Experimental Aircraft Regulations in the U.S.

Discussion in 'General Experimental Aviation Questions' started by Sir Joab, May 29, 2012.

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  1. May 29, 2012 #1

    Sir Joab

    Sir Joab

    Sir Joab

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    Hey guys, I'm in the middle of building a Part 103 Ultralight of my own design... and I think I'm hooked on this aircraft design stuff! Anyway, I'm now starting to dream of designs for larger planes (4-6 place). Can you guys point me in the right direction to find the requirements I must meet here in the United States? I've just started sifting through the Federal Aviation Regulations... but I'm getting no-place fast. :depressed

    Also is there a difference for a twin vs. a single engine in the regulations?
     
  2. May 29, 2012 #2

    orion

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    As long as it's experimental, pretty much anything goes. There are of course limitations on things like supersonic flight over populated areas and also pilot licensing and ratings, but outside of that, the airframes really don't have a limit.
     
  3. May 29, 2012 #3

    Sir Joab

    Sir Joab

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    Ahh... now it's making more sense. Thant's why I've been having a hard time such information... :grin:

    So then I just need to make sure my license is good enough to fly what I design. Thanks!
     
  4. May 29, 2012 #4

    SVSUSteve

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    I was told by our local FSDO that it's best to keep the weight as far from 12,500 lbs because the closer you get to that, the more likely you are to be scrutinized or wind up with harsh restrictions (like a prohibition from carrying anyone 'not essential for the conduct of the flight').

    It's a good idea to at least take a look at the FARs pertaining to homebuilding just so you don't run afoul of something (as unlikely as it might seem). Second, remember that just because you don't have to abide by the Part 23 certification standards (the ones the commercial guys have to abide by) doesn't mean you should not be familiar with them and use them as a guide.

    Honestly, my general practice has been to exceed the minimums outlined in the full certification standards whenever possible since they are simply a lower limit and not a "It has to be exactly this way" sort of thing. The only things on an experimental aircraft that really should be considered for departure from what you would find in a commercially built aircraft are the avionics and the engine (although I'm personally much more comfortable with a certificated engine, but that's just me).

    A lot of the standards set forth for commercially built aircraft- especially when it comes to occupant protection- are minimalistic in approach and aren't really sufficient so we have a great degree of leeway with which to use the effective carte blanche the FAA gives us is an excellent way to really make us the cutting edge state of the art niche of aviation a lot of us like to believe us to be and to reinvigorate that "experimental spirit" in our hobby. The added benefits to this are that we not only make ourselves safer in the process but we all get the FAA and NTSB off our collective butts with regards to safety by reducing our annual body count to a point where the "big boys" suddenly look like the rank amateurs. It's possible, practical and doable. If I can be of any assistance with the safety aspects of either of your projects, please let me know.

    Getting in touch with Chad Jensen over at the EAA would also be a major part of a good start. I sent him a link to this discussion so he can chime in (he's a member here).
     
  5. May 30, 2012 #5

    glenschweizer

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    Hi Sir Joab When you build, the first thing you want to do is to file a letter of intent with the FAA.(If an experimental) Get in touch with the FAA. with a little visiting, you should be able to get in touch with the person who'll be doing your airworthiness inspection. Keeping this person involved in the progress of your project is very helpful. Who better to convince of your skills than the guy who will sign the airworthiness cert.? Use the services of your EAA technical adviser A wealth of expertise is available take lots of pictures,and keep an accurate builders log. keep all of your receipts because many states tax airplane ownership. If you have all the receipts, I've heard it can save you big bucks when they try to put a value on your airplane. Hope this helps. designing an airplane from page one is a very daunting experience. Try not to reinvent the wheel. Best of luck to you
     
  6. May 31, 2012 #6

    Sir Joab

    Sir Joab

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    So having an airworthiness certificate is different from the airplane being "Certified"?
     
  7. May 31, 2012 #7

    Tom Nalevanko

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    You should also consider insurance along with your plan for an airworthiness certificate. Without insurance you may not be able to find an airport from which to launch your craft. Anything over 4 or 5 places makes insurance very difficult. I know...
     
