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Previously Approved Kits to be 'Grandfathered'

FAA responds to EAA advocacy efforts

Kim Smith
Kim Smith, manager of the FAA's Small Airplane Directorate, announced several revisions to the sport pilot/light-sport rules in Lakeland on Friday.

April 11 2008 — Manufacturers and owners of aircraft kits that were previously evaluated and approved by the FAA as eligible to be certificated in the Experimental Amateur-Built Category under the FAA's 51% Rule received welcome news at Sun 'n Fun Friday. The FAA announced that its will not re-evaluate any previously approved aircraft kits under its new policy on amateur-built certification.

Kim Smith, manager of the FAA's Small Airplane Directorate, appeared at the "Meet the FAA" session Friday afternoon at Lakeland and made the announcement, which essentially grandfathers those kits that appear on the FAA's 51% approved list. The FAA suspended making evaluations earlier this year until it finalizes its new policy revisiting amateur-built certification, which was prompted by concerns over excessive commercial assistance and prefabrication that could cause finished aircraft to fall outside the homebuilt certification regulations.

"There was no intent to reevaluate previously evaluated kits," Smith explained. "An NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) will be issued sometime hopefully early next week stating that we will not re-evaluate kits that have already been evaluated."

Asked by an EAA staffer if the term, "grandfathered" would apply, Smith agreed that it would.

Several manufacturers exhibiting at Lakeland, who served on the amateur-built aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) welcomed the news, saying they had expected the FAA to heed the ARC's suggestion to not re-evaluate previously approved kits.

"This is good news," said Joe Bartels, president of Lancair, whose new model Evolution was recently evaluated and approved as eligible for A-B certification. "We indeed needed that reassurance, and the FAA has evaluated our new Evolution and found it to meet the requirements."

Mikael Via of Glasair Aviation added, "That's what we on the ARC expected, and we're glad to see it. Our main concern is what the new policy will be regarding new kits, so we'll have to wait and see about that. We look forward to learning the end result."

Dick Van Grunsven of Van's Aircraft also was not surprised at the announcement. "We expected them (approved kits) to be grandfathered," he said. "But we don't expect it to be business as usual, either. They (inspectors) may pay closer attention than they used to when inspecting the kits from now on, to make sure they do not exceed what is allowed for commercial assistance."

EAA President Tom Poberezny, who is at Lakeland this week, added, "We are extremely pleased about the FAA announcement to grandfather kits that have already been approved."

Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs and co-chair of the ARC, applauded the announcement. "This shows that EAA advocacy efforts are working and that the FAA is sensitive to the concerns of current amateur-builders," he said. "But EAA members need to continue to be vigilant, and continue to follow this effort. If you're an amateur-builder, we encourage you to write the FAA to help ensure that they fully understand from the builder's perspective how what you are doing is fully within the intent and letter of the regulation. Innovation should not be restricted."

At the same meeting Friday, the FAA also released a draft of an NPRM that fixes several long-awaited changed to the sport pilot-slight-sport aircraft regulations. (See story)

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