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FAA’s Additional Pilot Program (Compared to Canadian Regulations)

From Bits & Pieces Newsletter, November Issue

By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

The FAA recently announced the Additional Pilot Program, allowing two pilots to be in the cockpit of an amateur-built aircraft at the same time during Phase 1 testing. Canada’s regulations have been somewhat different, allowing instruction during the flight test period but not an additional pilot. 

It also allows a suitably qualified “test pilot”, having more than 100 hours in category (not type) to fly the first five hours. In some ways Canadians are better off than their American friends, but with this new change, we’re worse off. We can fly with another pilot “for the purposes of instruction” which presumably means a certified instructor, but not with another pilot for purposes such as testing the flight characteristics, rate of climb, stall speeds, etc.

Perhaps the most significant benefit for a kit builder would be to find someone already experienced in type to fly with you. Instructors in amateur-built aircraft are hard to find and usually involve significant expense in travel and accommodation. With the 25-nautical-mile-range limitation, getting that experience in your newly built aircraft has to wait until after the Phase 1 period has elapsed.

We seem to be better off with a standard 25 hours after fixing any problems that arise, rather than an apparently variable flight testing time. One reads anything from 25 to 40 hours being demanded in the United States.

Your editor now publicly confesses to not having wanted to “waste time” getting through those 25 hours to get to the fun stuff, like flying with a buddy. Those first 25 hours, though, are invaluable, not only for debugging systems but for getting to know the aircraft. A much shorter period of “no one else in the plane except an instructor” would make sense. The present five-hour limit relates to the fact that the pilot in command must have at least 100 hours in category, but the door is left open for dual instruction during that time. After that, someone who just spent 10 years building an aircraft in his basement is free to fly off the test hours, but not with a more experienced pilot in the type. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to adopt the “Additional Pilot Program” here, though perhaps with a reduction in some of the bureaucracy evident in the U.S. program? To learn more, look for Advisory Circular 90-116 from the FAA.

Of particular note, there is an attempt by the FAA to score the “qualified pilot” and his recency based on a list of measurements. For example, someone with 5,000 hours of flight time who bought an RV-6A a year ago, but didn’t use it for the winter, might not be able to be your additional pilot in your newly built RV-7A until he completes 10 or more landings in their own aircraft. Someone who has a large number of hours and has built a Zenith 601, a Murphy Rebel, and a BushCaddy and has flown them all would be disqualified from being an additional pilot in your RV-9A, regardless of other experience, by the question “Do you have any time in model/model family?” That does leave the door open to letting that pilot fly solo for an hour, and being able to respond yes to that question. There are actually two scoring matrices to complete. The other one is based on total flying experience, but you have to pass both to qualify.

I suppose one has to recognize that, while all of our readers (I’m sure of this) would never dream of risky behaviour or bending the rules, the bodies that attempt to assure our flying safety have to assume the worst. At one end of the scale, you have the cautious, keen-to-learn pilot who invites his super-experienced buddy to be his additional pilot because he happens to have exactly the same model. But at the other end, the reckless cowboy, who without any obligation to document anything, might just say to Uncle Joe, “I’ll put you down as an additional pilot.”

Bottom line - the Additional Pilot Program will help to reduce the 15 percent of all amateur-built accidents in the United States which occur in the Phase 1 period, two-thirds of which happen in the first eight hours. Many of those accidents are due to loss of control, and having a more experienced pilot on dual controls should help significantly.

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