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FAA Amateur-Built Policy Delayed—ARC Report Offers Encouraging Signs

September 16, 2009 — The FAA today published the comprehensive findings of its Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) on amateur-built aircraft in the Federal Register. Contrary to previous indications from the FAA, the agency has yet to publish or pronounce a comprehensive final policy, but piecemeal revelations are on the way. The full picture of final FAA policies will require interpretation of several official documents and actions anticipated from the FAA in the weeks ahead.

According to Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of regulatory affairs and co-chair of the ARC, the report’s proposals, if adopted, would uphold the major principles that EAA and the aviation community have sought to defend. “The report is an encouraging sign for EAA members and aviation enthusiasts who’ve rallied for the past three years to defend amateur aircraft-building privileges,” Lawrence said. Meanwhile, the homebuilding community’s frustratingly protracted wait for a definitive declaration of policy from the FAA continues.

EAA’s regulatory-affairs team is anticipating publication in the near future of an FAA order that will guide inspectors charged with determining whether aircraft kits leave more than half of the construction tasks to the amateur, as required by the regulations. Likewise, a forthcoming FAA order for FAA inspectors and designated airworthiness representatives (DARs) containing guidance on certification of aircraft in the field, an advisory circular for consumers on aircraft kit certification, and other advisory materials collectively will encompass all elements of the FAA’s interpretation and enforcement of the amateur-building regulations.

The FAA has not yet proclaimed its final policy for interpreting and enforcing the amateur-built aircraft regulations. EAA recommends that all amateur aircraft builders follow current policies and accepted practices until any new processes and procedures are confirmed. The fact that FAA’s final policy positions often mirror ARC recommendations, and the absence of an opposing position from the FAA, further supports the likelihood that the amateur-built aircraft ARC report accurately reflects the FAA’s intentions. Accordingly, Lawrence and the EAA regulatory-affairs team are optimistic that follow-up documents from the FAA will reveal policy decisions that represent a victory for amateur builders.

The FAA chartered the ARC three years ago to investigate concerns about inconsistencies in the amateur-building community’s compliance with the regulatory requirement that an amateur builder personally perform the “major portion” (51 percent or more) of all tasks in constructing an aircraft. In the ensuing period, some of the FAA’s public statements of concern and allusions to possible “remedies” had the amateur-built aircraft community worried that fundamental regulatory privileges could be lost.

EAA’s regulatory affairs team has created a table of objectives and confirmations—a way to track progress toward the fulfillment of the amateur-building community’s policy objectives. See October’s issue of EAA Sport Aviation (page 98) for a deeper look into what the new policy will mean for your project.

EAA Radio:  Interview with EAA's Earl Lawrence on the ARC report

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