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Amateur-Built Aircraft: The Heart of EAA and of Aviation


August 29, 2008 — It all started with an amateur-built aircraft and two amateur builders named Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Amateur-Built Category, created in 1952, gives amateur builders the freedom to build an aircraft of any complexity, power, or performance, from a powered parachute, to SpaceShipOne. Innovations that were pioneered by amateur builders have found their way into private, commercial, and military aircraft. These include:

  • Composite materials and construction
  • Glass-cockpit instrumentation
  • Winglets
  • Ballistic recovery systems
  • Epoxy adhesives in wood construction
  • Vinyl-based coatings for fabric-covered aircraft
  • Lightweight engines with high power-to-weight ratios
  • Electronic ignition systems
  • Spring steel landing gear
  • Private spacecraft

The amateur-built movement also stimulated the revitalization and modernization of general aviation’s single-engine marketplace in the 1980s and 1990s … when the traditional industry was in deep decline.

Entire categories of modern recreational aviation are rooted in the amateur-building movement. These include ultralights, powered parachutes, and light-sport aircraft.

Looking ahead, amateur builders are leading the way in developing electric powerplants for general aviation aircraft. If history and the collective experience of EAA’s amateur-building community are any indication, amateur-builders will remain at the leading edge of progress in aviation.

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