Epic runs afoul of 51% rule

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StRaNgEdAyS

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Well, from reading the article, I can't say I'm surprised.
I tend to agree that such programs detract from the spirit of the amateur built category.
While I agree that certain more complex types of aircraft may require a more diligent and even closely supervised construction environment, it still should be done by the customer. Otherwise it's not amateur built it's factory built while you watch.
Kind of like cheating at solitare
:gig:






Edit: I was going to add something else, but thought it might be a little too risqué :whistle:
 
Last edited:

orion

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I get inquiries about this quite frequently. The problem with the system though is not so much the companies developing the airplanes and the builder-assist centers (although some really do push it and I think Epic actually deserves this), but more so the rather basic and archaic methodology the FAA uses in determining what complies with the 51% and what doesn't.

Short of any other means of determining the fraction, the form that the FAA uses is simply a tabulation of all the aircraft's components, with two columns next to each item. One column is labeled as "Factory Built" and the other is Owner Built". That's it.

The problem with that is that there are many components that are really worked on by both and unless the kit company provides simply a materials kit or a very basic parts kit, many components can fall in either column. It then becomes a negotiation (or argument) with the MIDO rep(s) as to which column each part should fall within.

And believe it or not, the FAA is still on the kit builder's side. If they really got nasty they would start looking at the fabrication processes for each specific part and made those fall under the "Factory Build" heading. Right now though, the pre-formed or pre-molded parts are considered raw materials and as such a high degree of shaping and sub-assembly can take place without too much scrutiny.

But in order to really address this issue in a more professional detail, what the FAA should require (and the kit companines should all do) is for each kit they produce they should undertake a detailed time study in order to see how much real effort each part takes to complete and as such, how much time the factory puts into it and how much the builder does. This might have to be done by an independednt organization though since the process could really be open to abuses. But only in this way would there be no question as to who does what and how much.

Of course the other benefit of this for the customer would be that no company could advertise unrealistic build times.

But as far as I know, no-one has really stepped up to do this in any realistic and accurate manner. Most say that it would be just too expensive to do this and document the process in as detailed a manner as this would require. So, for now, the basic FAA tabulated form seems to be what the industry is sticking with. I have the feeling though that Epic might actually have to step up and do something like the time-study in order to keep the FAA happy.
 

Topaz

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It's also a bit of a shame that a company that -apparently- has the finances and the technical skills to develop an airplane like this felt it was okay to play it... well, I want to say 'shady' but that's a judgement I'm probably not informed enough to make. People with the kind of resources and project-management skills to develop a complex aircraft like this are rare.

It strikes me that if your product/service is right on the edge of compliance you should be working very closely with the regulating agency right from the get-go so something like this never comes up. But it seems as if Epic thought they could 'slide it by' and operate however they wanted.

I hope this all gets resolved with Epic still able to make a profit producing planes.
 

Othman

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Having an independent organization do the build-time estimate would be way too costly.

Orion, I'm assuming that the FAA checklist you mentioned is intended to get filled in with check marks....

A better way might be to fill it in with percentages. The kit manufacturer should actually make a table of all assemblies, and list the estimated % build-time for factory and builder.

Assembly Factory Builder
---------------------------------------------------------
Assy1 40% 60%
Assy2 87% 13%
. . .
. . .
. . .
Average: 49% 51%

This is just one idea that the FAA may try to adopt... I'm sure there's much room for improvement.
 

orion

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Filling in the table with percentages would work as well except how do you arrive at the percentage? The only reasonable way is still the time-study. But to do that fairly is going to be difficult since most of the companies I've come in contact with over the years would have a tendency to fudge the numbers to their benefit, thus arriving at inaccurate values. This might be OK for the first few kits but what if, down the line, somone finds a significatly different time value for a virtually identical part? Then we're back to an independent audit. So why not do this right, right from the start?

Given the current climate in the industry, the only verifiable means to do this honestly and accurately would be to have an independent organization and/or builder(s) do the work, aside from the kit manufacturer. Outside of that, we're still left with check marks. For standard kits this is OK but when the level of completeness in the quick build options starts to get to a suspicious level, then something else has to come into play.

Might this be expensive? Well, it depends on what you call expensive but yes, it would add to the cost of developing the quick build option. Personally though, knowing the price structure of kits and the quick options, I think it would still be a very reasonable investment, especially given that it would virtually guarantee the FAA's blessing.
 

CAB

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Nov 26, 2004
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Colorado
Yeah, but.....

Are'nt the words "or supervised" in there somewhere? How many Lancairs (and others) are ADVERTISED as pro built? Epic no doubt jumped the fence in not bothering with 51% approval, I just hope this does'nt kill an industry that has been around a long time. I can't help but smell a rat.:mad:

CAB
Bearhawk #862
 

Midniteoyl

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Tis a shame for a company to totally skirt the Rules and Spirit in order to build 'pre-payed' planes. And shame on the money-bags buying and flying them with no real effort on their part.

Kinda like Jay Leno saying, "I built this Road Runner...". Ya, ok.
 

StRaNgEdAyS

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Northern NSW Australia
I do hope they get something sorted out.
I think if they did something along the lines of a comprehensive video log showing the build effort, where they could see the owner in there doing the majority of the work that could do it for them.
Let's face it, if they can afford to spend the bucks on a kit of this complexity, then adding a video log shouldn't be that much of a stretch and then they have solid proof that they were involved in the process.
I doubt the homebuilt industry as a whole will suffer for their error, and I hope that this company can, once they get their act together, continue to provide a service. It would be a shame to see them go under solely because of their willingness to flaunt the rules.
 

Rhino

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Looks like they've satisfied the FAA:

EPIC AIR Receives Positive Kit Evaluation From FAA
FAA Representatives Determine EpicLT Meets Code Of Federal Regulations

Bend, Oregon December 2005. Aircraft Investor Resources, manufacturer of the innovative EpicLT turboprop announced today that the US Department of Transportation’s FAA recognizes the aircraft as an amateur-built aircraft kit. Kevin Mullin, Manager of the Manufacturing Inspection Office of the FAA stated, “we have determined the kit, as evaluated at [the Epic AIR] facility on November 16, 2005 and defined by Kit Bill of Materials and Epic LT Assembly Manual, meets the intent of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 21, §21.191(g)......
http://www.epicaircraft.com/news.html
 
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