European Rules Coming To Homebuilts?

RVs at AirVenture

Photo by Phil Burmeister

The NTSB recently completed a lengthy study of the safety of experimental amateur built (E-AB) aircraft and issued 12 recommendations to the FAA to address the difference in safety between E-AB and conventional certified airplanes. The Board was lavish in its praise for EAA and for the vitality and innovation of homebuilders, but if you read what they recommended, instead of listening to what they said, there is reason for alarm.

Several of the 12 recommendations urge the FAA to change the rules. Actually, the NTSB wants the FAA to make new rules, because the regulations governing E-AB have been very broad and accommodating. So far the FAA has taken the term “experimental” seriously and builders have been given wide latitude to design and build airplanes that conform to generally accepted aircraft standards. There is no long list of specific rules that a builder must satisfy as there is for standard certified airplanes. And that’s how it must be if an E-AB is to be truly experimental.

The FAA’s attitude toward E-AB is uniquely American. No other country gives builders so much freedom to create airplanes of their own design, or to modify the plans or kits supplied by others. Each E-AB airplane is unique in the FAA’s eyes, a one-off that represents the concept, workmanship and basic skills of the builder.

The NTSB took note of the almost total freedom homebuilders in America enjoy and compared that to what’s going on in Canada and Europe. You won’t be surprised that builders in those other countries work under many, many more regulations. And you shouldn’t be surprised that there is a difference in safety records. The restrictions placed on E-AB in Europe and Canada do apparently contribute to a better safety record, and the NTSB would like to see similar regulations applied to builders here.

That attitude goes to the core of what EAA, and the American spirit for that matter, is all about. It is undeniable that regulations work when the objective is safety in exchange for the freedom to innovate and fly an airplane of your own creation.

We can see how very strict regulations have made the U.S. airline system the safest in the world, and safer than I ever imagined possible. And that makes sense. A person buying an airline ticket has no interest in the joy of flight, or the dream of creating an airplane that suits your own desires. That passenger just wants to get to his destination safely and on time.

If we were to impose airline regulations on personal flying safety would improve—and personal flying would end, because those regulations can’t accommodate it. That is the threat hidden in the NTSB report. New rules can in fact improve safety, but they will steal the soul of homebuilding.

Homebuilders are not daredevils. They don’t want to die in an airplane crash. But we do demand the chance to try our own ideas and creations. Taking some added risk to achieve a goal, to fly a dream, is absolutely essential to keep E-AB exciting and growing.

Over the years the EAA has worked closely with the FAA, and more recently with the NTSB, to identify areas of special safety concern and we have informed builders of how to avoid unnecessary risk. It has been a great relationship with education being the tool to enhance safety, not regulation.

But I fear that situation may be changing. With the growth of the E-AB fleet the total number of accidents stands out. And while other types of flying have all shown safety improvement, it’s difficult to document a similar trend in E-AB. That means the people who regulate aviation need a new target, and E-AB is at or near the top of the list.

I know that EAA will continue to work with the FAA and NTSB on all personal flying safety issues, but it’s also time to understand that our interests may be diverging.

When safety moves ahead of freedom to innovate and fly your dream, E-AB can never be the same. And if path to improved safety is European style regulation, it’s time for EAA members to fight back.

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55 Responses to European Rules Coming To Homebuilts?

  1. Paul Wisgerhof says:

    Let’s remember that aviation began as an E-A/B project. It pretty much continued that way through WWI. We have all seen the amusing film clips of the trial and error era of plane construction, and we’ve come a long way since then. Virtually every certified single engine airplane built in 1960 has the same basic form it had then. But, along come some experimenters, who decide that if fiberglass works well on boat why not planes and we enter the era of composites. Thank you Mr. Rutan and others. The same is true in avionics. The first “highway in the sky” EFIS was build by Blue Mountain and Grand Rapids Technology for E-AB aircraft. Standard with Garmin, Avidyne, et al today. So, while we continue to tinker, fiddle, and improve our birds, some of us will make mistakes. Others will invent or improve great products. Flying, in and of itself, is not inherently dangerous. It is, however, very unforgiving of carelessness, ignorance, and braggadocio. Let’s keep the right side up, and strive to accomplish our dreams.

  2. Jim Cosse says:

    Perhaps the NTSB’s and FAA’s time would be better spent trying to regulate the upcoming boom in drones, and the inherent danger to all of GA, than trying to “regulate” safety into the E-AB industry. I can build a safe experimental; I cannot easily avoid a rapidly moving, small drone headed right for me, especially if I don’t see it coming.

  3. Gilbert says:

    The NSTB is another group of bureaucrats that want to regulate anything to do with transportation that is inherently dangerous out of existence.

