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First Canadian EAA SportAir Workshop A Success

 By Jack Dueck, Editor

During the building phase, time has a different dimension, especially as the project nears completion and the first flight is imminent. The excitement seems to mitigate the demands on the homebuilder’s time.

Now the builder’s activity turns toward flying the aircraft. As the yearly anniversary date rolls around, he or she recognizes the need to carry out the annual inspection and sign-out requirement for ongoing airworthiness requirements in accordance with Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) 625 B and C. Questions that need answers include:

  • How much time will this take?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How much inspection is required to be safe, and how much is too much?
  • How exactly is it all documented and logged, in accordance with rules and regulations?

Several years ago, the EAA Canadian Council recognized a need for homebuilders to become equipped to deal with these issues. The thinking was that since EAA SportAir Workshops offered the venue for many different subjects, why not use this same venue for a Canadian homebuilders “Annual Inspection and Airworthiness” structured course of studies?

We started with the EAA’s Light-Sport Aircraft Repairman Course as a platform and over three years developed a significant program for our homebuilders. May 1 and 2 saw the new Amateur-Built Aircraft Inspections Course attended by interested students as presented at the High River Regional Airport in Alberta.

Annual Inspection

Builders from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory; Blaine, Washington; Fort Vermilion, Alberta; as well as local districts addressed these concerns and more, and then completed a very thorough and competent yearly review of a homebuilt aircraft under the watchful eye of SportAir instructor Phil Ward, AME.

Phil brought his years of knowledge and experience to the classroom. Day one started with an introduction of the students and their interests and specifically asked of each attendee, “What do you expect from this course?” Canadian rules and regulations were reviewed with the emphasis on the amateur-built aircraft category. Emphasis was placed on safety: safety in shop practices and safety in the ongoing airworthiness aspect of your aircraft.
The next section delved into human factors with a thorough discussion of the 20 questions (10 before and 10 after), evaluating the inspector’s suitability and competence to do the inspection.

The Inspection
Instruction was given on methods of inspection as well as procedures employed. What order? What procedures? What to look for? The various types of aircraft were considered: wood – cracks, rot; fabric – tensile strength; metal – corrosion, fatigue; and composite – delamination, cracks.
Students reviewed safetying of components, methods, and materials. This included control systems, cables, and push-rods. Aircraft components were grouped into empennage, wings, fuselage, prop and engine, landing gear, and electrical and instruments, with emphasis on what to look for based on field experience.

With theory in hand, students were each assigned a specific area to inspect and then turned loose on an actual aircraft: an RV-9A undergoing its annual inspection. When each student had completed his assignment, the results were shared, evaluated, and discussed with Phil so that all had the benefit of the inspection.

Day two was reserved for a detailed inspection of the engine and prop. This included a hands-on of procedures such as a compression (leakage) test, oil and fuel filter inspections, spark plugs, etc. The wheels were removed, brake system and components inspected, wheel bearings repacked, and inspection of the gear legs and bulkhead fittings checked. Wing and empennage attach fittings were checked for tightness and wear.

CAR 625 Appendix B (for annual maintenance) and CAR 625 Appendix C (for out-of-phase maintenance regulations) were covered. Phil and the class discussed available resources such as websites, books, and the manufacturer’s information bulletins. Service bulletins and airworthiness directives were covered as well as recommendations and requirements for homebuilders in dealing with them. And finally, the course encompassed how this information and data should be gathered, along with the required sign-out for logbooks.

Annual Inspection

Students were amazed at the snags that were uncovered under a structured inspection program (wires chafing against a bulkhead, fasteners unsafetied). As Phil said, “It’s not only ‘Does it work, but will it work for the next 100 or 1,000 hours?’”

Every student rated this course as excellent. “Fantastic experience – instructor Phil had a wealth of experience and training to conduct the course and answer questions,” a student wrote. Many additional points above and beyond that expected, as well as a variety of aviation material, were covered. “Invaluable to me, as I move toward finishing my airplane and maintaining it. Thank you!” wrote another student.

If you’re one of the homebuilders that wants to maintain his or her aircraft in safe condition, and especially if you’ve purchased a homebuilt manufactured by someone else, you’ll want to consider attending the course next spring around this same time. For more information about EAA SportAir Workshops, visit www.SportAir.org.

Jack Dueck is a member of the EAA Canadian Council.

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