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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-12-040
Synopsis: Experimental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft represent nearly 10 percent of the U.S. general aviation fleet, but these aircraft accounted for approximately 15 percent of the total-and 21 percent of the fatal-U.S. general aviation (GA) accidents in 2011. Experimental amateur-built aircraft represent a growing segment of the United States' general aviation fleet-a segment that now numbers nearly 33,000 aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) undertook this study because of the popularity of E-AB aircraft, concerns over their safety record, and the absence of a contemporary and definitive analysis of E-AB aircraft safety. The study employed several different methods and data collection procedures to carefully examine this segment of U.S. civil aviation. This comprehensive approach resulted in a detailed characterization of the current E-AB aircraft fleet, pilot population, and associated accidents. Four sources of data formed the basis of this study. First, the NTSB performed a retrospective analysis of accident and activity data over the last decade to compare the accident experience of E-AB aircraft with that of similar non-E-AB aircraft used in similar GA flight operations. Second, the NTSB conducted in-depth investigations of all E-AB aircraft accidents during 2011, which provided a case-series of accidents for more detailed analysis. Third, a broad survey of the community of aircraft owners and builders was conducted by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in July and August 2011, and the data were made available to the NTSB for analysis to understand the population of E-AB aircraft builders and owners. Finally, discussions with EAA representatives, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials, E-AB aircraft builders and owners, kit manufacturers, and representatives of E-AB aircraft type clubs provided insights on E-AB aircraft safety issues and solutions.
Recommendation: TO THE EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT ASSOCIATION: Identify and apply incentives to encourage owners, builders, and pilots of experimental amateur-built aircraft to complete flight test training, such as that available in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Test Flying and Developing Pilot Operating Handbook,prior to conducting flight tests of experimental amateur-built aircraft.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Exceeds Recommended Action
Mode: Aviation
Location: Washington, DC, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA12SS005
Accident Reports:
Report #: SS-12-01
Accident Date: 5/17/2011
Issue Date: 7/12/2012
Date Closed: 3/12/2019
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: Experimental Aircraft Association (Closed - Exceeds Recommended Action)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: Experimental Aircraft Association
Date: 3/12/2019
Response: We are pleased to learn that you have developed the EAA Flight Test Manual, which provides EA-B builders and pilots with guidance on aircraft preparation, flight testing, and how to develop a pilot’s operating handbook (POH). We are also aware that you have updated your webinar series to include sessions that specifically address flight test procedures and safety, including fuel flow testing. In addition, we note that you helped the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) develop Advisory Circular (AC) 90-116, “Additional Pilot Program (APP) for Phase I Flight Test,” which is a voluntary program for builders and pilots that aims to mitigate the risks associated with phase 1 flight testing through the use of a qualified additional pilot and powerplant testing. You also launched the EA-B Aircraft Safety Pledge, which encourages EAA members to voluntarily commit to following best practices and procedures for installing, testing, and documenting fuel flow and evaluating angle-of-attack and lift information systems before installation. Finally, we note that you are working with the FAA to develop an alternate path through the first phase of flight testing that is task-based and would incentivize builders and pilots to conduct proper flight test procedures, and to create a certification for repair technicians who have met specific standards for constructing, testing, and maintaining amateur-built aircraft. We believe that your actions exceed the intent of this recommendation and will incentivize builders and pilots to not only take the EAA training, but also to apply what they have learned when conducting flight tests. In addition, we are encouraged by your ongoing efforts to develop additional incentives. Because you have exceeded the intent of Safety Recommendation A-12-40, it is classified CLOSED--EXCEEDS RECOMMENDED ACTION.

