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Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Just In Time For Oshkosh, NTSB Issues E-AB Safety Recommendations

Says FAA Should Require Fuel Test Function Tests On Experimental And Amateur-Built Aircraft, 'Encourage' Flight Training Enhancements

With Oshkosh just around the corner, the NTSB has issued a lengthy list of recommendations to the FAA concerning the operation of Experimental and Amateur-Built (E-AB) aircraft.

In the recommendation letter to the FAA, the board said that the recommendations address the certification and flight testing of new experimental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft and the training of the builders and test pilots of these aircraft, as well as of pilots who buy an E-AB as a used aircraft. The recommendations are derived from the NTSB’s safety study, The Safety of Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft(E-AB study), which was adopted by the Board on May 22, 2012.1 As a result of this study, the NTSB has issued sixteen safety recommendations, twelve of which are addressed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Information supporting these recommendations is discussed below.

NTSB analyses of E-AB aircraft accidents from 2001 through 2011 identified powerplant malfunctions and failures as the most common E-AB aircraft accident occurrence and second most common fatal accident occurrence overall. Powerplant occurrences were also the most common accident occurrence during Phase I flight testing.

In addition, the EAA conducted a voluntary survey of E-AB owners and builders in 2011. The results of this survey were shared with the NTSB and used in the E-AB study. EAA survey respondents who had achieved airworthiness certification of their E-AB aircraft were asked how detailed their Phase I flight test plans were—37 percent claimed to have a “very detailed” plan, while an additional 47 percent claimed a “somewhat detailed” plan, and 16 percent indicated a “somewhat informal” test plan. However, no consistent evidence of the existence or quality of flight test plans was available in accident investigation records or FAA certification files for the E-AB aircraft involved in accidents during 2011.

NTSB analyses of E-AB accidents occurring in 2011 found that 34 of the 227 E-AB accident aircraft were conducting Phase I flight test operations. The aircraft builder was the test pilot in 29 of these 34 accidents. The accident pilots’ median total flight time was 1,000 hours, but the median experience in the accident make and model was only 4 hours. The NTSB concludes that E-AB aircraft safety could be improved by providing pilots with additional training and guidance to safely perform Phase I test pilot functions.

In its letter, the NTSB recommends that the FAA revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations 21.193, Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to define aircraft fuel system  functional test procedures and require applicants for an airworthiness certificate for a powered experimental, operating amateur-built aircraft to conduct that test and submit a report of the results for FAA acceptance. The board also recommends that that agency revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations 21.193, Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to require applicants for an airworthiness certificate for experimental, operating amateur-built aircraft to submit for Federal Aviation Administration acceptance a flight test plan that will (1) ensure the aircraft has been adequately tested and has been determined to be safe to fly within the aircraft’s flight envelope and (2) produce flight test data to develop an accurate and complete aircraft flight manual and to establish emergency procedures and make a copy of this flight test plan part of the aircraft’s certification file.

For flight testing, the board recommends that the FAA identify and apply incentives to encourage owners, builders, and pilots of experimental amateur-built aircraft to complete flight test training, such as that available in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Test Flying and Developing Pilot Operating Handbook, prior to conducting flight tests of experimental amateur-built aircraft. It should also revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to clarify those circumstances in which a second qualified pilot could be authorized to assist in the performance of flight tests when specified in the flight test plan and Phase I operating limitations.

Further, the board says the FAA should revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G,and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to require the review and acceptance of the completed test plan documents and aircraft flight manual (or its equivalent) that documents the aircraft’s performance data and operating envelope, and that establishes emergency procedures, prior to the issuance of Phase II operating limitations; Revise Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 90- 89A, Amateur-Built Aircraft and Ultralight Flight Testing  Handbook, to include guidance for the use of recorded flight  data for the purposes of flight testing and maintaining  continued airworthiness of experimental aircraft; revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to include provisions for the use of electronic data recordings from electronic flight displays, engine instruments, or other recording devices in support of Phase I flight testing of experimental amateur-built aircraft to document the aircraft performance data and operating envelope and develop an accurate and complete aircraft flight manual; develop and publish an advisory circular, or similar guidance, for the issuance of a Letter of Deviation Authority to conduct flight instruction in an experimental aircraft, to include sample documentation and sample training materials; and complete planned action to create a coalition of kit manufacturers, type clubs, and pilot and owner groups and (1) develop transition training resources and (2)identify and apply incentives to encourage both builders of experimental amateur-built aircraft and purchasers of used experimental amateur-built aircraft to complete the training that is developed.

Finally, the board says the FAA should revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations 47.31 and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to require the review and acceptance of aircraft operating limitations and supporting documentation as a condition of registration or re-registration of an experimental amateur-built aircraft; revise Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2G, and related guidance or regulations, as necessary, to include provisions for modifying the operating limitations of aircraft previously certificated as experimental, operating amateur-built, such as returning the aircraft to Phase I flight testing, as necessary, to address identified safety concerns or to correct deficiencies in the aircraft flight manual or equivalent documents; and revise the Civil Aircraft Registry database to include a  means of identifying aircraft manufacturer, make, model, and  series such as the aircraft make, model, and series classification developed by the CAST/ICAO Common Taxonomy  Team that unambiguously identifies the aircraft kit or plans design as well as the builder of the aircraft.

Happy flying at Oshkosh.

FMI: Read the Letter

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