EAA/FAA 2009 Winter Aviation Summit
A Productive First Day
Hooper Harris of the FAA discusses accident rates for homebuilts and LSA during Monday's opening session.
February 24, 2009 — In his opening remarks at the beginning of the two-day EAA/FAA Summit under way in Oshkosh, FAA Flight Standards Director John Allen told the assembled EAA and FAA staff members that the mission of the Flight Standards Division is “to enable the adventure and commerce - and I put “adventure” in there in particular because of what EAA does—of aviation while ensuring safety. That’s our responsibility.”
The discussions that followed were productive. At its end, the session had fulfilled the request Allen made as the day began: “Let’s not get bogged down in generalities,” he said. “Let’s talk in specifics - areas that are solvable.”
Among the day’s highlights:
- The FAA briefed EAA staff on recent changes in leadership at the agency. Former Congressman Ray LaHood is the new head the Department of Transportation, while several people are being considered for the FAA Administrator’s job. “A lot of our employees have had a change in the complete line of leadership above them, in some areas all the way down to their branch manager,” said Allen, “and we’re working out the dynamics of a new team.”
- The NTSB recommends that each amateur builder should get flight training in a similar experimental aircraft but pilots seeking such training are often unable to obtain it. There is no national database pilots can use to find training aircraft, and the process of getting one’s experimental aircraft approved for training has become so complicated that few owners will brave it, according to Joe Norris, EAA's homebuilders community manager. It’s a safety issue that affects tens of thousands of EAA members, Norris said.
Allen said the FAA could assist EAA in creating a national database of experimental aircraft and instructors to provide that training. A joint EAA/FAA work group will identify potential obstacles and report back with an action plan. And the FAA agreed to look for ways to streamline the approval process that allows experimental aircraft to be used for training.
The subject of aviation safety - especially regarding amateur-built and LSA aircraft accidents - occupied much of the day’s work session:
- Norris described EAA’s current safety programs, including EAA Technical Counselors and Flight Advisors – programs whereby volunteers help amateur builders to safely undertake aircraft projects and test flights. “We’d like to see more amateur builders take advantage of these programs,” Norris said. While the total amateur-built accident rate is rising, he noted the builders who participate in the EAA programs have an excellent safety record.
- Hooper Harris, manager of FAA’s Operations & Safety Program Support Branch, reviewed in detail accident numbers and rates for amateur-built and light-sport aircraft. In both categories, accident rates have risen in recent years and stall-spin accidents have produced the highest percentage of fatals. Harris also noted that pilots making the transition from standard aircraft to lighter, less forgiving LSA are involved in more fatal accidents than pilots whose primary training is under Sport Pilot rules. “It doesn’t appear to be a medical issue,” he said. “It seems to be a transitional training issue.”
Both EAA and FAA will continue to analyze the accident statistics and to look beyond the numbers at the accident narratives, to identify the most effective ways of improving safety with the least amount of additional effort—“the best bang for our bucks.” It was agreed that EAA and FAA can and will work together to:
- find ways to increase participation in EAA and FAA safety programs;
- address the high numbers of stall-spin accidents; and
- improve the collection and analysis of accident data.
LSA accident data present unique challenges, Harris said, because there is no distinct “LSA Accident category” - too many variables are involved. Besides, he said, the low number of LSA accidents so far is too small for meaningful statistical analysis.
Overall, it was agreed that the LSA accident rate is a success story. It is lower than the amateur-built accident rate and higher than the broader general aviation accident rate. “It’s right where we predicted it would be,” when the LSA category was created, said EAA’s Earl Lawrence, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs.
EAA/FAA Summit Addresses Ultralight-Like Flight Training
The availability of pilot training services in ultralight-like aircraft was one of the topics addressed during the two-day EAA/FAA Recreational Aviation Summit held this week at EAA Headquarters in Oshkosh. With the passage of the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft (SP/LSA) regulations, the number of flight instructors and flight schools providing training for ultralight-like aircraft was significantly reduced, from thousands to just 70 today.
Many factors caused this to occur, but in particular it was due to the creation of the regulatory standards and oversight on this type of flight training. The 70 providers who remain today hold FAA flight instructor certificates and maintain their aircraft to the new higher standard. But the availability of these aircraft for flight training will end in early 2010 if no action is taken. The resulting loss in the number of training aircraft could produce a significant decrease in safety for pilots of ultralights and low-mass/high-drag LSA, which are limited to 87 knots maximum speed.
To address this concern, EAA is proposing a revision in FAA policy that will enable the existing 70 training aircraft, the FAA-certificated instructors who fly them, and the FAA-certificated mechanics who maintain them to continue to provide their services as they have done since the SP/LSA was implemented. EAA’s proposal takes advantage of existing regulations and would not require an exemption from any existing regulation.
During the Oshkosh meetings, the heads of FAA Flight Standards and FAA Aircraft Certification told EAA officials that the FAA appreciates the important safety issue involved and that specific steps are being taken at the agency to address the issue and to ensure continued access to flight training services for the most basic sport aviators.
“This meeting is really more than a summit,” EAA President Tom Poberezny told the group. “It’s part of the process that goes on 365 days a year in terms of the relationship between FAA and EAA and, more importantly, [between the FAA and] the people we represent - EAA members, who are an important part of the aviation community.”
In a sense, one can gauge the significance of this annual meeting by the FAA people who come to Oshkosh each winter. They are among the agency’s top brass, its “heavy lifters.” Their participation is a measure of EAA’s credibility and stature within the agency.
Participants in the two-day working meeting include,
From the FAA:
John Allen, AFS-1: Director, Flight Standards
Dorenda Baker, AIR-1: Director, Aircraft Certification
Larry Buchanan, AFS-610: Manager, Light Sport Aircraft Branch
Brian Cable, AIR-210, Acting Director
Terry Chasteen, Light-Sport Aircraft Program Manager
Steve Douglas, AFS-301: Deputy Division Manager
Debra Entricken, AFS-600: Acting Director
Anne Graham, AFS-801: Assistant Manager
Hooper Harris, Operations & Safety Program Support Branch Manager
Don Lausman, AIR-230: Manager, Airworthiness Certification Branch
Kim Smith, Manager, Small Airplane Directorate
Ron Wojnar, AFS-301, Acting Deputy Division Manager
From EAA and affiliates/divisions:
Tom Poberezny, President
Paul Poberezny, Founder and Chairman
Jason Blair, Executive Director, NAFI
Timm Bogenhagen, Ultralights
Sean Elliott, Flight Operations
Bill Fischer, Warbirds Division
Rick Siegfried, President, Warbirds of America
H.G. Frautschy, Vintage Division
Joe Norris, Homebuilders Community Manager
Randy Hansen, Director, Government Relations
Earl Lawrence, Vice President, Industry and Regulatory Affairs
Doug Macnair, Vice President, Government Relations
Adam Smith, Vice President, Membership