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EAA Members’ Voices Being Heard on 51% Proposal

Comment focus on potential added burdens to building

September 11, 2008 — EAA members are not shy about sharing their opinions of FAA’s proposed changes in the 51-percent rule for aircraft builders. The comment period, which runs through September 30, has already drawn hundreds of responses from those who have built or may build an aircraft.

EAA maintains that instead of creating additional burdens that could hinder growth in the homebuilt community, FAA should instead enforce the existing amateur-built aircraft rules and abandon proposals that would impose new and complicated requirements for documenting and reporting an amateur aircraft builder’s work.

EAA members agree by an almost unanimous margin, submitting dozens of in-depth, well-reasoned comments. Some of these comments sent to FAA were also shared with EAA headquarters. They include (some have been shortened for space considerations):

My primary concern is that the complexities of this new policy will place significant new burdens on amateur aircraft builders who are following the regulations today while not knowing the effects these significant policy changes will have on their work in the future. Plus, I don’t see how the proposed changes will address commercial building issues that caused the 51% policy to be revised. Enforce the existing regulation (FAR 21.191(g) and the FAA policies: (FAA Order 8130.2). By doing this you will accomplish your objective. And you will not be placing additional burdens on builders like me who are complying with the spirit and intent of the rules, or requirements.
- WJ W.

The regulations as they stand are more than adequate and the aviation community would not be served by requiring more onerous regulations in the future. The problem of enforcement would not be helped by passing more rules. I believe the FAA should work on enforcing the rules they now have. Safety records for homebuilts have improved significantly as better aircraft have been developed. Many of the improvements in general aviation aircraft have come about because of the homebuilt section. To further restrict this area unnecessarily will not have a positive effect on general aviation nor the public at large.
- Austin M.

21.191(g) requires the builder to fabricate and assemble the major portion of the aircraft. That should be left alone. There are too many different materials and types of aircraft to slap one general percentage rule onto tasks performed by the builder. To require a specific percentage is beyond the scope of the regulation. The rules work as they are. Please don’t change them, just enforce them.
- Wayne A.

The current regulations for homebuilt aircraft as they stand are sufficient. The FAA should enforce the current regulations. 21.191 (g) only requires the owner to fabricate the major portions of the aircraft. No specific percentage is specified and to require a specific percentage is beyond the scope of the regulation. The amateur built program is essential to the vibrancy and longevity of general aviation.
- Geoffrey R.

  • It is my opinion that the current rules are sufficient regarding the 51% construction of homebuilts or kits.
  • Reg 21.191(g) places an undue burden on the homebuilder and regulates through policy rather than common sense.
  • The revision of these regs do little to address the “commercial” assistance problem. It’s probably wiser, more productive, and less costly to enforce the regs that are already on the books.
- Marv D.

The existing regulation, FAR 21.191(g) has served the amateur built aircraft community for over 50 years. If the FAA would simply enforce the existing regulation FAR 21.191(g) and FAA order 8130.2, this would eliminate the possible burdens on builders like myself who are working within the rules. Asking me to determine a 20% fabrication value goes beyond the FAR 21.191(g) requirement.
- Joseph W.

  • A “breakdown” requirement in the FAA proposal unnecessarily complicates and confuses the amateur builder’s hands-on construction obligations.
  • FAA should enforce the current regulation.
  • To require a specific percentage of fabrication or assembly is beyond the scope of the regulation.
- Richard B.

“I have been involved in RV kit building aircraft for about 10 years. We don’t need another layer of rules, we need enforcement of the rules we have. … It is an exciting time in “experimental” general aviation. Homebuilt kit aircraft have been shown to be safe, reliable, and a huge boost to the US economy and research and development of better aviation gizmos. Please tread lightly and with deliberation before enacting new rules before enforcing the old ones are enforced.
—Larry G.

“I am a 1,500 hour pilot and a flight instructor and I am concerned that I and my students will not be able to meet the proposed changes to the Amateur-Built construction rules. I currently have three students who want to build their own airplanes after earning their FAA pilot’s license with me, but now they are reconsidering their need to get a pilot’s license if they are going to be unable to meet the proposed requirements.”
—Daniel W.

“The existing regulation, FAR 21.191(g), has served the amateur-built aircraft community very well for the past 50 years. I appeal to you to not change any regulations that will further handicap our effort to save General Aviation. If we do not have a united effort to promote education and access to affordable aircraft, General Aviation in the USA is ill-fated.”
—David D.

“…If a DAR or FAA representative is unable to determine under the current guidance whether or not the builder has in fact completed the majority (51%) of an aircraft, I do not see how the new proposed guidance will make this judgment easier. Experimental judges at AirVenture are able to determine a builders’ participation in the construction of his aircraft construction with a few questions. It should be even easier for a DAR of FAA rep to do the same at the aircraft home base.”
—Richard S.

“… I believe you are dealing with a genuine issue (commercial production of homebuilts) and working hard to correct it. I also think some of the comments you received at OSH and since have been helpful. Many of the fabricated pieces we receive are not completed and ready for assembly and do require … “finish fabrication.” I too think assembly should count for the majority of the major portion. ... Anyone who has built an RV could easily come up with 10 questions that only a genuine homebuilder would know.”
—Pete A.

“… At best, these percentage breakdowns add unnecessary confusion and complexity for kitmakers and builders, and the lack of specific definitions for the terms “fabrication” and “assembly” leave individual FAA inspectors with such a wide range of possible interpretations that standardization becomes nearly impossible. At worst—in an age where computer-controlled CNC mills, aluminum punch presses and press brakes, and high-temperature autoclaves can fabricate consistent, strong, and precision-matched components—these new percentage requirements serve only to compromise safety of the finished product and stifle the innovation that experimental kit designers are known for. I’m sure that it is not the intent of the proposal, nor is it the intent of 14 CFR 21.”
—Brian W.

How can you get involved? Comment on the proposal before Sept. 30, by writing your own comments or using the sample letter that provides guidance to EAA members and other parties who are concerned about the FAA’s proposed policy on interpreting and enforcing the amateur-built aircraft regulations’ “51% Rule.”

Send comments to:

e-mail: miguel.vasconcelos@faa.gov

U.S. Mail:
Miguel L. Vasconcelos
Production and Airworthiness Division
AIR-200, Room 815
800 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20591
fax: 202-267-5580

A more in-depth analysis of the FAA’s proposals and EAA’s responses is also available.

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