EAA Government Advocacy
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EAA continues to work hard on these issues and others of importance to EAA members and other aviators. There is strength in numbers, not only in EAA member participation but also in joining with other aviation groups and important allies such as the general aviation caucuses in the House and Senate.
- EAA Decides Against Implementing Young Eagles Fuel Exemption
- EAA Works to Ease Rules on Homebuilt Flight Testing
- Jetman: No Simple Task
In August, after a 16-month wait, the FAA responded to EAA’s Young Eagles/Eagle Flights (YE/EF) petition with an exemption that partially granted EAA’s requests. The EAA petition requested that YE/EF pilots who held a sport pilot certificate or higher be able to receive compensation for fuel expenses they incur during volunteer flights.
While the FAA found that YE/EF flights are “unique and designed strictly as a tool to familiarize the non-flying public with general aviation operations,” it also found that the flights are “similar to sightseeing operations offered by commercial entities on a for-hire basis.” If the flights have any element of compensation, the FAA argues, the agency must “place conditions and limitations that provide an equivalent level of safety” to the compensated flights so that the pilots and aircraft involved in these flights “meet the general public’s expectations.”
In the exemption, the FAA stated that it would allow some private pilots to be reimbursed for fuel expenses, including fuel costs incurred ferrying the aircraft to and from YE/EF events. However, the FAA imposed several conditions on allowing the fuel compensation that are unattainable by EAA. Ultimately, EAA has decided that operating under the exemption would not be possible without a total restructuring of the YE/EF programs.
The exemption established recordkeeping, coordination, and notification mandates that would be impossible to meet due to the separate and independent relationship between EAA headquarters and the chapters. The inability of EAA to fulfill these requirements ultimately makes all other arguments for or against using the exemption moot. “Unfortunately, the exemption seems to be written for a centralized operation with clear operational control,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “Our Young Eagles and Eagle Flights programs do not and cannot function that way.”
EAA also objects to the other requirements under the partial exemption, that YE/EF pilots must be certified as private pilots with stated minimum flight hours, and that aircraft used must all hold a standard airworthiness certification. These requirements would have severely reduced the number of YE/EF flights without adding to the level of safety.
“It is a shame that Young Eagles and Eagle Flights pilots will not be able to utilize donated fuel, but trying to operate using this exemption was logistically unachievable and would damage the social fabric of our chapters and the Young Eagles and Eagle Flights volunteer networks,” Elliott said. “We are not deterred, however, from the main goal of Young Eagles - introducing youth to the freedom and joy of flight.”
EAA is working with FAA officials to institute an optional program that would allow homebuilders to ride along with a qualified second pilot during Phase 1 flight testing of their aircraft. The proposal is an attempt to mitigate the most common causes of accidents during the initial flight hours of a new homebuilt aircraft.
“We know that the majority of accidents during Phase 1 occur during the first eight hours and that most of those accidents are due to human factors, such as loss of control on the part of the pilot,” said Tom Charpentier, EAA government advocacy specialist. “Through this proposed program, builders will have the option to bring a more experienced pilot into the test-flying process without giving up the opportunity to participate in the first flights themselves.”
Throughout this process EAA has involved the subject matter experts who volunteer on the Homebuilt Aircraft Council and the EAA board of directors Safety Committee. The FAA was willing to work in partnership with EAA on this proposal to create additional flight test options for homebuilt aircraft instead of added regulations.
“We will remain absolutely firm on our protection of a homebuilder’s right to flight test his or her aircraft, or designate any appropriately rated pilot to do so with minimum required crew,” said Sean Elliot, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “This proposal expands the options and gives guidance to FSDOs to allow homebuilders to make those early flights with an appropriately qualified additional pilot.”
The Final Word - Sean Elliott, EAA Vice President of Advocacy and Safety
Jetman: No Simple Task
With his groundbreaking performances at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, Yves “Jetman” Rossy thrilled crowds with his very unique form of flight as the world’s smallest multiengine jet aircraft. Most people do not know the massive coordination and certification it took to accomplish these public flights.
EAA took the lead in wading through the challenges of certification and worked collaboratively with the FAA to find a path forward. In Switzerland, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) simply categorizes Yves’ jetwing activity as one of a parachutist. Simple and elegant, this approach was not possible with current U.S. regulations. By the FAA’s definition, a parachutist cannot have a positive rate of climb!
So, we worked with FAA headquarters teams at AIR-200, AFS-800, and the Milwaukee FSDO to find our way forward. In defining the jetwing as an experimental exhibition aircraft, we were able to develop the needed documentation and inspections to support his intent of flying in waivered airspace. Talk about a new definition for “life-limited part!”
Each turn had its unique set of challenges. Imagine creating reasonable operating limitations for a wing you strap to your back, or arranging an airframe and powerplant inspection by hauling the wing in the back of a van to the parking lot of the FSDO. If the wing would have fit in the elevator, we probably would have carried it all the way up to the main floor of the FSDO!
The EAA/FAA track record of collaboration made it possible to share Yves’ special form of flight and experimentation with our members and attendees at AirVenture. The FAA truly went above and beyond in working through all of the issues with us. It just goes to show that when it comes to innovation and creativity in aviation, we all want to see folks pursuing their dreams and inspiring others at aviation events such as AirVenture. After all, those principles are what EAA is all about.
EAA's Government Relations department works to preserve the freedom of flight and reduce the regulatory barriers affecting affordability and access to EAA members’ participation in aviation. Protecting the freedom to fly is the foundation on which all of the organization’s advocacy initiatives are built. EAA fights to preserve this freedom by providing clear solutions and practical alternatives backed by hard work and dedication. EAA’s history of success is a testament to that philosophy.