Earl Lawrence discusses efforts of
the association’s Homebuilders Council regarding the new FAA
proposal to redefine the 51-percent rule
during a Forums session Tuesday at EAA AirVenture
Oshkosh 2008. Photo by Dave Higdon
don’t need any new regulations [on the 51 percent rule]; the FAA just
needs to enforce the rules it has in place." That was the strong
consensus at a forum attended by more than 200 amateur-aircraft builders
and manufacturers on Tuesday morning. The forum summarized EAA’s
position on the FAA’s proposed new policy for administering and
enforcing the 51 percent rule—the requirement that amateur builders
complete "the major portion" of an amateur-built aircraft. The
forum was led by Earl Lawrence, EAA’s vice president of industry and
government relations, and Joe Norris, EAA’s homebuilders’ community
manager. Lawrence and Norris summarized the EAA’s position on the 51
percent rule and the FAA’s proposed new policies.
goal, first and foremost, is to protect your rights and privileges as an
amateur aircraft builder," said Lawrence. The U.S., he said, is one
of the only places where an amateur builder can build an aircraft with
no limits on the size and power of the aircraft. "The issue, as we
see it," he said, "is people who are having their aircraft
built for them—who are not building a true amateur-built
want to see the kit manufacturers be able to continue to innovate,"
said Norris. "And we want to preserve the ability of individuals to
use their own inventiveness" in designing and building
amateur-built aircraft. "We want to make sure that abuses of the
rule are addressed without placing new restrictions and burdens on
amateur builders," he added.
regulation requires that "the major portion of fabrication and
assembly" of the aircraft must be completed by the amateur builder.
Under the FAA’s proposed new policy, the builder would have to show
that at least 20 percent of an amateur-built project involved
fabrication—"creating a part from raw stock"—and no more
than 20 percent was assembly, completed by the amateur builder. The
remaining 11 percent (out of the builder’s required 51 percent) could
be a mixture of fabrication and assembly. In defense of this policy
proposal, the FAA has cited prior policy that says that at least 25
percent of the project must be fabricated and no more than 25 percent
can be assembly of prefabricated parts.
pointed to an earlier FAA policy on amateur-built aircraft which
"says it’s not possible to differentiate between fabrication and
assembly. It’s a judgment call."
don’t believe we have to be concerned about the distinction between
fabrication and assembly," Lawrence added. "What we need is a
way to show 51 percent without getting into percentages."
Aircraft Council (HAC) member Joe Gauthier told the crowd that, in the
future, builders’ logs and construction records will be critical for
getting homebuilt projects approved for certification as amateur-built
aircraft. "The builder must show, and the inspector must find that
the 51 percent rule has been met," he said. "This is not new.
It’s documentation we have always asked for, and rarely seen in
Anderson, also an HAC member, noted: "If we lock ourselves into
percentages, some kits we’re building now won’t make it." But
somehow, he added, "we have to stop these [commercially-built]
airplanes from getting through [into the amateur-built category] if we
want to save the amateur-built rule."
concern, said Lawrence, is people who are circumventing the rule, trying
to get into the amateur built category aircraft that are really
commercially built. The risk, one amateur builder told the gathering, is
not from professional commercial builder assistance, but from
"cottage builders" who are circumventing the rule.
amateur builder received loud and sustained applause when he told the
gathering, "We don’t need any new regulations; the existing
regulations are just fine. Lying to the FAA is a federal crime and
grounds for revocation of every certificate you hold. We want you to
take those people and put them in jail."
Chairman Doug Kelly urged amateur builders to share their comments and
ideas with the FAA. Anderson added: "We have until September 30th
 to comment on the proposed policy. Send a comment [to EAA or the
FAA]; you can make a difference."
constructive side of criticism is really important at this time,"
said Kelly. The foundation of the amateur-built rule, he said is that it
is intended "solely for education or recreation," not for
commercial gain, or to accelerate the completion of an aircraft project.
"Let’s foster it; let’s be constructive," he added.
"Don’t endanger the basic [amateur-built] rule."
more about the 51 percent rule, the FAA’s proposed new policy, and EAA’s
analysis of the proposal, or to submit a comment on the FAA proposal,
visit the Welcome Center at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh or, on the Internet,