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EAA to FAA: Don't Overcomplicate Participation In Homebuilding

Poberezny Urges Members To Weigh In

August 29, 2008 — With slightly more than a month remaining in an official public-comment period, EAA President Tom Poberezny encourages members to express their views to FAA policymakers in Washington. The comment period pertains to FAA proposals regarding the agency’s interpretation and enforcement of the “51% Rule,” the requirement that amateur builders personally perform at least 51 percent of the tasks in constructing their aircraft.

The FAA issued its July 15 policy proposals after investigating and discussing concerns for more than two years. The agency has contended that some modern-day practices involving prefabrication and pre-assembly of aircraft kit components, and other practices involving the use of commercial builder assistance, leave too few construction tasks to the amateur builder.

"Unfortunately, in attempting to address these concerns, the FAA is proposing an approach that would overcomplicate builders' attempts to comply with, and the FAA's attempts to enforce, the 51% Rule," Poberezny said. "Our primary message to the FAA is, 'Keep it simple.'"

The FAA’s proposal would require amateur builders to document not only that they performed a majority of the overall construction tasks but also that they executed a required proportion of tasks within two broad categories: assembly and fabrication.

According to the FAA’s proposal

  • at least 20% of total construction tasks must be fabrication done by the amateur;
  • at least another 20% of total construction tasks must be assembly done by the amateur; and
  • another 11% or more of the total construction tasks must be work within either category done by the amateur, to ensure a total contribution to the construction project of at least 51%.

An EAA draft response asserts that this interpretation overreaches the language and intent of the original amateur-building regulations, which do not specify percentages of tasks according to definitions of fabrication or assembly. It further asserts that the regulations’ vague definitions of these construction-task categories would make differentiating between them difficult.

Finally, EAA’s statements encourage the FAA simply to focus on the isolated cases of some individuals — whether kit manufacturers, professional aircraft-construction service providers, or their customers — whose practices might circumvent the 51% Rule: “As EAA members and builders have stated, the FAA needs to enforce the current regulations, not create a new regulation through policy.”

Poberezny encourages EAA members to comment before the Sept. 30 deadline. “The EAA community has been deeply involved in the examination of this issue, a process that included having an EAA representative serve as co-chair of the committee that the FAA chartered to investigate and provide recommendations. From the beginning, we’ve supported the 51% requirement and have discouraged the limited cases of sidestepping,” Poberezny said.

“As a result of our commitment to this process, we’ve ensured some important safeguards for amateur-building activity. Learn more about these safeguards. Now, however, the EAA community must rally again to defend the amateur-building movement. Homebuilding activities provide enormous recreational and educational benefits to participants. And over the years they’ve spawned numerous innovations in construction, techniques, and technologies from which all of aviation has benefitted,” Poberezny said. Read more about the value of the EAA community’s amateur-building movement.

The FAA may publish final policy as early as the end of this year. Following this, EAA will publish a thorough analysis of implications and ramifications for amateur-building participants.

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