  8. May 31, 2012 #8

    bmcj

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    Absolutely! A certified aircraft (like Cessna or Piper) has gone through a rigorous and thoroughly defined flight testing and quality control process and must meet certain defined standards in multiple fields (i.e. - stability, quality control on the assembly line, etc). Homebuilts are left to the builder to determine the desired flight qualities and the builder is not really required to prove those qualities to the FAA.

    Both homebuilts and certified aircraft are issued Airworthiness Certificates which state that the FAA has accepted the plane as safely and satisfactorily meeting the standards of the regulations under which they were built (homebuilt or certified) with the physical qualities that the builder/manufacturer declare (i.e. - weight limits, engine, night flight, aerobatics, etc).

    I didn't describe this well, but I think you can get an idea of what I meant. Bottom line, though, is that there is a lot more freedom and less control on a homebuilt design, but both need an Airworthiness Certificate before they are allowed to fly.

    Bruce :)
     
  9. May 31, 2012 #9

    timberwolf8199

    timberwolf8199

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    So if the key there is that it meets the criteria of the manufacturer, which is me....it seems that it'd be pretty hard to fail at getting an airworthiness certificate. I'd be really incompetent (read that a complete idiot) to set my standard above what I had just built. Am I overlooking something?
     
  10. May 31, 2012 #10

    Dana

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    Both homebuilt and production aircraft are "certificated" (not "certified") in that they both must have an airworthiness certificate to legally fly. However, production aircraft are also "type certificated" in that they have a "type certificate" which details the aircraft configuration, required equipment, etc.

    -Dana

    OK, I'm weird! But I'm saving up to be eccentric.
     
  11. May 31, 2012 #11

    bmcj

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    Well, basically it's not their job to micro-analyze your design work, so they will mostly take you at your word for things like gross weight and flying speeds. That being said, your plane will be inspected before its first flight by someone who is knowledgeable in construction and, to a lesser degree, design. They are primarily looking for sound construction techniques (good welds, cable retainers over the pulleys, fuel systems, etc), but they may sqauwk if you are making design claims well beyond realistic values.
     
  12. May 31, 2012 #12

    fly2kads

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    Some of us pilots are "certifiable," but that's another story! ;)
     
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  13. Jun 1, 2012 #13

    cjensen

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    The guys are doing a great job explaining things, but if you have any questions for me, don't hesitate to contact me!:cool:
     
  14. Jun 1, 2012 #14

    bmcj

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    An interesting blog by J. Mac McClellan that I found in the online EAA Sport Aviation. This pertains directly to the discussion above and warns of a foreboding recommendation by NTSB.

    European Rules Coming To Homebuilts? | Left Seat

    Bruce :(
     
  15. Jun 1, 2012 #15

    autoreply

    autoreply

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    I don't think Mac's comments are totally justified. We have another thread on HBA about those recommendations, but they mostly seem to push more complete flight testing and better training for 2nd owners, not necessarily pushing stricter design requirements. The recent Aircam crash (3rd flight, daughter flew along) shows that point rather clear..

    @ TS,

    I'd design by copying FAR 23. Throw out everything that's not applicable to you (which is about 2/3rd if you're designing a single) and you've pretty much covered for even the most rigorous states and a realistic plane. Twins are a lot more complex and designing one might be a massive task, even for an experienced designer. Unless you have to, or you're designing a push-pull design or something alike I'd shy away from one.
     
  16. Jun 2, 2012 #16

    bmcj

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    Alright, no comments from Europe allowed! :gig:

    Just kidding AR. You are probably right, and I have not yet taken the time to reread the actual proposal (not even sure if I've seen the actual proposal). I do know though, that guv'mint agencies tend to like to go overboard on restrictions and one change (spelled "change" but read "restriction") usually portends more changes down the road. That's what really scares me.

    As a side note, E-AB has worked very well for us so far. I wonder how many of the accidents in their surveys were stall-spin and how many of those pilots were trained after they (the Feds) reduced the requirements for spin training. Maybe they can fix a lot of the problem (in E-AB and certified) by putting back something that should probably have never been taken out.
     