  4. Steve Carter says:

    Why hasn’t the NTSB been investigating the four deaths on Everest and making recommendations for a safer climb to conquer Everest? Makes just about as much sense. Let the Government run EAA? They will do such a good job as they have with all else they get attached to and ruin! The biggest mistake was to welcome them to the experimental world to begin with EAA folks. They will legislate us out of existence should we not stop this nonsense now! Tell the NTSB to stick to commercial aviation where they were originated to police safety regulations and perform autopsy investigations on major losses.

    • Dov Elyada says:

      Good point, Steve.
      I’ve seen a documentary of a guy climbing Sentinel Rock, in Yossemitee N.P., clinging to the beyond-vertical cliff with only his bare hands. What a dangerous means of transportation! The NTSB nannies should do their best to have it outlawed!

  5. Marty says:

    It’s time for the EAA to get back to its roots and support true experimental aviation. I think the trend toward all the fast build kits has hurt those of use doing traditional scratch building. Try finding an EAA tech counselor for something other than an RV; same is true for help with a first flight. Where does a pilot get “equivalent time in type” if they aren’t building a popular fast build design. The EAA needs to take a good hard look at it’s priorities.

    • Paul Mulwitz says:

      I had no trouble getting a technical councilor to look at my Zodiac XL when I wanted an experienced opinion. Indeed the guy I got was president of chapter 105 – Van’s chapter in Oregon. He may not have been as expert in Zodiac details as in RVs, but he was still a competent adviser as well as an A&P. His advice led to me taking a big step to scrap the wing spar cap I had mangled and build a new wing.

      I agree with you about the difficulty of first flights and getting time in type. This was especially difficult for my Zodiac XL since the fleet was grounded a year earlier due to in-flight structure failures. I did have significant time in another LSA but the flight characteristics were not very close.

      The problem of first flights is a real one. I wrote up a one page summary of my plane’s flight test results and my normal practices to help a future pilot get familiar with it. I stuffed one copy of this in the plane’s airframe log and another in the same envelope with the airworthiness certificate and registration that lives in the plane. At least any future pilot trying to fly my creation won’t be able to say (as many have in other cases) he had no information at all about how to fly the plane and just had to “Wing” it.

    • Brad Knapp says:

      The EAA already has done the introspection that you’re demanding. Did you read any of Rod Hightower’s emails to all members concerning the streamlining of focus of the organization? Well just in case you haven’t, #1 is a recommitment to homebuilding. They’ve even made cuts in staffing in areas that are considered as superfluous. BTW, this is old news, and the initiatives are well underway.

      With regard to RVs somehow limiting your scratch building experience….not following that logic at all. RVs are popular in their own right, not because they’re peeling away people from the sratch building world.

  6. charles stiles says:

    I’m about dumb as a rock but took one look at that questioner and shunned it as i could see the writing on the wall. i cannot see why so many people fell for this obvious ploy for the regulators to get their foot in the door. people need to wake up.

  7. William says:

    We live in an era of regulation for regulations sake and a select few are oppressing the many with their obsession for regulation to justify their position as regulators.

    But there is another issue that keeps escaping notice that is driving me up the wall. Accident statistics only make sense when they are converted to a ratio (rate) relative to proximal cause. It makes no sense to consider falls in the bathtub per units of toast consumed and it is silly to do so. It makes very little sense to measure aviation accidents by unit time, say flight hours and it is ridiculous to measure EXPERIMENTAL aircraft accidents by calendar year and doing so reveals an agenda.

    If the NTSB, FAA et al were serious about comparative accident rate they would measure it by flight operation (one take off, one landing) because that is the proximal accident cause, aircraft operation. They would also include fatalities per incident in their evaluation because this would give a clear indication of the level of hazard to the general population.

    However, this will NEVER happen because to do so would reveal that most civil aircraft including EXPERIMENTAL aircraft spend a lot of time on short hop flights or performing touch and go landings and run up flight cycles like crazy. Compare this directly to airline operation where there may be many hours between take off and landing and hundreds of people will die in a single fatal event and suddenly you have a very different “safety” statistic.

    The AOPA and EAA need to stop accepting purposefully skewed government “safety” statistics if they want to have any credibility with their constituencies on this issue.

    • Steve Carter says:

      Right on the Mark William!

      • Oleran says:

        Could EAA & AOPA, via their membership, collect the necessary data to make exactly that case?

        • William says:

          The reality is that the RV community has become the target in this regulatory initiative. There are so many of them that they have effectively replaced the population of type certified general aviation equivalent aircraft. As such it is incumbent on the RV community to show some leadership.

          (Full disclosure, I don’t own an RV and never will as they are outside my price class but they are fine aircraft. I do own a scratch built VW powered homebuilt I constructed.)

