Experimenter

APR 2015

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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EAA Experimenter 19 THE FAA'S ADDITIONAL PILOT Program, a new policy that formally allows a second pilot on board while fl ight-testing homebuilt aircraft, is now a reality. This is big news! One of the fastest moving EAA/FAA programs ever to come to fruition, the Additional Pilot Program (APP) may also be one of the most important in terms of improving the safety of testing experimental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft. At the same time it increases fl exibility during the test period. In less than 18 months the two bodies (with the help of lots of volunteers and input from the homebuilt community) devel- oped AC 90-116, which outlines the ways that the initial test fl ights of a homebuilt can be accomplished with more than one pilot in the airplane. Under the new provisions, the owner/ builder can now be accompanied by a pilot who is more experienced and qualifi ed to help with the test fl ights. The program also outlines ground tests for the powerplant and suggests test programs for both the aircraft and the pilot that are aimed at increasing the safety through building experience while doing the Phase 1 testing. Phase 1 includes all of the fl ight time prior to getting the restric- tions fl own of (typically 40 hours). The new program is not a requirement. It is an option. The old test policies still remain in place allowing a builder/owner of the aircraft to do the testing himself (solo) or get someone he feels is more qualifi ed to do it. The APP allows the builder/ owner pilot to experience the thrill of the fi rst fl ight while hav- ing a more experienced and qualifi ed pilot at his side to ride herd on the proceedings, ready to head of any potential prob- lems and to lend a helping hand if problems do occur. THE BACKGROUND OF A GOOD IDEA There are several reasons this program escaped the seemingly endless delays that are often a part of altering federal policies. EAA has long advocated some sort of provision that would allow more qualifi ed pilots to assist in the testing. However, the real push to get that done came from the NTSB. When it reviewed E-AB accidents that occurred during 2011 (a representative year), the board came to the conclusion that having more expe- rienced pilots in the airplanes could reduce the accidents, especially those ending in fatalities. The statistics clearly show that the causes of accidents fall almost equally into three distinct categories: powerplant prob- lems, pilot loss of control, and incidents that indicate a lack of experience, profi ciency, or qualifi cations such as hard landings. With those statistics in hand, the NTSB tasked the FAA to work with EAA in developing a program that would lower accident rates. It opined that would probably involve a second pilot. After the causes of accidents in 2011 were researched in the light of having another, more qualifi ed person on board, the FAA, with EAA's input, came to its own conclusions: • Powerplant problems were often caused by some sort of fuel system deficiency, so tests to help prevent those problems should be recommended in the APP. At the same time, many of the powerplant accidents on record were made worse by poor decisions or poor skills on the part of the sole pilot on board. It was determined that the handling of the aircraft during a powerplant emergency would be greatly improved by having a more experienced pilot at the controls. • Loss of control accidents were almost always the result of a builder/pilot being over his head in the type of airplane being flown for the first time, usually because of a lack of currency and eroded skills. Of the loss of control accidents, 20 percent happened on the first flight, but 65 percent happened in the first eight hours. So, the APP not only includes allowing a second, more qualified pilot in the cockpit, but also spells out some maneuvers the builder pilot (BP) should do in the airplane to gain familiarity with it while the qualified pilot (QP) is at his side. • "Other" category accidents included any number of factors, some beyond the pilot's control, but many of them could have been avoided had the pilot been more skilled and proficient. These included things like landing short, being overcome by a crosswind, and other varied causes. The research made it obvious that during the test period the pilot was being tested just as much as the aircraft was, and the Additional Pilot Program was designed to deal with both factors. ELIGIBILIT Y: THERE ARE PILOTS AND THEN THERE ARE PILOTS The way the program is organized, there are actually three dif- ferent "grades" of pilots, each of which must meet eligibility, currency, and experience requirements. AC 90-116 goes into much more detail than a magazine arti- cle can deliver, so it is suggested that the PDF be downloaded at www.EAA.org/sportaviation to get all of the details. The three pilot types that are designated in the APP are: • Builder pilot (BP): To be eligible for the program the pilot must be the builder and/or at least part owner of the airplane in question. In the event there are multiple owners, the same series of requirements has to be met by each owner. • Qualified pilot (QP) is the individual who meets the requirements to ride in the other seat from the first flight onward. • Observer pilots (OP) are those who, after the BP demonstrates familiarity with the aircraft by meeting certain requirements, can ride along to perform tasks such as note taking, watching for traffic, etc. He has to have a purpose to be in the flights and isn't just going on a joyride. He is also not necessarily qualified to fly the airplane himself. The Additional Pilot Program The FAA blesses having a second pilot involved in E-AB fl ight testing BY BUDD DAVISSON

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