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Thu, Mar 23, 2006

EAA Proposes Vintage Aircraft Category At Aging Aircraft Summit

Guidelines Aim To Keep Old Planes Flying, But Would Ban Commercial Use

EAA and the Vintage Aircraft Association presented a proposal to create a new vintage aircraft certification category during this week's FAA/Industry Aging Aircraft Summit at Overland Park, KS.

Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, presented the plan Wednesday. The proposal calls for the creation of an aircraft certification category that would give vintage aircraft owners and their mechanics the ability to maintain those planes using acceptable data or safety-based form, fit, and function criteria, as opposed to adhering to an aircraft's original type-certificate data -- which the EAA says may be outdated, or completely unavailable.

Also attending the two-day summit is H.G. Frautschy, executive director of the Vintage Airplane Association.

Aging aircraft issues affect aircraft of all vintages -- from the first aircraft ever produced, to aircraft produced in the 1970s and 1980s. Of particular concern are the effects of fatigue and corrosion on aircraft -- especially in light of several high-profile airframe failures over the past several years.

As primary presenters at the conference, EAA and VAA's proposal addresses the concerns of the FAA while protecting the interests of individual aircraft owners.

EAA member Jay Underdown of Tailwheel Limited spoke Wednesday as a non-mechanic concerned about potential regulations increasing the cost of maintaining his 1940 Porterfield LP-65. "From a practical standpoint, we really do want to keep our old antiques flying," he said, while also expressing an interest in EAA's proposal to create a new certification category.

Here are some of the guidelines the EAA proposed for the new category (emphasis added by ANN):

  • Aircraft would not be limited in size or complexity.
  • This is not a new Experimental category; Part 43 airworthiness regulations would still apply.
  • The installation of parts and items that are not PMA or TSO compliant would be allowed.
  • Transfer to the new category would mean the loss of any privileges to carry persons or property for hire.
  • Transfer to the new category would be a one-way process; the aircraft would not be eligible for type re-certification via a conformity inspection or any other means. Because of this, it would be essential that the decision to change the certification category be made carefully by the owner/operator.
  • Transfer to this new category would not be mandatory. The owner would have the opportunity either to continue to operate under the current regulations governing type certificated products, or to “op-out” and choose to have the aircraft maintained within the regulations of the new category. Subsequent owners of the aircraft transferred into the new category would be required to maintain the airplane in that vintage aircraft category.

FAA presenters included Kim Smith, manager of the Small Aircraft Directorate, and Marv Nuss, continued operational safety program manager, who presented an overview of structural issues that mechanics must deal with on a daily basis. Also appearing were representatives of type clubs and other industry groups who have concerns related to parts and data availability.

In Wednesday's closing comments, Smith noted many of the presenters were suggesting proactive solutions.

"I knew before how important type clubs were," she said. "I think today we may see them as one of the pivotal points in the solution to this. I don't think anybody knows these airplanes as they age better than the people who are flying them." Smith also expressed appreciation for the contributions manufacturers make to the continued airworthiness of the aircraft they produced.

Thursday's sessions feature breakout sessions where individuals will be polled to determine the key issues facing the aging aircraft fleet. An FAA presentation on orphaned aircraft type certificates is also scheduled.

Aero-News will be bringing you more from this conference, both in print form as well as during Friday's Aero-Cast audio segments.

FMI: www.eaa.org, www.vintageaircraft.org

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