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Teaming Up for Safety

First Additional Pilot Program participant approved

  • DAR Jon Ross, left, presents the airworthiness certificate to John Sannizzaro for his newly completed RV-7, whose operating limitations contain the first known inclusion of Additional Pilot Program provisions.

October 9, 2014 - The first known issuance of operating limitations that includes provisions of the FAA’s new Additional Pilot Program (APP) took place Sunday, October 5, for a Van’s RV-7 built by a Plymouth, Massachusetts, builder. Designated airworthiness representative (DAR) Jon Ross, EAA Lifetime 135637, inspected John Sannizzaro’s airplane and included the APP in the operating limitations.

That allows Sannizzaro, EAA 578246, the option to have a second pilot on board during Phase 1 flight testing. In addition to publishing new program, AC 90-116, at the end of September, the FAA has also released a deviation memo to Order 8130.2G, allowing inspectors and DARs to issue operating limitations to homebuilt aircraft that permit the use of the new program.

Sannizzaro, already an experienced RV pilot, is excited to use the APP to add an extra layer of safety during some of his Phase 1 test flights. If all goes well he plans to fly his RV to AirVenture 2015.

EAA has received several questions from the community about how it works, so we’ve put together the following frequently asked questions (FAQ) list to clear any confusion. Stay tuned for updates, webinars, and forums on the APP, and as always members can call EAA government services at 800-564-6322 or e-mail EAA anytime for help on this or any other issue.

How does this program work? Who is the additional pilot and when can they fly with the builder?

The Additional Pilot Program (APP) is really split into two parts – the qualified pilot (QP) and the observer pilot (OP). The QP is a pilot who meets certain experience criteria and is permitted to accompany the builder pilot on any flight of the aircraft during Phase 1 flight testing, including the first flight.

Once both the builder pilot and the aircraft have completed a basic set of tasks to achieve the most critical flight test and familiarization goals, an OP - any pilot who is rated in category and class and is current to fly the aircraft - may fly with the builder pilot as long as there is an agreed upon purpose for the OP’s presence. Examples of such a purpose might be spotting traffic during tests, troubleshooting instrumentation, etc.

The program is administered through AC 90-116 and enabled by language in the aircraft’s operating limitations. The APP may be used on any flight and is completely optional. Some builders may elect to fly with a QP on the first flight and never use the program again. Some may use one QP on the first flight and another QP on other early flights. Others may skip using a QP and fly with an OP on several flights later in Phase 1. The choice is entirely left up to the builder.

What airplanes are eligible?

The initial release of this program is limited to aircraft “built from a kit” that is listed in the FAA’s Revised Listing of Amateur-Built Aircraft Kits. The aircraft must have an engine installation “recommended, supported, or provided by the kit manufacturer.”

What about plansbuilt?

We were unable to include plansbuilt aircraft in the first run of this program. That being said, the FAA has shown a genuine willingness to expand the APP to more types of E-AB aircraft, including plansbuilt, in the near future if it is successful. EAA will likewise continue to support such a change.

How about a plansbuilt version of a kit plane?

Unfortunately the AC clearly spells out that the aircraft must be built from a kit, so these aircraft are not eligible at the present time. Again, EAA supports creating a way to include plansbuilts in the APP moving forward.

Why any restrictions on aircraft at all?

While the APP will be available to more than three out of every four homebuilts, there were a few conservative steps taken in the initial version of the program. The APP represents a major shift in policy for the FAA, and that the program was implemented so quickly after its inception is remarkable. If it is shown to be as safe and effective as we believe it will be, we will have a strong argument to expand it to more aircraft.

I’ve looked at the qualification matrices for the QP, and it appears way too complicated. Why not something much more simple?

There are many ways to get the experience needed to add safety to the first few flights of an aircraft. The matrices the APP uses may appear complicated, but they are designed to allow pilots of diverse but equally relevant backgrounds to qualify. Another point to remember is that a candidate QP may qualify in the builder’s airplane. For example, if a pilot needs Phase 1 experience and time in type to earn enough points to qualify as a QP, he or she may fly the first flight of the builder’s aircraft solo (as a traditional third-party test pilot), fulfill the experience items, and be qualified as a QP for the remainder of the flight-test program.

This whole program seems contradictory to conventional wisdom on flight test safety.

That conventional wisdom, which states that minimum crew should always be used, is rooted in military/developmental flight testing, and based on the assumption that the machine is most likely to fail during testing, not the pilot. In the amateur-built world we see time and time again that this is not the case. The majority of accidents during Phase 1, both fatal and nonfatal, come down to human factors on the part of the pilot, who is oftentimes a builder new to flight testing, new to the aircraft, or low on flight experience during the build process. The APP allows the builder to bring into the flight-test equation an experienced pilot who adds safety, and is supported by a recent NTSB finding that such a program would be beneficial.

I am a DAR. How do I enable an applicant to use this program under the current guidance on operating limitations?

A deviation to Order 8130.2G has been published that allow ops limits referencing AC 90-116 to be issued to eligible aircraft.

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