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Initial Overview

FAA’s Federal Register Notice of policy on interpretation and enforcement of amateur-built aircraft regulations

Document Description
The FAA issued its long-awaited policy statement on the amateur-built aircraft regulations on July 15. The notes provided below are an initial overview from EAA's Industry and Regulatory Affairs Department.

General
The FAA issued the new draft amateur-built certification policy today (July 15, 2008) with a 30-day comment period. The materials include a new Section 9 Experimental Amateur Built Airworthiness Certificate section of FAA Order 8130.2 and a new combined Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft Advisory Circular. The comment period listed in the publication is far too short to obtain reasonable public input that this proposal warrants. EAA will petition the FAA for an extension.

The FAA has provided much more detailed information to inspectors, designees, and the public with the publication of the new draft amateur-built certification procedures. The FAA has provided in these draft documents more written explanation on what qualifies as an amateur-built aircraft than has ever been provided in the past.

The big changes include new FAA forms, more detailed instructions to FAA inspectors, discussion regarding commercial and educational assistance, and a new, more detailed, and comprehensive advisory circular for the public. The general theme of all the materials is that the FAA will be much more aggressive in ensuring that applicants provide data, such as detailed builder’s logs, clearly showing that the project meets the eligibility requirements for the amateur-built certificate.

Specific Review Items
The FAA has more clearly defined “Fabrication” and proposes to institute a minimum amount of each activity that must be done by amateur builder(s). The objective as EAA understands it is to make sure a kit aircraft requires a significant amount of fabrication of parts and does not constitute only assembly tasks.

Fabrication is proposed to be defined as “to construct a structure or component from raw stock or materials.”

The Amateur-Built Fabrication and Assembly Checklist, which is the form the FAA uses to determine if a kit aircraft is eligible for the FAA 51% list, will be available electronically on the FAA website for every aircraft that is on the list.

The FAA is proposing that the FAA representative who is evaluating an application for an amateur-built certificate ask more detailed questions of the applicant to verify that the applicant performed the work. The FAA Notice asserts that “the FAA could ask the applicant to describe a particular construction task or technique used to fabricate the aircraft or information as to the type of materials. These discussions enable the FAA to evaluate the involvement of the applicant in the construction of the aircraft.”

The FAA Notice has more restrictive language regarding the data the applicant must provide the FAA to assist in determining the aircraft's eligibility for an amateur-built certificate. For example the Notice states, “If records are not available or if records do not exist to support the eligibility statement, the FAA will not be able to find compliance to the education, recreation, and major portion requirements of 21.191(g).”

The FAA proposes to establish a “National Kit Evaluation Team” which would perform all the kit evaluations to determine eligibility to be added to the FAA 51% approved kit list. This proposal is consistent with the recommendations of the members of the ARC.

The FAA has provided additional guidance on commercial and/or educational assistance to amateur builders. For example, the Notice asserts that “the FAA will not credit toward the major portion determination any tasks completed by the commercial assistance provider for educational purposes.” It also contends that “because commercial assistance can impact eligibility for an amateur-built experimental certificate, the FAA may observe fabrication and assembly activities at the commercial assistance facility to determine whether the project can meet the major portion requirement of 21.191(g).”

The FAA proposes to make mandatory an inspector's and/or DAR's determination of major-portion (51%) compliance when an amateur-built aircraft has been presented for certification. The inspector will have to document having made a major-portion determination before the inspector may certificate an aircraft. Furthermore, the inspector must document the rationale supporting that determination.

Both the Proposed Order and Advisory Circular documentation accompanying the Notice make very clear that the regulations do not allow for restoration or remanufacture of a type-certificated aircraft to be certificated as an amateur-built aircraft.

Items not new to FAA policy but reinforced in this draft include:

  • “The practice of attempting to convert a type-certificated aircraft to an amateur-built aircraft by crediting rebuilding, alterations or repairs, does not meet the intent of 21.191(g).”
  • "Fabrication is defined as ‘to construct a structure or component from raw stock or materials.’ This excludes rebuilding or restoring activities.”
  • “Kit aircraft manufactured and assembled by a business for sale to other persons are not considered amateur-built ….”
  • Items such as engines, engine accessories, propellers, rotor blades, rotor hubs, tires, wheel and brake assemblies, instruments, and standard aircraft hardware such as pulleys, bell cranks, rod ends, bearings, bolts, rivets, etc., are acceptable and may be procured on the open market.
  • Prototypes produced by a kit manufacturer “are not produced by persons ‘solely for their own education or recreation.’ Therefore, these cannot be certificated as amateur-built aircraft under 21.191(g).”
  • “You may get commercial assistance for non-checklist items on a kit evaluated by the FAA. These items include painting and the installation of interior upholstery or avionics beyond regulatory requirements.”
  • “Commercial assistance does not include the instance where an incomplete aircraft is sold to another builder and the second builder completes the aircraft.”

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