Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
Yesterday the National Transportation Safety Board highlighted 16 recommendations to improve homebuilt aircraft safety following a study of "experimental - amateur built" (E-AB) aircraft safety statistics, recommending improved training and better documentation (among other things).
Stated NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman: "The recommendations we issue today can improve safety while encouraging the continued growth of this innovative and vibrant segment of the aviation community."
As an amateur builder, do you agree with the NTSB's recommendations? Will they "improve safety while encouraging the continued growth of this innovative and vibrant segment of the aviation community" ?
I agree with the recommendations. We all have plenty of time waiting for the UPS man to do a little planning and training.
I am getting close to my first flight in my 601 kit. I went back to my instructor in the local school 601 to do 2 hours in the air plus one hour on the ground to practice engine out procedures in every phase from takeoff to engine out in the pattern. We practiced the "impossible" 180 turn where I learned at what altitude it's not impossible at all. We also dialed in full left aileron trim and I landed and took off the plane in that condition. I have much more confidence in emergencies in the pattern and feel more prepared for my first flight.
I HIGHLY recommend this training to everyone. One my own, my instinctive reaction to two of the scenarios would have resulted in a crash. Once corrected, they became non events (considering and engine out). "Fly the plane" is simple advice but oh so hard to do in practice.
BTW - I am lucky enough to have Paul Hamilton as my instructor for life. Even though I got my ticket a year ago, I still call on him to instruct me.
Some of these recommendations are worded very similiar to regulation already in existence; just an observation. However, #1 - Accidents mentioned were on the first flight; kinda tough to create a manual or will that be the responsibilty of the kit manufacturers or designers? #2 - Will glass panels be required? #3 - Who would be responsible to sign off; FAA Inspector? DAR? A&P? #4 - I refer to #1 or will that become responsibilty of kit manufacturers or designers. #6 - That's why they call them test pilots. Will GA regulations be mirrored? #8 - We going to put two lives at stake? #11 - Very true? It's an expensive private endeavor.
2011 seems to be very popular in this analyst; smells like a "witch hunt". The bottom line you have to be responsible in evaluating your own abilities (building or flying) when test flying an aircraft is the issue. I know these are just recommendations but they are broad and inviting to alot of regulation. I think if they are actively pursued kit manufacturers could expect to receive their share; virtually eliminating plans built aircraft.
Just some general thoughts:
1. It seems that airframe issues are not a big factor in the analysis. Makes sense that with a kit built aircraft, if you follow the instructions and exercise reasonable care your airframe should be airworthy.
2. On the ground, thorough testing of the fuel and powerplant should be a high priority. I'm using a Corvair, WW strongly advises fuel system testing at climb attitude while on the ground. This kind of testing should be the norm. Fuel system reliability is the biggest worry I have about my plane's components.
3. It's fairly easy to train someone who's mechanically competent and reasonably careful to be an airframe builder. It's much tougher to train someone to be a test pilot. Tim's comments below make a lot of sense to me - since we're not experienced TEST pilots, we should be experienced with the airframe we are building. I want to get training in a plane similar to what I'm building. Maybe EAA could keep a listing of members willing to offer training, or maybe the kit manufacturers could keep a list of locations of planes where training is possible.
4. I'm a strong believer in the 80/20 rule. I think if the NTSB and EAA focused on the two issues of on the ground powerplant/fuel system testing, and pilot training prior to initial test flight, the accident numbers would come down without a huge increase in bureaucracy.
5. Related to the test pilot issue, transition training is a similar issue and quite important. Flight manual is great for the transition issue, but not as useful for the builder's first test flight.
My 2 cents - focus on the big issues and don't go overboard on the paperwork.
Maybe the Kit companies should provide a POH with every kit sale. The POH would complete except for the actual numbers. Those should be left blank for the builder to fill in. The Kit company should suggest what their numbers were in their testing. The POH would be complete when we fill in the numbers. That way we know what the numbers are and have flown the plane with just the proper testing in mind. Perhaps we should use our EAA Tech People for assistance on how to go about the testing. Only after their signoff would our phase 1 testing be complete. We would then have a professionally written POH with all of the right data. That would help us understand what is really going on with our own planes.
In my folder of 650 stuff on my Mac one of the items is a pdf of the ADM 601/650 POH. I think I downloaded it off of this site. I intend to use it as a templet for my birds POH. I like some am worried the inference that a glass cockpit and data recorders may be required. For someone building on a budget that could be a deal breaker. As for the fuel systems and engine failures. If you have been around aviation for very long you have heard of a certified AC failing "fresh" out of the shop for an annual, overhaul, or other major repair. I believe take all the care possible, but those type of things are not unique to E-AB aircraft.
I believe that the LOD for transition training is a great idea. The rest should be a mater for the TEST PILOT in an EXPERIMENTAL aircraft to know there own and the aircraft's limitations. When you do transition training remember to practice for emergency procedures, not just can you fly the plane but can you make it safely back to the ground when things go wrong. You can only make a guess as to the POH # 'S before you do the test flying.
I for one would prefer to have less of the FAA saying what I have to do. AC-90-89 already has a good testing procedure, if you follow it. IMHO Paul
To answer Sebastien's questions -- I do NOT agree with the NTSB's recommendations. I do NOT believe they will "improve safety while encouraging the continued growth of this innovative and vibrant segment of the aviation community". Also, our segment of aviation has EXPERIMENTAL in the name. Almost by defintion, there will be a few more incidents than in the spam can segment of aviation. Duh! It comes with the territory, we choose it freely, do not take it away from us.
We have good guidance in place already from the FAA and the EAA both. Some people choose to not avail themselves of these resources. Those same people will find loopholes and work-arounds for any new regs that are established by this NTSB recommendation/power grab.
We do not need more hoops to jump through. We do not, for sure, want mandated electronic magic boxes in our planes. For those who like and can afford all the new techno-gadgets, great. For those of us from the Neanderthal epoc who like round dials and mechanical indicators and mechanical controls, let us use them. We can record our data on a kneeboard with a pencil, just like in the good old days.
Maybe we can do a better job of encouraging/leading people into using the guidance that is already available. Maybe we can get more folks to properly check out all their systems (not just the fuel system) prior to flight. For sure, it would be nice to get a roster of people and airplanes that could help people fly a plane similar to theirs before they do the maiden flight. That is about as far as I would like to see this taken. We do not need a whole new batch of rules and procedures, required paperwork, mandatory electronic equipment and so on and so on.
On the subject of a roster of people and planes that could help familiarize builders with similar airplanes before they attempt to fly theirs -- Maybe the rules could be changed to allow experienced pilots who are not instructors to conduct familiarization flights and have some carefully limited ability to make a logbook entry in the guy's pilot log. I have over 25,000 hours in the air. I have instructed in the Air Force and for a major airline, but I do not have a civilian CFI. I will, at some point in the future, have a flying 601XLB taildragger. It would be nice if I could legally provide somebody some checkout time in it and maybe even have that person legally pay for all the expense of the time I fly with them. Right now, I cannot legally put somebody in my plane and let them log time with me along to advise them, and then make a logbook entry in their logbook to certifly the time and the experience. And I certainly cannot recover the cost of the flight, part 91 only allows sharing the cost of flight, not totally covering it. Fixing that would be helpful. I am not saying people providing checkouts should be allowed to make a profit, but it should not cost them money to provide this public service.
My grumpy two cents.