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EAA/FAA 2009 Winter Aviation Summit

Day Two Summary

February 27, 2009 — Two key issues that have been deadlocked for years appeared to move substantially forward during the second day of the annual EAA/FAA Winter Summit at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh.

  • ADs and ABs
    EAA has advocated for years and a significant amount of FAA has reinforced that Airworthiness Directives do not apply to AB aircraft. But confusion and contrary statements by FAA representatives continue. Joe Norris, EAA Homebuilders Community Manager, described the resulting confusion among homebuilders and FAA inspectors. John Allen, Director of FAA Flight Standards, and Dorenda Baker, Director of FAA Aircraft Certification, agreed that ADs may not apply to AB aircraft, and that the FAA should issue a policy to address the question.

    “We are not espousing that people not correct defects on their aircraft [as identified in ADs], said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president for industry and government affairs. “We want amateur builders to be free to decide how they will correct a defect. ADs require specific actions that may be inapplicable or even unsafe for amateur-built aircraft.”
    Amateur builders must address ADs and must have aircraft log entries that describe how they were addressed, Lawrence said.
  • Warbird Operating Limitations
    Rick Siegfried, president of the Warbirds of America, told the FAA that the complexity of the rules governing warbird operations results in inconsistent application of those rules across the nation. “The big push” from warbird operators, said Siegfried, is not to change the rules but to improve understanding of them. “We’re asking you to rewrite the policy so it’s more understandable and so it’s applied consistently,” he told FAA officials. FAA’s John Allen agreed to push forward on the issue, to clear up inconsistencies.

The 51% Rule
FAA’s Don Lausman reported on proposed changes in the 51% Rule, the requirement that amateur builders complete “the major portion”of an amateur-built (AB) aircraft project. The FAA received more than 2,200 public comments on a proposed new FAA policy unveiled in 2008, he said. The FAA’s Aircraft Rulemaking Committee—which included members from EAA and the AB industry—reconvened in January 2009 to review the comments. “It was a successful meeting,” he said. The results included:

  • A clear definition of “fabrication”
  • Agreements on grandfathering of existing aircraft kits and projects
  • Plans for new task-based compliance checklists tailored to specific classes of AB aircraft (airplanes, rotorcraft, powered parachutes, etc.)
  • Plans for a “national kit evaluation team” to evaluate new kits for AB eligibility

On the issue of grandfathering, Lousman said the FAA will develop a “scenario-based table” that will clearly identify what is grandfathered and what is not. “We should have some tangible guidance [on grandfathering] before Sun ‘n’ Fun,” he said. Any kit that is already on the FAA list of approved kits will be grandfathered under the new policy.

The new checklists should provide for better, more consistent enforcement of the 51% Rule, easier documentation by amateur builders of compliance with the rule, and better accountability for commercial builder assistance, Lausman said.

The FAA’s new policy on the 51% Rule should be finalized by July 31, 2009, he added.

Other issues discussed on day 2:

Electric Engines
EAA Director of Flight Operations Sean Elliot briefed the FAA on advances in electric engine technology. “Electric aircraft are on their way,” he said, and battery technology is improving rapidly, producing lighter, more powerful, and safer batteries. Sonex Aircraft of Oshkosh is close to bringing a proprietary electric motor to market, Elliot said, and several hybrid aircraft engines are being prepared for type certification. Light sport aircraft (LSA) will lead the way in introducing these new technologies, and EAA will be looking for an exemption to FAA rules, which now limit LSA to gasoline engines.

The best way to proceed, said John Allen, Director of FAA Flight Standards, will be to test these new technologies in aircraft certificated as experimental amateur-built or experimental research & development. Based on experience gained there, the LSA industry can write proposed standards for electric-powered airplanes, and then request an exemption.

Unleaded Aviation Fuels
The FAA was briefed on the current status of unleaded aviation fuels research, by Doug Macnair, EAA vice president for government relations. After 20 years of searching for a replacement for leaded aviation fuel, Macnair told the FAA, “the aviation industry recognizes that we’re going to end up with a compromise fuel, one with a lower octane rating and lower anti-knock properties than [100-octane, low-lead aviation gasoline]. “We’re up against a deadline,” he said, imposed by ambient air standards for lead, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, and by lawsuits from environmental groups.

At the same time, he told the FAA, ethanol-free unleaded fuel—only a partial substitute for leaded avgas—is getting harder to find. Any compromise fuel, he said, will require that some of today’s highest-powered aircraft engines be de-rated or modified. That will require the recertification of part of the general aviation aircraft fleet.

The FAA has the world’s premier engine testing laboratory capable of testing aircraft engines, developing the data for a new fuel specification, and assessing the performance of new fuels. But that lab’s funding is in jeopardy. “We are asking the FAA to commit to continued support for [the laboratory and its staff] and to recognize that the FAA plays a pivotal role” in efforts to resolve the fuel issue. The FAA needs to maintain the testing facility and retain the unique expertise of its staff in order to support the research and the new certification standards needed to keep the GA fleet flying, Macnair said.

Pilot Test Standards
Jason Blair, head of NAFI (National Association of Flight Instructors—an EAA affiliate) told the FAA that many of the questions on the written tests for pilot ratings are outdated. “We know the tests need updating,” said the FAA’s Debra Entricken. “We’re working on reviewing and revising the tests, but it’s a slow process,” she said, noting that there are some 17,000 multiple choice questions in the test database. The agency welcomes input from NAFI members on specific questions or other testing issues, she said.  

At the close of Tuesday’s work session, EAA President Tom Poberezny issued a challenge. “How do we encourage people to fly at a time when things are going the other way?” he asked. “We should all step back and consider how we can foster aviation. And we have to stay hopeful. We can’t Pollyannas, but things will get better.”

Addressing the FAA participants, Poberezny said, “I appreciate all the time you have spent here and all the work you have done. From our [EAA’s] standpoint, the value of this meeting is far, far more than the time we have spent working together.”

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