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Pushing GA Forward With MOSAIC

January 3, 2019

Mosaics — or pieces of art made from assembling small pieces of various materials together — have been used by people to tell stories for thousands of years, going all the way back to 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. EAA’s MOSAIC, or Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates, brings that concept to aviation. Numerous parts come together to create a single story, one that features EAA working with the FAA to achieve a safer and better spectrum of aircraft for personal aviation.

The Tiles in MOSAIC

The exact details of the program won’t be known until after the FAA releases the rules for public comment, but the essence of it will change many areas of general aviation for the better. Experts from EAA’s staff, as well as the Homebuilt Aircraft Council, Legal Advisory Council, Vintage Aircraft Association, Warbirds of America, and other EAA members, all came together with ideas and possibilities.

Currently, a personal-use homebuilt is limited in being able to overfly densely populated areas and access the entire national airspace system. MOSAIC seeks to change that, as the average homebuilt project is no longer an experiment. Most of the amateur-built fleet are proven, safe types with a history of safe operations. With the evolution of the various homebuilding industries and the falling GA accident rate, there is no longer a reason for these limitations on homebuilt aircraft.

Experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) owners are able to attend a two-week course to obtain a repairman certificate for their airplane, even if they weren’t the primary builder. MOSAIC will contain language allowing a similar possibility to owners of other experimental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft, giving them the freedom to perform their own condition inspections.

In addition to standard amateur-built airplanes, MOSAIC is concerned with the less common ones as well. Language concerning the certification of experimental exhibition aircraft such as warbirds, as well as unique and novel aircraft, has been included, too.

Introducing a model for prospective airplane owners to purchase a demand-built aircraft is also on the table with MOSAIC. Getting extensive help with a build project, or having one completed entirely by another party, would further open up amateur-built aviation to pilots who might not have the time to start from the first rivet and go from there.

The part of MOSAIC that has gotten the most attention so far has been changing limitations on light-sport aircraft. The new limits are yet to be determined by the FAA, but what is clear is that the current method of using weight is not comprehensive enough. A new system that relies on performance-based metrics would be more inclusive and more useful than a solely weight-based limit while allowing for better aircraft handling, durability, and performance. These changes would affect both E-LSA and S-LSA. It is EAA’s position that sport pilot privileges should be updated accordingly, although that has yet to be determined.

Making aviation more accessible by allowing sport pilots to fly a wider variety of aircraft has inherent benefits, but the additional options available to the flight-training community will offer newer, modernized aircraft to students and trainers.

 

How MOSAIC Came Together

MOSAIC’s roots trace back to 2013 when EAA was involved with an advisory and rulemaking committee intended to reorganize Part 23 in support of the general aviation legacy fleet. The recommendation made by EAA was known as “Primary, Non-Commercial” and made the final recommendations report, although it was never adopted as part of the rulemaking within the FAA.

Despite that setback, EAA’s government advocacy efforts continued steadily, as they have for decades. Three years later, in 2016, EAA launched a pair of strategic initiatives centered on light-sport aircraft weight limit increase and E-AB reform. Under EAA CEO and Chairman Jack J. Pelton’s leadership, those issues were made a high priority for the organization, and the EAA board of directors agreed that they combined to form a major strategic initiative.

Later that year, Jack and Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety, spent an afternoon with FAA senior staff at the Small Airplane Directorate in Kansas City, Missouri. They spent hours describing EAA’s vision for LSA reform and E-AB rule improvements and exploring the positive benefits of those changes. At that time, FAA officials shared an openness to developing performance-based metrics for LSA instead of a broad weight limit, agreed with the premise, and the two sides committed to continuing talks on these important issues.

While those talks happened in Kansas City, EAA’s unique position in the GA community and the organization’s long-standing positive relationship with the FAA offered further opportunities for discussion closer to home. One of those discussions that happen annually is the EAA/FAA Recreational Aviation Summit, which EAA hosts in Oshkosh every year.

