Homebuilt Aircraft, Pilots Under Review

The NTSB has launched a study of homebuilt aircraft that aims to gather data about the machines that make up what NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman cited as having played “A crucial and inspirational role in leading the way toward greater achievements in manned flight.”

The purpose of the study, however, is not to inspire advancements in flight but to learn more about the safety picture so the Board can make recommendations about improving homebuilt safety. “Unfortunately,” Hersman said, “this group of aircraft has, for several years, experienced accident rates greater than those of other comparable segments of GA.” The NTSB plans to use the results of the study to improve amateur-built aircraft safety. Exactly what kinds of steps it will take to do that remain to be seen. In a press release, the NTSB said it would look “at a wide range of issues,” including builder assistance programs, operations and flight test, certification requirements, systems failures and engines,” leaving little in the world of amateur-built aircraft that won’t be under the microscope.

The need to do something about the homebuilt safety record is apparently on the minds of decision-makers in Washington. On several occasions last spring, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt discussed the need to improve GA safety, and singled out the poor safety record of amateur-built aircraft as cause for concern.

As part of the study, the EAA, a general aviation organization that represents the interests of many homebuilders, will host a survey for homebuilt owners and pilots at EAA.org/AB-survey.

The NTSB plans to publish the results of the study by the fall of 2012.


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