  17. Jun 2, 2012 #17

    autoreply

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    Well, unknowingly, you're not (kidding).
    They told me that - before my design is allowed to fly - I have to show full compliance with EASA CS-23. When I asked how I could show compliance with the parts of CS-23 that required flight demonstrations they didn't knew anymore. The guy got really pissed when I suggested to replace the existing regulations by a much simpler one "flight with a novel design, not deemed airworthy abroad, isn't permitted".
    Here's the proposal and some sane comments (except mine of course):
    http://www.homebuiltairplanes.com/f...ntsb-releases-eab-safety-recommendations.html
    The really annoying part is that most people that are fresh to aviation will see the above as fatalistic pessimism. Most people involved in aviation will see it as realism.

    End of rant, I should shut up and design, instead of whine on internet fora over things I can't change anyway.
     
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  18. Jun 2, 2012 #18

    SVSUSteve

    SVSUSteve

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    I've been around planes my entire life (well, since I was 9 years old at least). The "guv'mint" attitude is fatalistic pessimism. The biggest thing holding aviation back- "experimental" and otherwise- in terms of safety is a fatalistic attitude that is prevalent among pilots and builders. Do away with the majority of deaths (about 70% of them are preventable with aggressive engineering and quality construction) and you take away the FAA's primary reason for watching us like hawks.

    The problem isn't completely a lack of education/training. The problem is that a lot of us are not flying while we're building and if anything, we get a couple of hours in a spam can before going up in a completely different kind of airplane. A person with marginal stick and rudder skills to begin with (which is to say the vast majority of us save the few Bob Hoovers, Sean Tuckers and Patty Wagstaffs of the world) and then low currency is going to be an accident waiting to happen. Putting spin/stall recovery training into the mix is a partial fix for a minority of the cases. A good number of these crashes are spin/stalls at low altitude (500-800 feet or less AGL). Even if you know it's coming and react perfectly and immediately, you have little chance of recovering even a perfectly engineered and built aircraft. Add in low currency, an non-calibrated set of control surfaces, the anxiety of flying a new aircraft, the standard piloting distractions and often "performance anxiety" because your friends and family have come out to see it and you can see why the "Oh, then we need to go back to teaching spin/stall recovery" is, at very best, a partial solution. It needs to be done, don't get me wrong, but it's not a magic bullet. It has to be a part of a broader strategy for getting the NTSB and FAA out of that corner of our colon in which they have set up camp.

    A major part of this whole fiasco is that a lot of homebuilders treat the "test flight period" as something to get it over with. They are in a big **** rush to get into the air (which is why so many of us wind up dead or seriously hurt because of engines puking out on us in initial climb during first flights, etc) and once they get there, the "flight test plan" (assuming that they even had one to begin with) is tossed out because they are so excited about flying that they forget to really learn their aircraft.

    A few steps in this should be:
    -Better oversight during the build and (not necessarily government, but the EAA should take on this mantle to show the FAA that we're trying to fix things and can be "self-governing")
    -Improve training (spin/stall, etc) to avoid crashes when possible
    -Improve designs to allow people to live in those crashes we can't avoid through better building, oversight and training.

    Whatever we do, we reduce the body count and we dropped off the FAA's list of major concerns. There is no one answer to the problem and a lot of the only practical ways to solve this issue are not going to be popular or, in some cases, pleasant because it involves a great deal of introspection and constructive criticism of ourselves, our own designs and the popular kit and plans aircraft many of us love so dearly. However, the choice is ours: either we fix these problems for ourselves by sucking it up and dealing with our own shortcomings and limitations (in other words acting like true experimenters) or we wait until a critical mass is reached in terms of body count some year and the rug is pulled out from underneath us.

    Those are two choices. Now which one will it be?
     
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  19. Jun 2, 2012 #19

    Hot Wings

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    A good number of these crashes are spin/stalls at low altitude (500-800 feet or less AGL). Even if you know it's coming and react perfectly and immediately, you have little chance of recovering even a perfectly engineered and built aircraft.

    Put an AOA indicator in every cockpit, find a way to drastically reduce the fuel delivery caused accidents and there would be no significant safety issue to deal with, at least compared to what we now have.
     
  20. Jun 2, 2012 #20

    SVSUSteve

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    What's to say pilots will pay any more attention to that than they do any of the other safety devices (stall horns, air speed indicators, etc)? BTW, I am a big advocate of the use of AoA indicators but I don't believe they are the magic ticket to safety because of the breadth of knowledge and common sense levels among the civilian pilot population.

    This is where a concerted oversight by a group of fellow homebuilders could have the greatest benefit most likely.
     

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