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Amateur-Built Flight Testing — How Do Canadians Do It?
By Ian Brown, EAA 657159, Editor, Bits and Pieces
May 2021 – If you've built an amateur-built aircraft in Canada, you are already aware of the requirements to test fly it without passengers for the first 25 hours unless you have a test pilot or instructor sitting next to you. The first five to ten hours you probably spent learning how the aircraft handles, but how many of us just wanted to get it over with. I confess that there were many hours where I felt like "well, that's one more hour to check off." Did you know that 65 percent of U.S. accidents in new amateur-built aircraft occur in the first eight hours of flight? One difference in Canada is the requirement to do fuel flow testing at the expected climb angle prior to first flight, which presumably reduces the risk of fuel starvation accidents.
In the U.S., EAA has worked with the FAA on an excellent program which I sincerely hope will become Canadian too. Described as "task-based flight testing," it involves a more methodical way to test the aircraft and document its performance, resulting in data that can form the basis of a Pilot's Operating Handbook (Aircraft Flight Manual). EAA's Flight Test Manual is an excellent resource which could form the basis of compliance with the FAA's advisory circular. It could potentially reduce the number of hours required to complete the testing period, but more importantly will significantly increase the quality of the testing and documentation of the aircraft's performance.
EAA's Flight Test Manual and test cards.
EAA's Flight Test Manual can be ordered here. It includes the manual itself and a spiral-bound set of checklists for different phases of the test program. You can learn more about task-based flight testing in the U.S. here.
Clearly, the possibility of getting a better understanding of your aircraft's handling and performance while possibly reducing the number of hours flown is a significant incentive to implement this task-based test flight program. We strongly encourage Transport Canada to approve AC 90-89B as an alternative to the standard test flight "hours flown" approach as a method of improving general aviation safety in amateur-built aircraft.