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FAA Places Moratorium on New Additions to 51 Percent Approved List

Amateur-built ARC report published

FAR 21.191(g)

The FAA today issued the final report of the Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) that it appointed more than 18 months ago to investigate and make recommendations regarding the interpretation and enforcement of the amateur-building “51 percent Rule.” Concurrently, the FAA also placed a moratorium on its customary practice of providing to aircraft kit manufacturers and builders courtesy evaluations of new kits’ compliance with the 51 percent requirement.

The moratorium means FAA has temporarily suspended amateur-built aircraft kit evaluations. No new kits will appear on the “51 percent approved list” until the FAA has completed its new process revision for determining the major portion (51 percent). The new policies will be printed in a future Federal Register notice. EAA estimates that notice will be published in the April-May time frame. That notice will provide the public an opportunity to comment on the various changes. (See EAA’s Questions and Answers regarding the moratorium here.)

“We understand the logic behind the FAA’s suspending advance evaluations and approvals until after it has announced exactly how it will interpret and enforce the rule going forward,” EAA’s Earl Lawrence said. “However, we also understand that manufacturers and customers may have difficulty in making decisions until the FAA makes its policy clear. Accordingly, we’re stressing to the FAA that this ‘limbo period’ should be as brief as possible.”

The ARC’s report

The ARC, co-chaired by Lawrence, Van’s Aircraft’s Dick VanGrunsven, and FAA’s Frank Paskiewicz, was formed during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2006. It was comprised of representatives from the kit industry, organizations, and FAA. The ARC’s charge was to develop and present to the FAA its thoughts and ideas on what the original intent of the regulation was; how it is being applied today; and what impact the growing commercial assistance centers are having on the industry.

“EAA continues to advocate the preservation of amateur-builders’ privileges and the exploration of alternative regulatory avenues allowing for different levels of participation in aircraft building and flying activities,” Lawrence stressed.

The FAA stated that it is in general agreement with the proposed changes to FAA Orders, Advisory Circulars, and Forms put forth in the ARC’s final report. The FAA will make all documents available for review and comment prior to publication.

The full committee, FAA and industry members, agreed:

  • FAA directive and advisory language for the airworthiness certification of amateur-built aircraft does not adequately address the issue of commercial assistance in excess of that allowed under the regulations.
  • The forms used in determining the amateur-built status of the aircraft need to be updated to more accurately reflect who actually performed the fabrication and assembly of the aircraft.
  • The aircraft kit evaluation process is not standardized. The public, industry, the FAA, and individuals within those groups, have different opinions about what level of fabrication and assembly constitutes “major portion.” In other words, it is not clear how to determine if the amateur builder fabricates and assembles the major portion of aircraft solely for their own education or recreation.
  • Aviation Safety Inspectors and Designated Airworthiness Representatives may need additional training to fully understand the FAA’s expectations when determining an aircraft’s eligibility for an amateur-built certificate.

The industry and FAA members of the ARC could not come to an agreement on how to define major portion when evaluating aircraft kits, either in kit form at the manufacturers or when an aircraft is fully assembled.

The FAA will develop the final method of calculating major portion. This method will be made available for review and comment prior to publication. The FAA will consider petitions for rulemaking by ARC members or any other interested party or person.

For more information on this important issue, click on the Amateur-Built Aircraft menu in the left side of the EAA website’s Government Advocacy section.

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