          What is on the line is the freedom to build and fly civil aircraft in the United States. The EAA and FAA have a very collegial relationship. That relationship needs to change if the EXPERIMENTAL aviation community and civil aviation in general is to have an effective advocate on excessive regulation.

          Next weekend is Golden West. If the RV community were to unite and boycott attendance of Golden West there would be a grand total of six warbirds, three Quickies, a Varieze, a Lancair, and a Glastar in attendance. This together with a letter from the RV community to the EAA and FAA that points out the purpose of the boycott, the value of EXPERIMENTAL aviation and the risk of its loss would be a powerful motivator to the EAA of what could happen if they stay on this course.

          The risk of such an action is that the Federal Government would be delighted. They would immediately start planning to fill the empty ramp space (and air space) next year with drones.

  8. Brian Manlove says:

    “The land of the free, and the home of the brave.” Ya, right… In today’s world, no Lindbergh would have ever flown, no naval aviation would have ever been attempted, etc. I’m sick and tired of being protected from myself. Too bad, this used to be a great country, now it’s just a bunch of rules, regulations, and lawyers.

    • Rudy Popeszku says:

      Sad but true. We seem to be at war in our own country where our government agencies are trying to take away the freedom that we fought and dies for in the first place! Why must we spend so much time trying to defend our freedom from ourself?

  9. Greg Arnold says:

    I built an RV 7 that first flew in July ’06. It was a challenging project, but I had great fun and learned much along the way. Having to abide by a host of additional Federal regulations would certainly have detracted from my enjoyment or even discouraged me from starting in the first place. My homebuilt turned out great and has been totally reliable and a joy to fly. I think that most home builders value the freedom to create a personalized aircraft, even if their project is just a popular kitplane like my RV. At the same time I think home builders can feel “out of the regulatory loop” and this becomes dangerous when it eventually carries over into their flight operations. What I would like to see is an EAA developed, FAA course for home builders that must be completed prior to the purchase of kit. This course could emphasize all the specific safety issues relating to E-AB aircraft accident statistics and operation, safety related construction techniques and the unique licensing and maintenance requirements for E-AB. Presently some builders enjoy the assistance of experienced builders or professionals while others learn everything the hard way. A properly developed, FAA required course would improve E-AB safety and help many first time builders create better aircraft.

    • Marty says:

      Many builders (my self included) aren’t building from a “kit”, just plans. Back in the 70′s there was hardly anything that by today’s standards would be called a kit. Requiring a prospective builder to take and pass an FAA course (and pay accompanying fees) before starting just adds to the cost of the project and is another regulation. I don’t think we want to suggest additional FAA intervention because we don’t like the proposed additional FAA intervention suggested by the NTSB. When you read this and say “what is he saying?” you will see my point. The more alphabet soup you throw into the mix will just lower the number of starts. BTW, many of us can’t afford or rationalize plunking down $30-$60K for a “kit”; we want to scratch build; something most EAA members don’t realize still takes place. Nothing against RV aircraft, they are great but way out of the price league of many aspiring builders.

      • Cory Thompson says:

        Greg & Marty,
        While I am fundamentally opposed to ANY new regulations, and I am personally willing to accept my “fate” in flying my own experimental aircraft, consider the following comments.

        Does anyone remember the days of “pre-cover” and “pre-close” inspections? While I am not advocating a return to this standard, it USED to be a way of life in E-AB. Before you closed up a wood box spar or plywood skinned wing, you would arrange through your friendly local FSDO for an airworthiness inspector to look things over and give you an OK to close up the structure! Same thing before covering a fabric E-AB. The final inspections were also performed by FAA inspectors, and frequently, at the discretion of the inspector, fuel flow verification test were “witnessed”. Even with all this, theaccident rate was probably the same as today, if not worse.

        I have done condition inspections on several 40+ year old E-
        AB’s and/or seen several being repaired/restored. For the most
        part, the workmanship is excellent, and only old age with varying
        degrees of neglect taking it’s toll on many of these old aircraft today.

        Today’s FAA inspectors wouldn’t know how to inspect a wood, tube or fabric structure, and the DAR system in place is a joke. Half of the DAR’s just want their fee, walk around the plane, kick the tires, wiggle the controls and if nothing falls off, wish you luck! The other half will do a thorough inspection and at least give you your money’s worth.

        I have inspected several “new”‘and “recently completed” low time E-AB’s and what I have seen on several is absolutely appalling. Shame on us for allowing this to happen.

        Another issue is that the typical Homebuilder, especially the scratch builder, is an independent type, and typically doesn’t have much supervision or help, and by their very nature, don’t want someone to critique their work.

        Safety through education is the best compromise. Safety through regulation will, to some extent, be effective, but will reduce an already shrinking GA fleet and when thelast GA airplane is put to bed permanently, the FAA can sit back and admire their now perfect safety record!


