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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 5 July 31, 2008     

Committee to address amateur-built safety
By David Sakrison

Earl Lawrence, EAA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, from left, John Duncan, Division Manager AFS-800 and Nick Sabatini, FAA Associate Administrator conduct Wednesday’s meeting. Photo by Hilary Lawrence

"We are living in the safest period ever in general aviation and commercial aviation history," said FAA Associate Administrator Nick Sabatini. But, he continued, there has been an "uptick" in accidents involving amateur-built aircraft. In fact, he said, "amateur-built aircraft are the only group of aircraft whose safety numbers are going in the wrong direction."

Sabatini was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Amateur-Built Subcommittee of the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC), which is charged with gathering and analyzing aviation accident data and developing ways to make aviation safer.

Earl Lawrence, EAA’s vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, and John Duncan, manager of the FAA’s General Aviation and Commercial Division, co-chair the subcommittee. Its members include other EAA and FAA officials and amateur-built industry leaders.

Statistics on amateur-built accidents show that fatalities are increasing even as hours flown are declining, and that amateur-built aircraft fatalities account for 22 percent of all fatalities among "personal use general aviation" accidents. "Fast glass"—high-performance composite amateur-built aircraft—continue to drive amateur-built accident numbers, according to the statistics.

The numbers also show a spike in accident rates during the first five hours of flight for just-completed amateur-built aircraft, and another spike just after the 40-hour test-flight period.

The Amateur-Built Subcommittee will analyze existing statistics and gather additional data as needed, analyze fatal and non-fatal accident numbers, and look for ways to improve the amateur-built safety record. It may develop initiatives on its own or turn to its members—EAA, FAA, the EAA Homebuilt Aircraft Council, and industry groups—to develop safety programs or other initiatives.

"We’ve been very successful in the GAJSC," said Sabatini. "Just look at the accident statistics" for general and commercial aviation. This new subcommittee, he said, can be just as successful in addressing amateur-built accidents.

Another FAA official noted that while there is room for improvement in amateur-built safety, "amateur-builts are safer now than all aircraft in 1972."

EAA publications and the EAA website (www.EAA.org/govt) will carry news from the subcommittee as it begins this important work.

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