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EAA Assists Another Zodiac 601XL Builder

Zodiac

September 17, 2009 — When Alejandro “Alex” Roca, EAA 706421, of San Antonio, Texas, was preparing his second homebuilt Zodiac 601XL for its airworthiness inspection recently, he experienced some difficulties scheduling a designated airworthiness representative (DAR) for the inspection. So he e-mailed EAA government services in an effort to clarify some local confusion and hopefully clear the way for inspection of his airplane, N115AR.

On August 21, Roca requested that the San Antonio Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) assign a DAR to inspect his aircraft, which he and his son built. Later that day a DAR contacted Roca informing him that the inspection would not happen until the Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO) had cleared it with the FAA in Oklahoma City. Alex called the MIDO and was told they were still waiting to hear from Washington.

In reality, there was no need to obtain permission for the airworthiness inspection. The confusion stemmed from the NTSB’s well-publicized request in April 2009 that the FAA ground all Zodiac 601XL aircraft, and not conduct any further airworthiness inspections the type because of recent fatal accidents involving the type. (NTSB suspected “aerodynamic flutter” as the cause of all the accidents, which resulted in 10 fatalities. That theory was later proved false.)

Although the FAA did not ground 601s, the publicity of the NTSB request led some FAA field staff to believe that the type was in fact grounded.

Initial denial of an airworthiness inspection for a 601 XL happened at least once before. In April 2009, right after the NTSB released its recommendation, Ed Moody II, EAA 731976, of Rayne, Louisiana, was denied an inspection of his 601 when the local FSDO refused to authorize it. After EAA’s intervention resulted in a clarification from FAA headquarters, the inspection was authorized.

On September 1, 2009, EAA’s David Oord called the FAA’s General Aviation and Commercial Division (AFS-800) to explain Roca’s situation. Oord reconfirmed that the Zodiac 601 XL was not grounded, and was asked to have the MIDO call Washington to clear up the confusion.         

On September 2, Roca received a call from the MIDO to let him know that the inspection would be performed. The next day he e-mailed Oord with the news. “Just wanted to let you know that MIDO called yesterday to let me know that I have a green light for inspection of N115AR. Thank you so much for your help. I am sure that the calls/e-mails you did made a difference.”

The aircraft has since been certificated and made its first flight.

Roca’s son, a high school senior, helped build the aircraft and is therefore eligible to receive the amateur-built repairman’s certificate. When he turns 18 in November, father and son will visit the FSDO and apply for the certificate as a birthday present.

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