds a key leadership position on this committee with one interest in mind: preserving the rights of amateur builders.

"With this much FAA scrutiny, our members' rights to build and fly their own aircraft are at risk. Those individuals and vendors who circumvent the letter and intent of the experimental rules are putting all amateur-building enthusiasts' privileges in jeopardy," said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, whom the FAA appointed as co-chair of the committee. Lawrence shares the committee's leadership with FAA Manager Frank Paskiewicz and Van's Aircraft CEO Richard VanGrunsven.

The meeting included 17 representatives of government, general-aviation groups, and aircraft kit manufacturers.

"Our participation and leadership on this committee provides an effective avenue for protecting the rights of our EAA-member builders, craftsmen, kit-assemblers, and restorers," Lawrence said.

In last week's meeting, the group refined its mission, distilling its broad purpose of examining the letter and intent of the experimental aircraft rules-the federal regulations on amateur building of aircraft-into several objectives:

  • Investigate the effects of builder or commercial assistance on compliance with the "51% Rule," the stipulation that an individual must perform the majority of the construction tasks in building an experimental airplane;
  • More precisely define the elements of the 51% Rule to ensure more uniform application and adherence across the industry;
  • Explore opportunities for creating new amateur-building regulations, directives, advisory materials, and implementation strategies that would advance the represented groups' mutual interests; and
  • Document findings and present them to the appropriate policymaking authorities.

The group broadly agreed on its interest to preserve the original language and intent of the amateur-building regulations. There was also consensus that builder or commercial assistance should remain an option for those attempting to build their own airplanes.

The group's focus, then, will lie on the trend of builder or commercial assistance circumventing the intent of the regulations and thereby performing the majority of the construction tasks on behalf of the customer.

"In the meantime," Lawrence said, "we are counting on the amateur-building community to practice good peer-review and self-policing techniques. Cutting corners on the 51% rule is a disservice to the educational and recreational function for which the aircraft-building experience is intended.

"When amateur builders ensure that they perform the majority of the tasks, they are protecting not only their individual rights but also the liberties enjoyed by the entire experimental aircraft movement."

The Committee will take its next steps during a meeting scheduled to take place in November in Washington, D.C.

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