EAA Says FAA’s New Policy for Experimental-Amateur Built Aircraft Test Flights Smart, Safe

New policy from the Federal Aviation Administration on experimental-amateur built aircraft has the Experimental Aircraft Association and aircraft owners alike excited for a new realm of safety and possibility.

The new policy, known as the Additional Pilot Program and rolled out late last month in an advisory circular (AC 90-116), details new rules surrounding the initial test flight phase of amateur built aircraft. Pilots of amateur built airplanes are now able to take an experienced test pilot along on the aircraft’s first flight, which the EAA states should dramatically reduce the amount of accidents in the experimental-amateur built group.

The EAA has explained that the majority of accidents among the amateur built aircraft occurred within the first eight hours of flight time, and were caused not by equipment failure or malfunction, but rather pilot loss of control. This new program allows for the builder pilot to experience the first airborne hours in his or her own aircraft with the added safety of a more experienced test pilot onboard.

The new program does set qualification minimums for both test pilots and aircraft to be able to participate in the Addition Pilot Program. To meet the requirements, the aircraft must meet the following:

  • Built from a kit eligible under the “major portion” requirement of Part 21.191(g)

  • Issued an experimental certificate as an amateur-built aircraft or light-sport aircraft

  • Have fully functioning dual controls

  • Installed piston-driven powerplant recommended by the kit manufacturer

  • Successfully completed powerplant testing in accordance with AC 90-89

The additional pilot must meet several qualifications as well, and a scoring matrix was devised for ease of determining recency of experience. The matrix includes several instant disqualifiers, which include:

  • Less than 10 landings in the previous 90 days

  • No flight time in the model family of the test aircraft

  • Less than 40 hours of flight time in the previous year

  • Less than 500 hours of total flight time

  • Recency of conventional gear experience (less than 20 landings in previous year) if applicable

Another scoring matrix is available that rates the qualified second pilot based on whether or not he/she has PIC time in several different makes and models of aircraft, Phase I testing experience, flight ratings achieved, and more.

This new policy is a refreshing step forward for the FAA, and offers a refreshing amount of flexibility for the builder/pilot set. If you have questions regarding this new policy, or have received resistance from the FAA, feel free to contact the Phoenix aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today for the answers you deserve.