The National Transportation Safety Board has reported that it has finshed up a six-month-long survey of owners and pilots of experimental-amateur built (E-AB) aircraft, as well as a study of more than 200 accidents of homebuilts, and is in the process of preparing its report on the segment, which it plans to release early this year.
Once completed, the study will be, if not the first of its kind, certainly the most extensive look at homebuilt safety. A big part of the study was a now-completed in-depth survey of pilots and owners of E-AB, asking them a long series of detailed questions on their aircraft and their flying and maintenance habits. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) cooperated with the NTSB in the gathering of the data, an effort that we at Flying threw our support behind. While it is not known precisely how the NTSB plans to use the data it collected, industry insiders hope the Board will be able to come up in part with some more accurate flight hour numbers for the E-AB fleet, a figure that few have had confidence in over the years. A more precise count of how much E-AB fly will help in calculating actual safety numbers, which are typically based on accidents and fatalities per 100,000 flight hours. Those safety numbers can then be used to more effectively design programs to improve safety, including pilot education initiatives.
The Board also plans to incorporate into the findings its in-depth review of 222 homebuilt accidents that took place in 2011. Fifty-four of the mishaps resulted in 67 fatalities. The NTSB noted that 53 percent of E-AB accidents that it investigated involved used E-AB aircraft, that is, ones that were purchased after having been built by someone else. It’s not clear how many of those “used” E-AB were professionally built aircraft, with the transfer of title making it look as though it were a used aircraft transaction.