The FAA Publishes “51% Rule” Committee Findings, But Not Final Rule

The FAA has published the final report from the Amateur-Built Aircraft Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) that was re-formed in 2008 to take another shot at the advisory material controlling Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft. Signed in early August by the FAA’s Frank Paskiewicz and midmonth by the EAA’s Earl Lawrence and Van’s Aircraft founder Dick VanGrunsven, the report restates the elements of change that we reported from AirVenture in August.

In short, the dreaded 20/20/11 requirement could well be gone—the FAA said last year that it wanted the builder to perform 20% fabrication, 20% assembly (and 11% as either) to add up the “majority” of the work. Builders decried the proposal, calling it unworkable and an unnecessary complication. However, until the final Advisory Circular has been published, we won't know if this proposal has truly been taken back. The document published today says only that "after much deliberation among ARC members, AIR-200 [the FAA] agreed to consider withdrawal of the 20/20/11 proposal."

As we reported in August, the definition of fabrication has been broadened to the point that it should be useful in the context of modern kits. In addition, a single group of inspectors will be assigned the task of vetting new kits; this NKET (National Kit Evaluation Team) will be responsible for validating new kits and verifying that the manufacturers sell kits with a "majority" of the work to be done by the builder.

Other highlights:

  • The proposed Builder Checklist has been altered so that the application of percentage—who did what—is now resolved to 0.1%. Before, either the builder performed the work, the factory provided it, or the line item was built with commercial assistance. With the proposed rule, the builder, the manufacturer and commercial assistance all can receive "credit" for specific tasks.
  • Kits that are currently approved with be "grandfathered" under the new rules, however any project that has had the benefit of commercial assistance must be certified under the new rules, including use of the builder checklist.
  • The FAA is likely to require substantially more documentation of commercial assistance on any project, and require the names of all builders/assistants who participated in the project to be listed in the application paperwork.
  • The FAA looks likely to dramatically strengthen the wording associated with the declaration form each builder signs stating he actually built the airplane; this would improve the agency's ability to prosecute customers who clearly have not participated in the project yet have claimed to do so.
  • The possibility of a new category or class of quasi-certified aircraft that might fit in above Light Sport Aircraft is likely stillborn.
  • Although the final guidance has yet to be published by the FAA, the tenor of the report released today suggests that the recommendations of industry, builders and members of the ARC are likely to be heeded.

    KITPLANES will have a thorough analysis of the final rule soon after it's published.

    Read today's report.

    See what the EAA has to say.

    KITPLANES Editor at Large Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for 23 years and in magazine work for more than 25. He is a 4500-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glastar Sportsman 2+2.

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