After years of hard work and effort put forth by the EAA, the FAA has published guidelines for an optional task-based Phase I flight testing program. The program will be an alternative to the traditional 25 or 40-hour flight testing requirement for amateur-built aircraft and replace the hours-based test period with a task list to complete. After the required tasks are completed and the aircraft operates as expected an Aircraft Operating Handbook (AOH) is made and the aircraft can exit the Phase I flight testing period.
Programs like this have been developed as a result of the cooperation between the EAA and FAA, who as a team have put forth decades of work in the experimental aircraft sector. The two organizations have directly contributed to the improvement in the amateur-built accident rate that has occurred over the last few decades. This work is a demonstration of the two groups' commitment to safety and a drive to create a stronger safety culture within the community. The EAA has a continued commitment to working with the FAA and feels it is a key commitment to making sure the experimental amateur-built aircraft movement can continue to grow.RELATED STORY:EAA says fatal accidents involving experimental aircraft remain under historical average
The new guidance is in the recently updated Advisory Circular (AC) 90-89C, the Amateur-Built Aircraft and Ultralight Flight-Testing Handbook. The document was first developed in 1989 through the partnership between the FAA and EAA. The program can be found in chapter two, pages two-three, of the AC.
The new program includes a series of 17 individual flight test tasks. It recommends that tests be flown per the test cards carried in the aircraft. An AOH is required to be created from the test results, to benefit both the builder and any other owners of the aircraft. Anyone can create a test plan to accomplish the prescribed tasks and the users of the EAA Flight Test Manual can mirror the program requirements.Illustration from FAA Advisory Circular
The aircraft must have an operating limitation to use the task-based flight-testing program. Limitations are issued, along with an airworthiness certificate, by the FAA or DAR as part of the airworthiness certification process. The EAA is expecting that the FAA will update its policy on operating limitations so that standard limitations will include the authorization language for Phase I. For those undergoing Phase I flight testing currently or planning on beginning the process soon, you can still obtain the new task-based Phase I operating limitation.
This is another successful collaboration between the EAA and FAA, like the Additional Pilot Program. The new program is designed to be easy to use. Follow-up reports to the FSDO or DAR are not necessary after the initial inspection unless it has been otherwise stated it is required. Builders are also allowed to use the time-based Phase I program that has not undergone any changes.Task-based testing criteria
"This program is the result of years of hard work by EAA staff, our volunteers, and the FAA," EAA Government relations director Tom Charpentier said. "This is one of those rare ‘win-win' policies. It will ensure that aircraft are thoroughly tested and documented, that every hour of flight testing has a purpose, and that when the flight-testing work is complete, Phase I is over. We thank the FAA for their efforts in publishing this guidance and to those in our community who contributed."