By Debbie Hersman
Last year, the NTSB completed its study on the safety of experimental amateur-built aircraft, or E-AB, which include aircraft built or assembled by hobbyists or amateur builders. We conducted this study because the E-AB accident rate has consistently been higher than certificated GA aircraft operated in similar conditions. We wanted to better understand accident causes and see if we could identify ways to reduce the number of accidents.
Our analysis found that the largest proportion of fatal E-AB accidents involved loss of control in flight. We concluded that improving pilots’ access to training prior to flying an E-AB aircraft could reduce the number of accidents. However, to do this, pilots need two things: a qualified instructor and an E-AB aircraft in which the training can be conducted. Training must be conducted in similar aircraft otherwise it will not help the pilot learn about the aircraft’s unique characteristics.
FAA regulations require an instructor who wishes to conduct flight training in his/her E-AB to obtain a Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA). So, interested pilots need to find the right aircraft, a qualified instructor, and that instructor needs to have obtained a LODA.
That led to NTSB recommending that the Experimental Aircraft Association, or EAA, create and publish information voluntarily collected from people who already have a LODA to conduct flight instruction in experimental aircraft. This way, a hobbyist or amateur-builder who is ready to begin flying their newly finished E-AB could easily find someone to provide training.
I’m pleased to report that the EAA published a list of instructors holding LODAs and widely publicized the list. In addition, EAA is also taking further steps to improve the availability of instruction and flight test talent to the E-AB builder by working with the FAA to develop standards and procedures that will allow an instructor to not only conduct training in the instructor’s aircraft, but to also potentially accompany the builder/pilot in the builder/pilot’s new aircraft during required flight testing.
The NTSB recently classified this as “exceeds recommended action” since the EAA went beyond the NTSB’s recommendation. In short, EAA did more than create the list (what we recommended), it made extensive efforts to inform the E-AB pilot community of the list and to extend the training to a builder/owner’s own new aircraft.
Great job, EAA, exceeding expectations and taking specific steps to improve safety.