Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) conducted a safety study, The Safety of Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft, in conjunction with the Experimental Aircraft Association (“EAA”) and other organizations, investigating the certification and testing of E-AB aircraft and the training of the pilots who fly these aircraft. The results of the study were presented at a public hearing on June 19 and 20, 2012. Following the public meeting, the NTSB adopted the study on May 22, 2012. As a result of the study, the NTSB has now issued safety recommendations to the FAA and to EAA.

The FAA Safety Recommendations are as follows:

  • Revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations 21.193, Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to define aircraft fuel system functional test procedures and require applicants for an airworthiness certificate for a powered experimental, operating amateur-built aircraft to conduct that test and submit a report of the results for Federal Aviation Administration acceptance. (A-12-28)
  • Revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations 21.193, Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to require applicants for an airworthiness certificate for experimental, operating amateur-built aircraft to submit for Federal Aviation Administration acceptance a flight test plan that will (1) ensure the aircraft has been adequately tested and has been determined to be safe to fly within the aircraft’s flight envelope and (2) produce flight test data to develop an accurate and complete aircraft flight manual and to establish emergency procedures and make a copy of this flight test plan part of the aircraft’s certification file. (A-12-29)
  • Identify and apply incentives to encourage owners, builders, and pilots of experimental amateur-built aircraft to complete flight test training, such as that available in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Test Flying and Developing Pilot Operating Handbook, prior to conducting flight tests of experimental amateur-built aircraft. (A-12-30)
  • Revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to clarify those circumstances in which a second qualified pilot could be authorized to assist in the performance of flight tests when specified in the flight test plan and Phase I operating limitations. (A-12-31)
  • Revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to require the review and acceptance of the completed test plan documents and aircraft flight manual (or its equivalent) that documents the aircraft’s performance data and operating envelope, and that establishes emergency procedures, prior to the issuance of Phase II operating limitations. (A-12-32)
  • Revise Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 90-89A, Amateur-Built Aircraft and Ultralight Flight Testing Handbook, to include guidance for the use of recorded flight data for the purposes of flight testing and maintaining continued airworthiness of experimental aircraft. (A-12-33)
  • Revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to include provisions for the use of electronic data recordings from electronic flight displays, engine instruments, or other recording devices in support of Phase I flight testing of experimental amateur-built aircraft to document the aircraft performance data and operating envelope and develop an accurate and complete aircraft flight manual. (A-12-34)
  • Develop and publish an advisory circular, or similar guidance, for the issuance of a Letter of Deviation Authority to conduct flight instruction in an experimental aircraft, to include sample documentation and sample training materials. (A-12-35)
  • Complete planned action to create a coalition of kit manufacturers, type clubs, and pilot and owner groups and (1) develop transition training resources and (2)identify and apply incentives to encourage both builders of experimental amateur-built aircraft and purchasers of used experimental amateur-built aircraft to complete the training that is developed. (A-12-36)
  • Revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations 47.31 and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to require the review and acceptance of aircraft operating limitations and supporting documentation as a condition of registration or re-registration of an experimental amateur-built aircraft. (A-12-37)
  • Revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to include provisions for modifying the operating limitations of aircraft previously certificated as experimental, operating amateur-built, such as returning the aircraft to Phase I flight testing, as necessary, to address identified safety concerns or to correct deficiencies in the aircraft flight manual or equivalent documents. (A-12-38)
  • Revise the Civil Aircraft Registry database to include a means of identifying aircraft manufacturer, make, model, and series such as the aircraft make, model, and series classification developed by the CAST/ICAO Common Taxonomy Team that unambiguously identifies the aircraft kit or plans design as well as the builder of the aircraft. (A-12-39)

The EAA Safety Recommendations are as follows:

  • Identify and apply incentives to encourage owners, builders, and pilots of experimental amateur-built aircraft to complete flight test training, such as that available in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Test Flying and Developing Pilot Operating Handbook, prior to conducting flight tests of experimental amateur-built aircraft. (A-12-40)
  • Work with your membership, aircraft kit manufacturers, and avionics manufacturers to develop standards for the recording of data in electronic flight displays, engine instruments, or other recording devices to be used in support of flight tests or continued airworthiness of experimental amateur-built aircraft. (A-12-41)
  • Create and publish a repository of voluntarily provided information regarding holders of Letters of Deviation Authority to conduct flight instruction in experimental aircraft. (A-12-42)
  • Complete planned action to create a coalition of kit manufacturers, type clubs, and pilot and owner groups and (1) develop transition training resources and (2)identify and apply incentives to encourage both builders of experimental amateur-built aircraft and purchasers of used experimental amateur-built aircraft to complete the training that is developed. (A-12-43)

Of course, these are only recommendations and neither the FAA nor EAA are obligated to comply. However, many of the these recommendations make a lot of sense and it is my understanding that some of these recommended actions are already being implemented by EAA. Any rulemaking by the FAA, should it decide to act on any of the NTSB recommendations, will necessarily take a longer period of time.

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