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FAA Publishes Task-Based Phase I Guidelines

Resulting from a multiyear sustained advocacy effort by EAA, this week the FAA published its guidelines for an optional task-based Phase I flight testing program. The program will primarily be an alternative to the standard 25 or 40-hour flight testing requirement for amateur-built aircraft, replacing the hours-based test period with a list of tasks to complete. When the tasks are complete and the aircraft is shown to operate as expected, and an Aircraft Operating Handbook (AOH) is created, the aircraft can exit the Phase I flight testing period.

Programs such as this, developed in cooperation between the FAA and EAA, are direct contributors to the significant improvement in the amateur built accident rate experienced over the past decades. It also demonstrates the commitment to safety and continuous drive to create a stronger safety culture that exists within our community. EAA’s continued commitment to working with the FAA is a testament to our heritage and culture and is a key component to ensuring that the E-AB movement is able to continue and grow.

The new guidance is housed in the recently updated Advisory Circular (AC) 90-89C, the Amateur-Built Aircraft and Ultralight Flight Testing Handbook. This is a wide-ranging document that the FAA first developed in partnership with EAA in 1989. The task-based program itself is found in Chapter 2 of the AC, beginning on pages 2-3.

The program prescribes a series of 17 individual flight test tasks, and recommends that the tests be flown per test cards carried in the aircraft. The program also requires the creation of an Aircraft Operating Handbook (AOH)* from the test results, which will benefit both the builder and any subsequent owners of the aircraft. Anyone, including kit manufacturers and type clubs, can create a test plan that accomplishes the prescribed tasks, and users of EAA’s Flight Test Manual will find that it mirrors the program requirements.

In order to utilize the task-based flight testing program, the aircraft must have an operating limitation that allows the program’s use. Operating limitations are issued along with the airworthiness certificate by the FAA or DAR as part of the airworthiness certification process. EAA expects that the FAA will update policy on operating limitations soon so that the standard operating limitations will include the task-based Phase I authorization language. If you are currently in Phase I flight testing or plan to have your aircraft inspected soon, email govt@eaa.org for details on how to obtain the new task-based Phase I operating limitation.

Like the Additional Pilot Program, another successful collaboration between EAA and FAA, the task-based flight testing program is designed to be decentralized and easy to use. No follow-up reports to the FSDO or DAR are necessary after the initial inspection, unless otherwise required. Builders are also free to use the traditional time-based Phase I program, which remains unchanged.

This program is the result of years of hard work by EAA staff, our volunteers, and the FAA,” said Tom Charpentier, EAA government relations director. “This is one of those rare ‘win-win’ policies. It will ensure that aircraft are thoroughly tested and documented, that every hour of flight testing has a purpose, and that when the flight testing work is complete, Phase I is over. We thank the FAA for their efforts on publishing this guidance and to those in our community who contributed.”

An EAA webinar is scheduled for April 4 on task-based Phase I flight testing to brief everyone on this new option, click here to register.

EAA continues to work on several flight testing and documentation resources to aid users of this policy. More details to be announced soon.

*The term AOH is new with this AC, and was suggested by EAA as a homebuilt-specific alternative to Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) or Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM), both of which have regulatory connotations that do not apply to experimental aircraft.

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