The summit is unique. It is the only gathering that sees a significant number of top FAA officials travel to an association, such as EAA, to break down specific issues facing both EAA members and the GA community at large. Jack noted that the summit is one piece of how EAA works to change general aviation for the better.

“We have our FAA Winter Summit every year,” Jack said. “We have very active involvement on committees at the FAA. We have personal relationships, and we just advocate always in the best interest of the aviation community and in the best interest of understanding what FAA’s role is, which is truly safety. That’s their whole primary mission, to work to get to a place that benefits everybody.”

Of course, the EAA/FAA summit is not the best-known annual event that takes place in Oshkosh. EAA has long used the opportunities that EAA AirVenture Oshkosh presents to help accomplish advocacy goals.

At AirVenture 2017, EAA was able to follow up with the agency and continue talks related to wide-ranging GA reform. That reform took the form of a possible rulemaking initiative called Permit to Fly in 2017.

Permit to Fly was similar to MOSAIC in what it contained, namely certification issues such as improving the experimental category, legacy fleet, and LSA limitations. However, it was not as expansive as the current iteration.

Heading into 2018, EAA continued to discuss and brainstorm Permit to Fly at the summit and worked to show the FAA how important the reforms that came with it would be to general aviation. The first day of the summit was largely dedicated to those issues, and it was obvious some significant ground was being made on implementing these changes.

The FAA’s interest in the concept was proven in spring 2018 when the initiative got its current name, along with a “strategic” designation by the FAA within its rulemaking process. EAA expanded upon this opportunity just a few months later during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018.

Sean and the rest of EAA’s government advocacy team, with the help of dedicated government host volunteers, used AirVenture as a chance to show top FAA brass why the changes contained within MOSAIC are good for aviation. Hearing about builders and pilots who could benefit from rule changes is informative, but actually meeting these people and hearing their stories is huge.

“You have it all here for one week,” Jack said of AirVenture. “You have all of these contacts you can make, and it’s a very effective use of our time in getting these people around, to have them go home and say, ‘I get it.’”

 

EAA’s Legacy of Advocacy

MOSAIC is shaping up to be one of the biggest victories for the general aviation community in quite some time, but it’s only the latest major government advocacy effort to come from EAA. The organization has a long history of working with, not against, government agencies to accomplish changes that benefit EAA members.

Much has changed in the decades since EAA first began advocating on behalf of its members, but EAA founder Paul Poberezny’s column from the August 1969 issue of EAA Sport Aviation could easily have come from a 2019 issue. The focus on working with the FAA to accomplish tasks remains the same.

“We feel quite proud that FAA works earnestly with EAA on all phases of the amateur-built aircraft program and looks to EAA to maintain high standards of these aircraft — both rotary and fixed wing — and recognizes the strong influence and high standards it perpetuates,” Paul wrote at the time.

Since becoming EAA’s chairman and CEO, Jack said he very purposefully follows Paul’s model of working collaboratively with the FAA for the good of all involved parties.

“We’re not going to be antagonistic protestors who build these divides and truly turn it into a war and a battle,” Jack said. “And in those cases, especially with regulatory or government agencies, everybody has a memory. You may win one, but somebody’s going to get even on the next one. So, if you can create this underlying culture that it’s going to be collaborative, and you’re going to work together, and you’re going to work on the FAA’s behalf, and they’re going to work on your behalf, that really is what sets us apart.”

From helping to prevent ATC privatization to the exciting possibilities present in MOSAIC, EAA has effected impactful changes in recent years. According to Jack, what’s been done so far is only the beginning.

“We learned that with the STC process, we learned it with BasicMed, but EAA going forward is going to continue to do a lot more of this, to continually work in that avenue,” Jack said. “Because, not that other people aren’t doing it, but we’re the best positioned and probably, as far as a benefit to our members, it’s one of the highest values we can bring. So it’s like, okay, what’s next? What we are going to do is keep working on really setting EAA up from a long-term legacy of being the one that protected, helped, supported, and grew aviation.”