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
- 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.