  10. dennis souder says:

    The Nanny State has been growing at a dizzying rate. Witness the recent NYC effort to limit the size of unhealthy drinks to less than 16 oz. How much sense does that make? Not much unless the NS tracks and limits the number of drinks you can buy in a given period of time. “Surely they will never do that,” you may think – but who would have anticipated the absurd idea for a 16 oz limit? The NS lays awake at night dreaming of ways to help save us from ourselves, so tomorrow they can say: Hi, I am from the G’mt and I am here to help you!

  11. Harold Bickford says:

    The pilot/builder is still the key element here. He or she needs simply to honestly evaluate what can be built and flown consistent with ability, experience and a strong desire to learn and develop new skills. In other words respect your limitations and operate within them. As skills and abilities increase one can attempt more ambitious projects always operating within their envelope of capability. Beyond that asking questions and not stopping until accurate and factual answers are obtained and applied will help the learning curve enormously. Flying is not 100% safe while risk management is doable. It is a matter of making smart, informed choices.

    • Paul Mulwitz says:

      I agree with you. However, there is a large problem in the fact that people who can build a very nice plane often don’t have sufficient pilot skills to fly it safely. This is not a judgement problem but simply can be poor pilot skills.

      In one case I flew with a guy who had recently completed a very nice RV-9A. He stalled it about 30 feet above the runway and came crashing down. A quick inspection revealed no damage to anything except my attitude toward him and his pilot skills. Later I asked him what speed he uses for final approach and his honest response was “I don’t know”. When I suggested he get some instruction he indicated he just didn’t have enough money to pay for it. At least he was smart enough to get a factory pilot to do his plane’s first flight.

      This problem is not just one for experimental airplane builders. Any pilot who owns a plane needs to have enough good judgement about his own skills and the ability to match them against current conditions for each flight. Unfortunately there is no second opinion required or available. Anyone with enough money can buy a plane without having to prove he has the required judgement to operate it. Even the FAA can’t regulate this problem since they can’t confiscate his plane or keep him from flying it. They have some enforcement power over commercial operations but almost none against private ones.

      I am not suggesting I would like to see more regulation of private aviation. I merely want to point out there are huge gaps in this part of aviation when it comes to safe operations. I wish I knew how to improve this situation, but I don’t.

  12. Reb Folbre says:

    Hey guys! Bureaucrats job is to make rules to force people to do things . Saddles for horses are a reasonable idea but for chickens and pigs, not so good . In America we enjoy the freedom to build and fly what ever we want when we want with minimal regulation or oversight. to This is what sport flying possible in the US of A and I for one like it that way! Every rule or regulation is one less freedom that we have! The rules that govern flying USA are mostly reasonable and we should keep that way. Leave European rules in Europe. Rein in the NTSB!

  13. Will says:

    A thought provoking expose, Mac. Is it all that unreasonable to ask an aircraft builder to do a fuel flow test or to think about how to conduct the first test flight or should we just hand them a Darwin Award along with their airworthiness certificate? Would most pilots argue that transition training is a waste of time and making it more accessible, a bad thing? I don’t think so, if they have much experience flying different types of experimental aircraft. Should the second owner of an E-AB be provided with performance data and a POH or does buyer beware suffice? Doesn’t look like it, if you believe the fatality statistics presented by the NTSB. The real issue here is not the recommendations that the NTSB made, but rather the “foot in the door” syndrome that all of us worry about when it comes to government involvement. What will they come up with next? That’s the worry. When do they begin to crush creativity and personal freedom. Herein lies the challenge. How do we, the E-AB community, adopt what makes sense, yet prevent intrusive and unnecessary government regulation. I don’t know, but you got me thinking.

  14. Joseph A Nelsen says:

    I have just begun an E-AB project via scratch building. I am only 9 months into it and am (still) looking forward to finishing it in my retirement years ahead of me. I flew a C-172 for years and fully enjoyed it, and Airventure, but always was most interested in E-AB. Now the government wants to turn these dreams of mine into a simular situation I have already decided to leave; over regulated aircraft . Experimental is a good description of what EAA was founded for. We members must not forget that, and we must convince the government that ‘we’ do not need to be the same as Europe, China, the South American countries, and Canada as far as how we conduct our endeavors in aviation, as long as we include safty in all we do. If the NTSB and FAA gets their way, well, I guess my time is truely done. Back to motor cycles and race cars on Saturday night dirt tracks!!

  15. JC says:

    Having lived in Europe for several years, I can say we should Not want to copy the European way when charting our future of innovation. Believing in and supporting the lonely individual with a good idea is heresy in Europe and one only has to look at the many countries still supporting Monarchies to see that the old established way is a formidable and oppressing way of life.

