Fingers Crossed for Favorable "51%" Outcome
Amateur-Building ARC Report Makes its Last Rounds; FAA Final Policy on Homebuilding Imminent
August 21, 2009 — This week, members of the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) on amateur-building have circulated and signed their final report for publishing in the Federal Register. This report entails a comprehensive set of recommendations for FAA consideration as the agency prepares to issue its final policy revisions regarding interpretation and enforcement of the amateur-built experimental aircraft rules.
According to Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of regulatory affairs and co-chair of the ARC, the report incorporates all of the major principles for which the EAA amateur-building community has rallied and fought throughout the past 18 months.
Because final policy declarations from the FAA typically mirror ARC recommendations, Lawrence and the amateur-building community are hopeful for a favorable outcome. EAA expects the FAA to publish the ARC report, the revised policies and Advisory Circulars yet this month. This will be the final step in a policymaking journey that began at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2006, where the FAA announced the formation of the ARC. At that time, the FAA cited concerns about inconsistencies in the amateur-building community’s compliance with the regulatory requirement that an amateur builder personally perform the “major portion” (51%) of the tasks involved in constructing an aircraft.
Defense of Fundamental Principles
Having reviewed and signed the ARC report, Lawrence indicated that it recommends leaving intact an amateur builder’s freedom to build any kind of aircraft -- any type, size, and complexity -- so long as he or she complies with the 51% provision. It also advocates preserving the amateur builder’s option to enlist professional (paid) assistance, so long as the amateur’s personal contribution meets the 51% requirement.
On the question of whether an aircraft kit affords the builder an opportunity to complete a majority of the construction tasks, the ARC report calls for “grandfathering” -- not reevaluating -- amateur-built aircraft kits already on the FAA’s Approved Kits List, and having an FAA-appointed team examine only new or unevaluated kits for compliance.
As was announced during AirVenture 2009, the ARC’s final report calls for doing away with the so-called “20/20/11” formula that had many aircraft builders up in arms when first proposed by the FAA in 2008. It would have required amateur builders to prove that at least 20 percent of the amateur-built project involved “fabrication,” that another 20 percent involved “assembly,” and that the remaining 11 percent (up to a total of 51 percent) involved any combination of fabrication and assembly.
EAA and a groundswell of member and amateur-builder support rallied to defend the “homebuilt” movement. They argued that the 20/20/11 formula would be unnecessarily complicated and would do little to curb abuses of the 51 Percent Rule.
New construction checklists
The report also calls for the FAA to update the amateur-built construction checklist for each kit on the FAA approved kits list. The existing checklists use a “did it/didn’t do it” format for each task. The new checklists would allow the builder to document his or her contribution to each task in more detail, without unduly complicating the process of recordkeeping.
“The ARC’s report addresses the amateur-building community’s concerns,” said Lawrence. “Last year, EAA amateur builders argued that the FAA could effectively curb abuses of the 51 Percent Rule by consistently enforcing the rules and policies already in place. If adopted by the FAA, the ARC-recommended policies would help amateur-builders document their projects more accurately and would help the FAA to enforce the 51 Percent Rule more consistently, without unnecessarily complicating the lives of amateur builders.”