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EAA Stands Up For The Homebuilt Movement

Calls For ‘Phase-In’ Period to Protect Current Builders

September 30, 2008 — EAA states its case in defense of the homebuilt movement in its official comments to the FAA’s proposed policy changes to the 51% Rule, submitted Tuesday, September 30. Through proposed changes to FAA order 8130.2, the agency aims to curb excessive commercial assistance and “pro building” of amateur-built aircraft. Instead, as EAA’s comments indicate, the proposed changes would have the unintended consequence of harming amateur-built aviation by adding significant new burdens to builders who follow the current regulations while not addressing excessive commercial building.

EAA has devoted considerable resources listening to and working on behalf of, its members to lead this advocacy action with the goal of preserving an individual’s ability to build his or her own aircraft for the purposes of recreation and education.

“EAA members have been the cornerstone of the homebuilt movement since the organization was founded in the 1950s, and in that role helped create an industry and foster development of new technologies and innovations for all of aviation,” said Joe Norris, EAA homebuilders community manager. “That’s why EAA and its members have such a great passion for aviation safety and education. It’s what we are all fighting for.”

EAA also stresses that since the FAA provides no “phase-in” period for its new requirements, builders with projects under way may not be able to comply with them. EAA therefore wants a specific grandfathering clause to be placed into any revision of the FAA order 8130.2.

“The FAA indicated at AirVenture this year that they did not intend to affect builders of current kits,” said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. “However it is imperative that a written statement to that effect is included in the proposed revised FAA Policy.”

If the FAA goes ahead with significant changes to the amateur-built certification policy, effectively discounting the objections of more than 1,000 EAA members and others who have submitted comments, EAA suggests that FAA establish a phase-in period allowing in-process projects to be grandfathered – that is, certificated under the current policy.

“Expecting these builders to meet the new requirements would impose a significant burden, and may lead to an unfair denial of an airworthiness certificate to a builder who has been working in good faith within the existing regulations/policies,” Lawrence added.

Enforce the Current Rule!
The overwhelming majority of the comments submitted call on the FAA to enforce the existing amateur-built aircraft rules and not impose new, complicated requirements on homebuilders. The existing regulations have served the homebuilding community and aviation well for more than 50 years, providing individuals the freedom to create and innovate. As a result all of aviation has benefited.

At the heart of FAA's concerns: Some commercial practices related to kit design and commercial builder assistance leave too few construction tasks to the amateur builder, resulting in aircraft built in violation of the major portion rule. FAA’s revised policy proposal calls for homebuilders to document that at least 20 percent of their total construction tasks are "fabrication"; at least another 20 percent of their total tasks are "assembly" work; and at least another 11 percent of the total tasks being any combination of fabrication or assembly – resulting in a minimum of 51 percent total construction tasks performed by the amateur builder.

The regulation (14 CFR 21.191(g)) calls only for the major portion of the aircraft to be fabricated and assembled by amateur builders – nowhere are specific percentages of “fabrication” and/or “assembly” mentioned. EAA therefore contends that to require a builder to meet specific percentages as proposed would amount to changing the regulations, or rulemaking through policy change.

“This new requirement only makes it more difficult for legitimate amateur builders to document compliance while having no effect on those who may currently fraudulently declare that their aircraft was constructed by amateurs,” the comments state.

Hindering Homebuilding, Innovation
Witness the development of composite materials, glass cockpits, electronic ignition systems, ballistic recovery systems, even private spacecraft – all these and more innovations were born in the homebuilt movement. New, unnecessary (and in the end, ineffective) burdens could have a devastating effect on this important grassroots segment of aviation. And just how would placing overly burdensome requirements on builders who are already working within the intent and spirit of the current regulations put a dent in those who are already operating outside the regulations?

In the end, FAA needs to ask itself that question and decide whether or not it wants to adversely affect legitimate amateur builders while effectively allowing the true targets of their well-intended efforts to continue business as usual.

Along with the dampening effect on participation in amateur-building activities, the FAA's proposal would adversely affect kit manufacturers and suppliers of engines, parts, equipment, and accessories. A considerable segment of general aviation could experience a significant downturn.

What’s Next?
With the public comment period ending, the FAA will examine what’s been submitted, perhaps with the assistance of a new Aviation Rulemaking Committee comprised of industry and agency representatives, then issue the new policy. Once signed by the administrator, policy changes are effective immediately.

EAA thanks all of those who took the time to submit comments on behalf of the homebuilt movement. We’re especially grateful to those who also sent copies of their comments to us.

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