    I laugh at all the regulations in place and the too few inspectors and police to actually enforce them. However, if someone comes up with an idea that threatens an old established company? Watch out, the inspectors will descend en masse on the poor guy and hound him to death.

    I see so many bright intelligent young men and women overflowing with ideas—my advice to them is find a way to go to school in the US or marry someone and move there.

    Support EAA, AOPA, write your Congressman/woman.

  16. Ian Borg says:

    Don’t let European rule get into USA. You need to read what the British think about European rules in aviation. It appears that their main aim is to regulate everything to death.
    If the USA ignores European beaurocrats, maybe we in Australia will manage to do the same.

  17. Steve Moody says:

    Speaking from a European viewpoint whilst we’re often jealous of the freedoms you have flying experimental aircraft, not all our regulations are onerous: for example any completed homebuilt of an equivalent origin only requires, generally, 5 hours flight test before being released for general use.

  18. Fredrik says:

    Do like we do here where I live, build and fly (a small European country), let EAA (not FAA or whatever you call it) handle everything about Experimental aviation. Works perfectly, very little hassle with rules, cheap and also gives us a very good safety record when it comes to experimental aviation, very close to the statistics of GA, sometimes better.

  19. John says:

    If this were about me slipping and falling in my homebuilt bathtub then I would say fine, no regulations needed, best of luck. Unless my cat is taking a bath with me no one else gets hurt if I have shoddy workmanship.

    Like it or not, other people are impacted by poor construction and atrophied flying skills. While injury to people and property on the ground is rare it is quite sensational and always results in publicity. More importantly, we are able to carry passengers who do not have the skills to evaluate our workmanship and are at our mercy. I don’t want to see additional regulations, but the threat of them can spur real change in the behavior of EAA and builders. We can be suspicious of the intent and goal of the NTSB but if E-AB accident rates decline due to the pressure being applied by the agency (without implementing onerous regulations) then I have no issue.

  20. Terry Hand says:

    Which of the 12 recommendations (and they are just that, recommendations) do you fear will “steal the soul of homebuilding” as you put it. I don’t care for a broad-brush “we need to be afraid” comment without further clarification. I am not saying you are incorrect. I am just suggesting that it is improper for you to simply tell us to be afraid without telling us what to be afraid of. Surely you could have added another paragraph or two to your blog to further explain your comment.

    • Mac says:

      There is much to fear here because the NTSB is recommending new regulations that would cause any cautious inspector to use existing FAA regs as a guide. For example, there is a test of engine fuel systems that is acceptable to the FAA and it’s in FAR Part 23 that governs certification of light airplanes. Why would any inspector directed to find an “acceptable” test use less of a standard than already exists? The same would be true for the NTSB recommendation to create a complete operating manual. Existing regs define what must be in a POH, and it’s a lot and complicated. And what about the proposed requirement for electronic recording of flight test data? And maybe even an ongoing electronic recording of all flight data to be used to maintain the E-AB certificate?
      As soon as E-AB is held to a regulated standard for systems, structure, flying qualites, stall behavior, whatever, it is no longer truly experimental. And enforcing standards beyond the most general is what would steal the soul of E-AB.
      Mac Mc

  21. Mike C says:

    I had understood that many (most) of the E-AB accidents are not due to poor aircraft but poor piloting (overloading, loss of control, etc.). What’s the harm in improving piloting standards? Shouldn’t we all strive for that?

    • Mac says:

      Actually, the NTSB found that the biggest single factor in E-AB fatal accidents was loss of power. The engine itself isn’t failing, but lack of fuel flow to the engine is typically the cause of the power loss and that’s why the Board’s first recommendation is for the FAA to make new regulations that require a fuel system test that can be accepted by the FAA. You could say that the pilots in these accidents didn’t handle the resulting forced landing well, but the intitial cause of the wreck was loss of fuel to the engine.
      What the NTSB did find is that there are few structural failures in E-AB accidents, but power loss is much more common than for standard category airplanes, and control system issues also are more frequent in E-AB.

      • Alan Cate says:


        A friend recently crashed a CT Flight Design while taking off from the Venice FL airport.

        The crash was caused by engine failure when the airplane was about 40 feet in the air. The pilot successfully brought the airplane down to the runway but could not stop the forward motion before the airplane crashed into the chain link fence at the end of the runway. The pilot (with a CFI on board) had correctly preflighted the aircraft and run-up the engine prior to take off.

        FAA and NTSB inspectors checked the fuel flow (it was fine) and could not find any problems with the Rotax engine or the fuel supply system while they were inspecting the crashed airplane. They did remove and keep the carburetor to do further testing on it.

        This airplane was equipped with a DYNON screen which immediately alerted the pilot and CFI passenger to an engine problem (and the alert lights also worked properly), but the engine stopped within a second of the alerts, so it was a very sudden engine failure. Both the passenger and the pilot noted the yellow warning notice and the red alert.

