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FAA Kit Evaluators Tune-Up New Kit Approval Process at Sonex

Kit evaluations
NKET members work with Sonex CEO Jeremy Monnett on a kit evaluation at the Sonex facility in Oshkosh.

Kit evaluations
The new NKET meets to practice assigning point values to all steps of a kit’s building process. These values will determine the amount of work that can be done by persons other than the amateur builder.

October 22, 2009 — The FAA’s National Kit Evaluation Team (NKET) was in Oshkosh this week for the first in a series of training events for the people who will assess new kits under the revised amateur-built policy released earlier this month. A team of nine evaluators spent three days at Sonex Aircraft, LLC, using one of the manufacturer’s approved kits as a test bed to establish a baseline for future new kit evaluations.

“I’m here with my team to essentially practice and obtain the protocols and procedures that we are going to use, establish our methodology, and make sure we employ a standard in evaluating amateur-built manufactured kits from here forward” one NKET member said.

Sonex CEO Jeremy Monnett, who served on the FAA’s 2006 Aircraft Rulemaking Committee (ARC) for amateur-built aircraft, was eager to have his company participate in NKET training after the approval process for some pending Sonex kit additions were halted by an industry-wide FAA moratorium last year.

“Sonex has treated [this process] just like it was an FAA evaluation team visiting the factory, observing the parts, using the new documentation to go through and assign point values to [different builder categories],” Monnett explained. “The FAA is interested in knowing what Sonex does for builders and what builders have to do.”

The FAA selected Sonex because its aircraft are of sheet metal design, which is one of the most popular types of aircraft construction material. The NKET will visit two other kit manufacturers, including Velocity Aircraft in Sebastian, Florida, to evaluate composite kits, and a tube and fabric manufacturer in the Midwest to be determined. “Sonex is delighted with the team that they have selected, I feel they are qualified, up to the task, and the FAA is clearly, as they promised the ARC committee, putting the resources behind this policy,” Monnett said.

According to NKET representatives, a typical team will have at least two evaluators drawn from all four FAA directorates and FAA headquarters. The four directorates have their own specialties - large airplane, small airplane, rotorcraft, and engines and propellers. This configuration, for example, would allow for a rotorcraft kit evaluation to take place even if the rotorcraft evaluators were not available.

“The important part is that it’s providing the consistency and standardization, and that’s something that the amateur-built ARC really stressed,” said another NKET member. “It will narrow it down from 150 inspectors that could do a kit evaluation to eight.”

Also on hand to assist and observe the process during the NKET training were EAA’s Vice President of Industry and Regulatory Affairs and ARC Co-Chairman Earl Lawrence and Homebuilders Community Manager Joe Norris.

“The National Kit Evaluation Team is a major step forward for the FAA. Now it will be easier for kit manufacturers to have their kits evaluated and the evaluations will be standardized across the country,” Norris said. “The team that’s here in Oshkosh this week is doing a great job establishing their methods and procedures. They’re right on target.”

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