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EAA Works to End Test-Flight Restrictions in California

Sacramento FSDO

December 8, 2010 — A nearly three-year ban on experimental amateur-built aircraft test flights at Placerville Airport (PVF) was rescinded recently by the Sacramento, California, Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) after extensive work by EAA to resolve the issue. The ban dated to January 2008, when the EAA government relations team was notified by then-president of EAA Chapter 512 Kay Morgan, EAA 450518, about a memorandum from the FSDO prohibiting test flights by homebuilts at PVF. Then this past June, the FSDO issued another memo that expanded the number of airports where new amateur-built aircraft would be prohibited from conducting test flights.

During this entire time, EAA worked with the Sacramento FSDO and the FAA Flight Standards Division to resolve this issue and allow the test flights. A new memo issued by the FSDO on October 27, 2010, reads: “After a thorough review and an evaluation of your comments it has been determined that other methods could be utilized to provide that same level of safety for persons and property on the surface while also reducing the potential for re-assembly errors when aircraft are moved to another airport. Based upon your recommendations, we are now removing the restrictions previously applied to put in place a certain airports.”

Those airports include Alta Sierra (09CL), Grass Valley; Benton Field (085), Redding; Cameron Airpark (061), Cameron Park; Lonnie Pool Field/Weaverville (054), Weaverville; Nevada County Airpark (GOO), Grass Valley; and Sacramento Executive (SAC), Sacramento.

Builders must now submit a test-flight safety plan for departure and arrival to the FSDO for evaluation. The plan “must be designed to mitigate any undue hazard to persons or property on the surface in the event of an unforeseen malfunction,” according to the FSDO. Elements of the plan for test-flight authority approval include:

  • The builders personal pilot information – number of total hours and what the pilot has done to prepare him/herself for the test flight (currency, etc.);
  • An evaluation of the airport where the test flight will take place, highlighting periods of denser traffic flows that should be avoided;
  • The proposed departure path from the airport to the designated test flight area (highlight this on a map);
  • The proposed test flight area (highlighted on a VFW sectional);
  • A statement that you will avoid overflying populated areas;
  • A statement that the ground testing of the aircraft has been successfully completed.

“EAA applauds this change by the Sacramento FSDO as a positive step forward toward reducing test flight burdens on new experimental amateur-built aircraft,” stated Randy Hansen, EAA government relations director. “But EAA members must remain cognizant that FAR 91.305 is the controlling regulation. When creating their test flight plan, builders must present sufficient data to prove that their arrival/departure and test flight program will meet this regulatory mandate.

“It is also imperative that builders keep a close eye on residential growth around the airport where their project is located,” Hansen added. “When it appears the airport will become surrounded by densely populated areas at some point in the future, it then becomes incumbent upon the builder to start thinking about alternative test flight locations and procedures.”

Hansen thanked Placerville and Nevada County Airport chapter members for their comments and their patience while EAA worked to resolve the situation.


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