29 May 2008

Some News on Rebuilding Certified Aircraft into the Amateur-Built Category

There have been some troubling things happening in the amateur-built aircraft world recently, particularly for people who are trying to build an amateur-built using any components that were previous used on a certified aircraft.

This practice used to be allowed, as long as the project still met the 51% determination, in other words that the builder still did the majority of the work. This meant that quite a lot of formerly certified parts could be used and, in fact, some certified aircraft had some enough work done rebuilding them that they qualified for 51% and the amateur-built category.

In 2006 the FAA heard about what was happening in Canada on this issue and decided to object to Transport Canada. It has to be pointed out that there are many US home-builts flying with a lot of certified parts on them, in addition to engines, avionics and instruments, which have always been permitted. There are US registered Breezys that have whole wings and struts straight from Pipers installed on them. These met the 51% rule in the USA and are legal US amateur-builts.

The FAA is going though its own deliberations about the 51% rule these days and and so they objected and indicated that they would take action if TC didn't. So TC started telling people: no more certified parts on amateur-builts. This caused more questions than there were answers, of course.

On May 4th there was a Minister's Delegates, Recreational Aviation seminar and TC finally gave some useful guidance on what the new rules are.

RAA President Gary Wolfe explains the news:

"Yesterday's MDRA seminar (May 4th) largely clarified Transport's new policy on the incorporation of formerly certified major components to Amateur Built aircraft."

"It will remain legal to incorporate these into a project under certain
circumstances. Parts which are attached by bolts came under scrutiny. The removal and replacement of these components does not qualify towards a 51% determination, nor does the opening up of parts for inspection."

"Repair and rebuilding of components can qualify towards 51%, especially if the rework is to pieces that were originally assembled by permanent methods such as welding, gluing, bonding, soldering. Dismantling and reassembly of these components can be considered to be repair and rebuilding."

"Riveting was not discussed in the document, so RAA has already sent an email to TC for a clarification of this point. For awhile it had been TC policy to fast track owner-maintenance aircraft into amateur-built, but this will now become much more difficult."

"Earlier, the work that had originally been done to become an owner-maintenance aircraft had been allowed to qualify for the amateur-built 51% determination. Now this earlier work will not qualify, so it is unlikely that there will be any more fast track conversions, unless the owner-maintenance aircraft is being largely rebuilt again."

"Borescopes and video cameras had previously been allowed for internal inspection of closed components, but these will no longer be allowed."

"It will henceforth be necessary to unrivet skins or remove fabric to determine whether formerly certified major components are suitable for reuse. Rebuilding a major component can qualify it towards 51%. If for example a builder had begun with a complete Cessna wing but found that he had to remake more than 50% of the components, he could get credit for having built a wing. Every major component reuse will trigger the requirement for a 51% determination. There will initially
be a peer review by MDRA, then a determination by TC."

"Projects which have already had their 51% determination will be allowed to proceed to final, to become amateur-built aircraft."

The news here may not be what everyone was hoping to hear, but at least there is some clarification, at least at this point.

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