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Converting Certified to Experimental

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Vector

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Hi all,
Has anyone here gone through the process of converting a certified aircraft into Experimental. What was the process like and how much paper-work was required? Is it a headache worth looking into.
There is a C-172 airframe I could possibly get a deal on. I don't have my A&P and don't feel like paying anyone to do the work. I know I could clean out the corrosion and get it ready for paint and rebuild.
I would just like to hear thoughts and opinions on going down this road. I am also looking at long term maintenance expense.

Thanks
 

Dana

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You pretty much can't do it. Can't be Experimental-Amateur built, because you didn't build it. You might swing Experimental-Exhibition if you were using it, say, as a demonstrator for an engine swap or something. Resale value would be nil, though.

A more realistic solution would be to work with an A&P... you do the work yourself with his coordination, and he signs it off when you're done. Many aircraft restorations are done this way. Corrosion may require more than just "clean out", though; if it's bad the aircraft may be structurally unsound.

-Dana

Friends help you move. REAL friends help you move bodies.
 

TFF

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Dana is right; better to work with an A&P; tons are out there that will do this kind of thing.
From what I understand it is next to impossible to return the plane to normal certification once this is done. I you were certifying an STC for a part, your statement plan would tell the FAA you are not touching anything but the mod or you would have to re-certify the whole thing. Most people dont have access to Cessna blueprints to prove everything is "as manufactured."
I am pretty sure they would not grant it anyway, for your reasoning.
 

Vector

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The A&P's on the field act reluctant when I make proposition to do work and them sign off on it. I think they see it as taking business away from them.

The reason I was thinking of doing this was long term maintenance cost. I just have a friend send his aircraft through annual recently and it was not funny. The aircraft is well kept in a hangar and only 10 years old. Probably flown 200 hours a year. He was billed 10K. I am not looking to sell the aircraft when I am done, so I don't care about resell.
 

skier

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a lot of A&Ps are reluctant to do this, not because it's work taken away from them, but because then they are liable if you screwed something up.
 

orion

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This has been brought up here several times over the years, for various reasons, but the answer remains constant: If it's a certified production aircraft it cannot be reclassified as an Experimental category airplane unless it's being used for some form of product development (airframe or engine and in those cases the reclassification is only for a limited time period). The rules are set in stone on this one and there are no loop holes.

The only place where reclassifying an airplane in this manner is possible is up in Canada, where you can convert it to an "Owner Maintained" classification. But for those that do that, since there is no equivalent category in the US, they cannot legally operate said airplane in US airspace.
 

bmcj

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The A&P's on the field act reluctant when I make proposition to do work and them sign off on it. I think they see it as taking business away from them.

The reason I was thinking of doing this was long term maintenance cost. I just have a friend send his aircraft through annual recently and it was not funny. The aircraft is well kept in a hangar and only 10 years old. Probably flown 200 hours a year. He was billed 10K. I am not looking to sell the aircraft when I am done, so I don't care about resell.
What Orion said about liability is a very big part of the reluctance you are experiencing. If something is missed and they don't catch it, it could mean the loss of their livelihood.

I've found that finding a good mechanic and STAYING with him is very important. The first time a mechanic sees your airplane, he is not only responsible for it's current condition, but also for its entire maintenance history. There are many hours, and often many days, of pure research into all of the past maintenance logs, AD's, equipment installation records, and maintenance manuals for your specific year, model and engine installation. Then comes the corrective maintenance to bring everything up to standards (FAA standards and his standards, which is why it is important to find a GOOD mechanic).

I've seen mechanics find major problems such as a cracked stabilizer spar, one that is hidden beneath the surface and would go unnoticed by a less experienced person. I've also seen them squawk issues that are more cosmetic than safety related, but they are supposed to disclose their findings to you and obtain approval for the repair work before they do it. The bottom line is that you will have a SAFER, more appealing plane that will keep you happy and make it easier to sell later. Not only that, but once that initial annual is done (yes, it may cost $10k in some cases) and you have established a relationship with the mechanic and he with your plane, future maintenance and annuals will be painless and much cheaper because he is working with a known plane at that point. You may also find that he might be more willing to allow you to participate in the maintenance after the initial annual.

So, forget trying to convert a certified plane to experimental status. The best you can do in that direction is to possibly get an experimental exhibition category, complete with all of its extra RESTRICTIONS (but they may not issue exhibition category if there is no real modification from the original configuration). Either bite the bullet and let the A&P/AI do the annual on a certified plane, or get a truly amateur built experimental plane. I have experimental myself, but when I buy one that was built by someone else, I still have a certified mechanic inspect it for his expertise and my peace of mind.

Bruce :)
 
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teknosmurf

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One thing you might be able to do is "design your own airplane" and use the frame of the 172 as a starting point. If you can prove, through documentation that you have done the majority of the work and design, then you can re-register it as experimental, with your own data-plates and what not. It won't exactly be welding every tube yourself (which is the advantage) but it will be E-AB non-the less.
 

orion

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That may work but here it's really a function of your local FAA office. A few might let you do that but for the most part, if it's a major subassembly (like a fuselage or wings) from a production aircraft, data plate or not, it's still viewed as that company's product so the likelihood of your being able to do that is fairly low. The only time it may work is if you take that airframe and disassemble it into separate components and then use those components as master patterns for new parts and a whole new build.
 

