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EAA Steadfast in Defense of Amateur-Building Privileges

May 15, 2008 — Earl Lawrence, EAA's vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, reports that the organization continues its vigilant effort to protect the rules allowing for experimental amateur-built aircraft. The EAA community has paid particular attention to the regulatory privileges of amateur aircraft builders in the wake of FAA announcements of forthcoming policy changes.

Concerned about trends toward prefabrication and professional assistance with construction, the FAA has indicated it will tighten enforcement of the 51% Rule - the requirement that an amateur individual or group perform more than half of the tasks involved in the construction of an experimental amateur-built aircraft.

After a letter-writing and e-mailing campaign, the EAA community last month struck a victory when the FAA announced that it would "grandfather" all kits already on its approved list - that is, no re-evaluate previously approved kits.

With success in this area but many more considerations still unresolved, the EAA members' representatives continue to focus on providing comments to the FAA. "The EAA homebuilt council recently met and examined this issue," Lawrence said. "Members forwarded several suggestions to FAA officials in charge of publishing the forthcoming policy revisions." The suggestions focused on changes to paperwork procedures and revisions to forms aimed at making more clear, efficient, and standard the FAA's process of evaluating the amateur builder's contribution to overall construction.

"We're also exploring alternative means of influencing the outcome," Lawrence added. "Most recently we've been facilitating an effort launched by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon to seek a legislative solution. This effort does not contemplate reopening or revising the existing amateur-building rules. Rather, it would define for the FAA how to determine the amateur builder's contribution as it relates to the construction categories of fabrication, assembly, and installation."

According to Lawrence, the legislative terms hit a snag when the bill to which they were attached stalled in the Senate. "You never know when a bogged-down bill might break out and move quickly. We'll be ready to act if and when the opportunity reemerges," he said.

In the mean time, the EAA team will continue to advocate its members' interests within the guidelines of the FAA's policymaking process. "The FAA will issue a policy statement via the Federal Register," Lawrence said. "When it does, we'll alert our members, offer analysis, and provide the means by which to respond during the comment period that will follow."

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