From: Experimental Aircraft Association
Date: 8/20/2018
Response: -From Sean Elliott, Vice President, Advocacy and Safety: In response to this recommendation, EAA has undertaken several initiatives to improve pilot preparedness for flight testing in amateur-built aircraft. One of these initiatives, EAA's Flight Test Manual, is a curriculum that EAA has developed for flight testing experimental aircraft. This curriculum provides builders and pilots with a clear path to completing their flight test training. It covers aircraft preparation, flight testing, and the development of a Pilot Operating Handbook (POH). Additionally, EAA worked with the FAA to develop an Advisory Circular (AC 90-116) referred to as the "Additional Pilot Program for Phase I Flight Test," or APP. This AC offers another way to bring more experience in to the cockpit of an aircraft as it goes through phase I testing. APP is an optional program, and it works well in conjunction with the Flight Test Manual. EAA and the FAA are continually monitoring the progress of this program, and we have seen as a result a statistically significant reduction of accidents in this phase of flight testing. EAA is working with the FAA towards a path of Task-based Phase I flight testing, which provides an alternate path through the first phase of flight testing. This process would incentivize the conduct of proper flight test procedures in lieu of simply trying to reach the existing 40-hour requirement. This path ties in nicely with EAA's Flight Test manual, which includes test cards that guide the user through a set of steps for each flight. Many EAA members have signed on to EAA's Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft Safety Pledge, which guarantees that builders are following the best practices and procedures in installing, testing, and documenting fuel flow. By signing the pledge, members are also agreeing to evaluate Angle of Attack and Lift Information systems in order to seriously consider installing these on their aircraft. Lastly, complimentary to the other work that has been done to incentivize better flight test training, the FAA, in conjunction with EAA, has created the conceptual Gold Seal repairman certification to recognize the best practices in constructing, testing, and maintaining amateur built aircraft. The FAA is working on the final implementation of this concept. Ultimately, this will be awarded to repairmen that meet a certain set of standards that were put together by the FAA with the help of EAA.

From: NTSB
To: Experimental Aircraft Association
Date: 4/17/2013
Response: We look forward to reviewing EAA’s online flight-test training course and training incentives that you described. We are also pleased to learn of the additional actions you have planned that, if taken, will further ensure the safety of the experimental aircraft community. Pending our review of these completed actions, Safety Recommendation A-12-40 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: Experimental Aircraft Association
Date: 1/24/2013
Response: -From Jack J. Pelton, Chairman of the Board: EAA agrees with this recommendation and is taking several steps to improve the availability and encourage greater use of flight test training prior to Phase I testing. While the EAA training materials referenced in the recommendation were part ofa traveling SportAir Workshop program that is currently not included in our lineup, we are working to develop an online flight-test training course based on that course's curriculum that will be made available at no cost to our members and other interested airmen. It is intended that the course will also contain an examination at its conclusion and a printable certificate of completion. EAA is exploring incentives with insurance carriers such as premium reductions, waiver of deductibles, or other potential incentives for those homebuilders who successfully complete the training. EAA is also currently updating the training and education materials for the EAA Flight Advisor program to include greater emphasis on pointing out the importance and availability of flight-test training. We are also planning to improve our already successful Technical Counselor program to provide these individuals with the resource information they need to emphasize the actions the EAA, NTSB and FAA determine to be the key elements of the build process, that require specific attention. In addition, EAA is exploring with kit manufacturers the possibility of developing a Quick Reference Handbook for individual aircraft kits, highlighting general procedures and special considerations that should be addressed during the flight test phase. This would be intended to augment the more general information contained in EAA's online flight test training course. As part of our ongoing webinar series, EAA is conducting a number of sessions specifically targeting flight test procedures and safety. Our Homebuilder Advisory Council is also conducting a year-long series of webinars. One example is a recent webinar that explained the conduct of fuel flow testing, which directly responds to one of the recommendations made to the FAA on this topic. These webinars are archived and available free of charge on the EAA website to anyone interested in learning more on these important safety topics. Finally, while not directly in response to this particular recommendation, EAA has determined that it is appropriate to increase the emphasis on amateur built aircraft safety and best practices in our flagship monthly publication, Sport Aviation. Beginning with the February 2013 issue, we are increasing the size of the "Advocacy and Safety" section of the magazine to include a monthly article highlighting amateur built safety practices. Well-known and highly respected flight test pilot, naval aviator and NASA astronaut Charles Precourt will author this column. The first article in this new series is specifically directed at flight test and transition training.