Topaz

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One thing you might be able to do is "design your own airplane" and use the frame of the 172 as a starting point. If you can prove, through documentation that you have done the majority of the work and design, then you can re-register it as experimental, with your own data-plates and what not. It won't exactly be welding every tube yourself (which is the advantage) but it will be E-AB non-the less.
In fact, preventing this practice is the entire philosophical underpinning behind the current E-AB rule. It was designed to preclude people from doing just this. It was a problem in the '50s - people were taking wings and tails from one airplane and making their own fuselage (or vice-versa), and calling the result "home built". A builder would be hard-pressed to find a FSDO that would let this slide by. As Orion says, you might find one by chance, but don't count on it.
 

PTAirco

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I still don't see how using a set of wings from a production aircraft and building an airplane around them is any less "in the spirit of the law" than some of those quickbuild kits. Particulalry when things like the Glastar "Two week to taxi" projects are considered ok. Using a set of wings or a fuselage or some other major components, adding up to less than half the work involved, ought to be entirely legal.

Remember the "Helio from hell"? Some lunatic conversion of a Helio Courier, mated to the nosewheel of an F111 and other bits and pieces; the owner managed to classify it as amateur built (it's final empty weight exceeded the original's gross weight...) I guess it depends a lot on which FAA guy you go to.
 

Topaz

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I'm just reporting it as I read it (in Sport Aviation). It might be futile to wait for government regulations to make sense. ;-)
 

harrisonaero

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Guys, this is all pretty well spelled out in the Orders. In this case check out Order 8130.2f.



Typically when compliance questions like this come up it’s best to go to the Regulations, then Advisory Circulars, and then Orders.


You can build an amateur built experimental using some certified parts, but they just don’t count towards owner-built portions of the major portion rule so you won’t be able to do as the OP proposed.
Also, if any of the certified parts or assemblies that you use have an AD against them, then to show airworthiness you must comply with the AD. Same thing for certified engines and props. The FAA (and the public) don’t want you flying an aircraft with a “known” problem. This is a similar philosophy to the Light Sport medical requirement.


Your DAR or friendly FSDO inspector will most likely use Form 8000-38 to verify which portions of the plane were built by you and which were built by the kit company, professional builder assistance, or from certified components. Use the checklist, as well as good communication with your DAR or FSDO, to determine compliance.
 

kent Ashton

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I don't have my A&P and don't feel like paying anyone to do the work. I know I could clean out the corrosion and get it ready for paint and rebuild.
You are a good candidate to buy a neglected/wrecked homebuilt (Experimental-Amateur Built). You can do all the work yourself--no A&P required. You would still need an A&P to sign off the annual condition inspection. That works well if you can find and A&P who likes experimentals. A lot of them don't.
 

PuertoRicoFlyer

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Aircraft must be maintained as per FAR Part 43.

FAR Part 43 says:

Applicability.

(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (d) of this section, this part prescribes rules governing the maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alteration of any-
(1) Aircraft having a U.S. airworthiness certificate;
(2) Foreign-registered civil aircraft used in common carriage or carriage of mail under the provisions of Part 121, or 135 of this chapter; and
(3) Airframe, aircraft engines, propellers, appliances, and component parts of such aircraft.
[(b) This part does not apply to--
(1) Any aircraft for which the FAA has issued an experimental certificate, unless the FAA has previously issued a different kind of airworthiness certificate for that aircraft; or
(2) Any aircraft for which the FAA has issued an experimental certificate under the provisions of Sec. 21.191 (i)(3) of this chapter, and the aircraft was previously issued a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category under the provisions of Sec.
21.190 of this chapter.]
(c) This part applies to all life-limited parts that are removed from a type certificated product, segregated, or controlled as provided in Sec. 43.10.
(d) This part applies to any aircraft issued a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category except:
(1) The repair or alteration form specified in §§43.5 (b) and 43.9 (d) is not required to be completed for products not produced under an FAA approval;
(2) Major repairs and major alterations for products not produced under an FAA approval are not required to be recorded in accordance with appendix B of this part; and
(3) The listing of major alterations and major repairs specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of appendix A of this part is not applicable to products not produced under an FAA approval.

FAA Reference: FAR Part 43 Sec. 43.1 effective as of 04/02/2010

So if the aircraft has ever had a regular airworthiness certificate then it can't be done. It is better to get an experimental airplane and bring it back to life under the watchful eye of an A&P. :cool:
 

Vector

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Folks, thanks for the help.
The local A&P here has nothing positive to say about Experimental Aircraft. I guess I am officially in the market for an RV-4 kit.
 

bmcj

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Folks, thanks for the help.
The local A&P here has nothing positive to say about Experimental Aircraft. I guess I am officially in the market for an RV-4 kit.
Unfortunately, you will find some A&P's like that with a misinformed view of amateur built aircraft. Fortunately, they are not all like that.
 

rheuschele

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Unfortunately, you will find some A&P's like that with a misinformed view of amateur built aircraft. Fortunately, they are not all like that.
I find that kind of funny, most A&P's I know like home-built's. They feel they still have an advantage building them.
 
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