        The FAA has issued a letter to the pilot absolving him of any improper piloting.

        However, with all the Rotax engines in the aviation marketplace, there is a crucial need to find (and fix) the problem with sudden engine failure.

        Constant recording of engine management system data is crucial to helping NTSB investigators determine what could be causes that lead up to accidents. Since you have mentioned that power loss is the most likely cause of accidents in EAB aircraft, it seems reasonable that data recording should be mandated by the FAA. Data recording in no way impinges upon a builder/pilot’s airplane designs, and it provides invaluable data for later reviewing what may have been probable causes of the loss of power.

        Successful prevention of future power loss problems will be predicated upon a detailed data base of parameters that out of spec, and this can only be reasonable accomplished by digital data recording of all engine management systems sensors (of course this needs to include fuel flow data).

        Most certificated aircraft and I would expect most of the newly built EAB airplanes contain glass panel displays which include engine management system displays. With the “high” price of gasoline, most pilots want to know what their fuel efficiency is as they try to lean their engines once they are in cruise flight. Thus, for the new airplanes, there will not be an imposition on the pilot to have digital data recording of the fuel flow.

        • pete says:

          Conformity can be contemptible If there was conformity….. across the board, of everything ,how boring this world would be! so forget about it! People have been dying since the begining of time and we will continue to do so! one way or the other! until the end of time! If all the aircraft in the world were exactly the same, some people will still crash them PERIOD

        • Paul Mulwitz says:

          While your suggestion of requiring engine status recording sounds like a good one it includes the assumption that all planes have (or need to have) the technology level of your Dynon equipped one. The truth is that many E-AB aircraft have no electrical system and don’t need one – except perhaps to meet your new regulation. Lots of aircraft builders merely want to fly around their patch rather than have a high speed cross country cruiser.

          This kind of suggestion would be best handled as just that – a suggestion – rather than a regulation.

          After two years flying behind a Rotax 912-ULS I feel qualified to say two things. 1. It is a reliable engine that is safe to fly, and 2. It is an annoying engine that has a lot more applicability in the snow mobile community of its origin than in an aircraft. Anyone who wants to fly behind one of these monsters would be well advised to make great sensor recordings so the people who follow after his accident might be able to avoid one of their own.

    • pete says:

      piloting standards are excellent in this country,AND we all strive to do a good job! we don’t need the ntsb stickin’ there 2 cents worth in. we have plenty of rules and regs if we need them. we sure don’t need any more…..get it? And.. while I’am at it , we don’t need any more, so but out. thank you, now I feel a little better.

  22. Alan Cate says:

    Where can I get a digital copy of the NTSB report with all the details and statistics?

    I want to review this data for myself and not rely on NTSB/FAA administrators who are free to make recommendations/rulings based on their own vested interests.

    USA pilots are at a nexus because the aircraft insurance industry currently (May 2012) will not insure LSA airplanes due to accident rate statistics that show LSA aircraft have twice the accidents of certified general aviation aircraft.

    Also do a hangar survey and determine what percent of hangared GA certified airplanes are flown 50 hours or more each year. Some of the pilots who own certificated aircraft find it is too costly to fly the non-LSA aircraft that they own and have been considering buying an LSA, but now the insurance industry has stiffled that opportunity.

    The end result is that within five years the number of flying SEL private pilots will be half what they are today.

    The USA must immediately start increasing the number of aircraft pilots or we will be rapidly eclipsed by China, and the infrastructure, jobs, parts, and aircraft will be controlled by China.

    • Paul Mulwitz says:

      You are simply mistaken about lack of insurance for LSA. I have bought insurance for both an S-LSA and now an E-AB that meets the LSA definition.

      If you are having trouble getting insurance the problem might be the method you are using to find it. I suggest you contact a reputable insurance agent similar to the one I use – Regal Aviation Insurance in Hillsboro, OR.

  23. Mac says:

    Hi Alan,
    Go to our site at Click on the image of an RV with the headline concerning the NTSB report. In there is more informaition and a link to the NTSB summary and the recommendations for new rules. The full report will be issued soon, but the summary has many details.
    Mac Mc

    • Alan Cate says:

      Thanks for the link to the NTSB summary report of accidents .

      I’ve reviewed the 12 suggestions and hope that EAA gets strongly and centrally involved.

      Thanks also for your continued contributions to pilots!

