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New FAA 51% Checklists Smooth Homebuilt Inspections

Gyroplanes, rotorcraft, weight-shift among included groups with new guidelines

December 30, 2011 - The FAA has responded to a request made last year by EAA at the annual EAA/FAA Recreational Aviation Summit by issuing new guidelines for homebuilders of helicopter, gyroplane, weight-shift control and powered parachute aircraft. The prototype Amateur-Built Fabrication and Assembly Checklists for these aircraft types will ease the uncertainty for builders who are constructing projects not listed on the FAA's approved kit list. The previous checklist, found in FAA Order 8130.35, was specific to fix-wing aircraft only. The new prototype checklists will be incorporated into the next revision of the FAA Order.

In a story also reported by Aero-News Network this week, the new checklists provide guidance for Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DARs) and FAA inspectors in the field. The checklists will make it easier for builders to determine whether a project meets the "51 percent rule" to achieve Experimental/Amateur-Built airworthiness approval.

"EAA urged the FAA to complete this task as the agency rewrote guidelines for amateur-built construction," said David Oord, EAA government and advocacy specialist. "We appreciate these updates, as builders and DARs can use these checklists as definitive guidance as aircraft are built and inspected."

The new checklists can be used immediately. According to FAA's website, "FAA employees and designees performing a major portion evaluation on these aircraft shall use the prototype checklists."

Oord added the EAA will also continue to push for acceptance of gyroplanes within the Special-Light Sport Aircraft category, which would further open access to these aircraft by aviators and prospective aviators.

Q & A regarding the "51 percent rule"

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