Experimenter

OCT 2014

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

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4 Vol.3 No.10 / October 2014 HOMEBUILDER'S CORNER The Additional Pilot Program Another option for fl ight testing your homebuilt BY CHARLIE BECKER SINCE THE BEGINNING of the modern homebuilt movement with the formation of EAA in the early 1950s, fl ight testing of experi- mental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft has always been limited to a single-pilot operation during Phase 1 fl ight testing…until now. The FAA just recently fi nalized a new advisory circular, AC 90-116 , that will allow an additional pilot to be on board dur- ing fl ight testing. This AC represents the culmination of more than a year of joint work by EAA and the FAA to provide an optional path for fl ight testing a homebuilt. You may be asking yourself, Is this a good idea? EAA believes it is, and that it will reduce E-AB accidents. Acci- dent data has shown that loss of control is the main factor in about one-third of all fl ight-test accidents. It is the number one controllable factor in fl ight-test accidents. By adding a "qualifi ed pilot" to the early fl ight testing, we will be bringing in someone who is current, experienced, and fundamentally knows how to fl y that specifi c design. The hurdle to qualify as a "qualifi ed pilot" is a high stan- dard; as it should be. There is no point to adding a second person to the fl ight-testing scenario if he is not going to bring something to the party. With a seasoned, experienced pilot on board to help manage pilot workload and act as a safety net for the builder pilot, we are confi dent that lives can be saved. Some people will point out that adding a pilot goes against the long-established doctrine for civilian and military flight-test programs of having a single pilot only. Admittedly, it does. However, we homebuilders are in a fundamentally different situation; the aircraft being tested is a product of our craftsmanship, not the result of a corpo- rate or government program. And since we just put a major amount of sweat equity into our project, most homebuilders really want to be in that plane for the flight testing. When you look at it from this viewpoint, we will be upping the quality of our homebuilt test flights. Through the funny way that life works, I found myself in the position of coordinating the fl ight testing of two Zenith aircraft during the exact same time period this summer. As I hope you all know, more than 2,500 EAA volunteers helped build a Zenith CH 750 Cruzer, known as the "One Week Wonder," during the week of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014. The other recently completed Zenith was a CH 750 STOL that was built by your EAA staf members and was certifi - cated on the Saturday before the start of Oshkosh 2014 (we jokingly refer to this aircraft as the "One Hundred Week Wonder"). Unfortunately for our EAA team, even though we knew it was coming, we did not have the option of using this new AC for our fl ight-testing program. I am absolutely convinced that it would have been benefi cial to the transi- tioning of other test pilots into the aircraft. Instead of simply trying to describe how the aircraft performs, I could have had someone in the right seat to guide me along. Also, as we got beyond the "proving it can fl y" stage, it would have been extremely valuable to have a second safety pilot on board to help with the fi ne-tuning of the glass panel. Finally, I want to commend the FAA, specifi cally Mark Gi- ron of the Flight Standards Division, for turning this idea into a reality. The National Transportation Safety Board got this ball rolling by making a recommendation to examine home- built fl ight testing in its 2012 study on amateur-built safety. However, without Mark's commitment to this project, the AC may not have happened. He worked through all the issues, using the accident data and input from fl ight-test experts, to craft a policy that will allow an improvement in safety. Mark is an example of someone at the FAA who is willing to fi nd a way to solve a problem. (The fact that he fl ies an RV-6 prob- ably helps.) Homebuilders have been given a great opportunity with this new AC. It is now up to us to demonstrate that it will reduce E-AB accidents and that the FAA can rely upon homebuilders to use this program as intended. We hope this successful project will pave the way for more regulatory improvements—maybe something like a task-based fl ight-test period rather than just mandating 40 hours? That's something to work toward. Charlie and Tracy Buttles fl ying the One Week Wonder after completion of fl ight testing. With the new FAA Additional Pilot Program, two pilots onboard during fl ight testing is now an option.

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