  24. Gerald Morrissey says:

    I lived in Europe for several years. One of the things I remember well was the absence of planes in the sky. It was truly unusual to hear the sound of a GA aircraft and was cause to get up, go outside and try to see it. Sort of like when I was a kid in the 50′s in Massachusetts, not to many planes and each one was worth running out in the yard to see.
    Scratch building a Bearhawk Patrol

  25. Kelly says:

    I have been an EAA member for a number of years, and a year and one half ago I
    completed my E-AB zenith aircraft. It was not the quick build, the whole Idea was
    to learn and be educated by the activity. The reward was to fly my creation and
    continue in an activity that continued to require additional education and effort to
    maintain a hobby not equaled ( in my opinon ) by any other. Their are inherent
    risks built into any activity thats worth much excitment. Government burocracy
    does not like people do do anything dangerous or risky because other people clamor
    for and demand the complete control or saftey of everyone. Some out of misguided concern
    for the well being of others, and some out of the profit potential that lawsuites represent.
    Our responsiblility is to persuade our representives, be it EAA or senator, of our
    extreme dislike of thier lack of understanding when it comes to our freedoms.
    Understand that the freedoms you give up for any reason are so very costly to
    obtain again.
    As one of those who wrote before me has indicated, the NTSB now has nothing
    better to do than find a new problem to deal with, either real or trumped up.
    We left Europe in droves over the last 200 or so years, to get away from the
    veiws we are now dealing with in our current government.
    In short–vote the jerks out!!!!!!!

    • Mike C says:

      “In short–vote the jerks out!!!!!!!”

      Umm, since when have the FAA (and the European counterpart, the EASA) been democratic bodies that could be voted out (or in)?

      And if they were, you might get more than you wish for … :-) )

  26. Tom says:


    With all respect, you are more than a little out of touch. Many “new” homebuilt aircraft have no electrical system, much less a glass panel. Take a few minutes to join a typical scratch-built group such as the Tailwind bunch on Yahoo and follow a few threads as builders try to construct a solid, safe and well-proven aircraft for 10 or 15 thousand dollars. To require each of them to install a suite of instrumentation to satisfy a one-size-fits-all regulation is absurd and frankly ignorant.

  27. Pingback: Experimental Aircraft Regulations in the U.S.

  28. Scott says:

    I think Mr. McLellan should do more research on the Canadian Amateur-Built rules before he starts equating them to the awful regimes in some European countries. Canada’s regulations are extremely similar to the current US ones. The only real difference is that Canada requires a pre-cover inspection of parts (which simply means the inspector — it’s not a government employee either — needs to be able to see inside any assemblies). If I was in the US I would’ve asked an EAA tech counsellor to similarly check over my work. The other difference is that an owner of an Amature-Built aircraft can do their own maintenance (whether they were the builder or not).

    11% of the Canadian registered fleet is amateur-built and it’s growing. Why are the accident rates lower? I’m not going to pretend to have that answer. The only real difference I know of is that our inspectors require a fuel-flow test at max climb attitude (the instructions to do this are easily found online). It’s a good thing too because it probably saved a friend of mine from a loss-of-power situation on his first few flights.

    It would be a tragedy if the US adopted European-style regulation because Canada would probably follow. We like our freedom too.

    • Paul Mulwitz says:

      Actually, in the USA anyone can work on an experimental aircraft. The only regulation of this activity is when it comes to signing off the annual condition inspection. This requires either an A&P license (not IA as with certified planes) or the repairman certificate available to the plane’s builder.

  29. Frank Giger says:

    Well said, Mac!

    The issue with the Phase I testing recommendation is that it’s poorly implemented, and also goes to the POH.

    Rather than ask for both of them at the end of the test period for a sign off, the plan should be shown when the plane is undergoing its airworthiness inspection….which will dovetail into the blanks in the POH (Vx, Vy, etc).

    Having a builder-pilot show up at the end of testing is self-defeating. The dilligent guy will have had his plan before he cranked it up for the first slow taxi test and have it out in writing; the less so will just eye-wash the paperwork after the fact.

    The best we can do is to ensure that every builder has a clearly deliniated plan for testing available to him before he takes it up into the air. Heck, we may just educate some folks who have put so much thought into building the plane that they didn’t think through Phase I (or are ignorant of what it should entail).

    It’s not onerous because the EAA has a great test plan already available!

    On electronic data recording, it’s scary as can be. The equipment would probably cost more than the entirety of my little Nieuport 11 – and the added weight will wind up giving false numbers for when I remove it. Assuming I have an electrical system to power it!

  30. Brad Knapp says:

    I agree with Mac, but just can’t stomach the NTSB’s assertion that the Socialists are “safer”. Most homebuilt accidents are related to piloting/judgement, or to powerplant, NOT airframe/design/construction failures.

    Flying so so expensive and exclusive overseas, that the raw numbers are minuscule compared to the GA activity in the U.S., which makes their conclusion that the Socialists are somehow safer dubious and a real stretch.

    This is sick…..more regulation/government/polyester-wearing government employees is never an answer.

    BTW, to the guy who wrote “I pay my EAA dues to fight this stuff…”, well, that’s just a start. Annual dues are nothing compared to what it takes to mount a defense against something like this…especially if it involves our own government.

  31. Rodney says:

    Look in the mirror boys cause it is our fault. There are many documents out there from both the FAA abd EAA on taking that first flight and on flight testing your newly built airplane. Everytime we let a chapter member, and I believe that the majority of E-AB aircraft are built by members, take wing in his new project without a prewritten plan for flight test and without a thorough briefing on expected stall speeds, approach, flaps etc. we contribute to these statistics. Even if the builder is an ATP with thousands of flight hours the impatience of getting to that first flight can overcome good judgement. He may just think he can handle whatever comes up but without a plan and going over the numbers so they are fresh in his mind he can become a victim also. This also covers picking a good day for first flight and planning for an engine failure or other problems. I think the majority of accidents, particularly first flight accidents are due not to bad craftsmanship or things falling off but poor piloting and preparation. This also covers that person you just sold your plane to or the friend who just bought a E-AB plane form someone. In my limited time with experimental aircraft I have not yet seen a plane whose design was never built and flown before. Even if the configuration was slightly different it can give clues as to what you can expect. We need to make sure the pilot, our friend and colleague, is prepared even if he doesn’t want to be and is letting impatience get in the way of good judgement.

  32. Alex Kovnat says:

    I read all 51 comments above, and a few more that were posted via Facebook. I can’t add anything to the many comments on RV’s, aircraft built from plans (someone else’s or the builder’s own design), and individual freedom versus the nanny state. Only question I have, is regarding aircraft without electrical systems: Do the pilots of these aircraft carry walkie-talkie-like portable aircraft-band radios or portable GPS units, or do they fly NORDO to get a feel for the pioneering days of aviation?

    Now, I’d like to add my perspective. I am a resident of the Detroit area, and a part of the Southeast Michigan automotive engineering community. I have been a follower of the auto industry since I was a mechanically-minded teenager coming of age in Chicago during the 1960′s. Over the past 40 years I have seen how auto-hating intellectuals have been squeezing the private automobile to death between increasingly stringent safety requirements (i.e. recently doubling roof crush strength requirements) and of course, ever more stringent fuel economy requirements as well. As of now, automakers will be required to eventually attain 54 miles per gallon CAFE. In addition, there are upcoming regulations to require that cars be equipped so that if a guy is dumb enough not to fasten his or her seat belt and if said car is driven with the window open, the driver won’t be ejected in any conceivable rollover accident. There is also the possibility that cars may be required to have more and more air bags not only to protect vehicle occupants, but also cushion pedestrians one may accidently hit. I have been saying for years that if this trend continues, cars will take up to a full minute to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour — if that is, they will even be able to reach that speed at all.

    It has been my observation, based on years of following the auto industry, that no matter now many curliques and doodads and structural beefing cars are already required to have, somebody out there is always going to demand more. The latest demand for an additional add-on we are told will cost “only $100.00″, is a demand that cars be capable of operation on ethanol, methanol, gasoline or any combination thereof. Why should my car be required to have all these doodads and what-nots just to satisfy the purely emotional, purely ego needs of outsiders for more and more equipment and more stringent fuel economy requirements for other people’s cars?

    We are seeing the same trend with airplanes too. At one time the much-loved Cessna 182 could carry four people, a fair amount of things they may want to take with them, AND enough avgas to fly a reasonable distance. Now, owing to more stringent FAA requirements, the more recent 182′s no longer have as much payload + range capability.

    Regarding GA aircraft generally, I get the feeling that the same kind of personalities who would love nothing better than to squeeze the automobile to death between fuel economy and safety, will probably want to do that with airplanes too.

  33. Ramiro Silveira says:

    Dear EEA friends,

    You american should get down on your knees everynight before sleep and thank god for having the FAA as you regulatory agency.
    In Brazil, there are about 5 years the civil aviation agency was created, we are facing the most turbulent transition from the military to the civil personnel.
    It seems they think that the only way to increase flight safety factors is having no flights at all.
    Our sport aviation rules were similar to the european very light aircraft (VLA), now they are stepping back and imposing a bad copy and paste of american LSA, limiting gross weight and max and min speed, justifying their action on flight safety improvement, what is a lie because, in Brazil, there is not even investigation of accidents involving experimental aircraft.
    God save the american freedom!
    Take care for not following the brazilian bad example.


    • Brad says:

      Man, that would drive anyone nuts, Ramiro.

      Hang in there!

      • Ramiro Silveira says:

        Hi Brad,

        We do what we can until our patience flies away then we decide to ride bycicles, horses, boats, whatever, instead of planes…


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