EAA Examines Homebuilt Safety Data

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Statistics that show a high accident rate for homebuilt aircraft may not reveal the complete picture, EAA said this week. The Nall Report, compiled annually by AOPA's Air Safety Foundation, reported last week that in 2008, amateur-built aircraft had an accident rate almost five times the rate of type-certificated aircraft and a fatal accident rate more than seven times higher. "On the surface, the statistics may give one impression of amateur-built accident and fatal-accident rates," said EAA on its Web site. "It takes some digging to get actual totals and comparisons." For example, EAA said, the FAA and NTSB often use different parameters to report the homebuilt aircraft fleet size and the accidents that occur each year. "Our analysis is in part, in response to the Nall Report," EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told AVweb on Wednesday. "We felt the numbers that were out there could benefit from additional analysis and clarification." EAA posted an analysis by Ron Wanttaja that offers an alternate view of the data.

For example, Wanttaja notes the NTSB listed 269 "homebuilt" airplanes that were involved in accidents in 2008, but a closer look at those aircraft shows that 84 of them were not classified as "Experimental- Amateur built" by the FAA. About half of those were "grandfathered" two-seat ultralights that have been reclassified as Experimental Light Sport Aircraft, says Wanttaja. If those aircraft are not counted as part of the "homebuilt" data, the accident rate would drop by nearly one-third. Wanttaja's complete analysis (PDF) examines various accident causes and risk factors. "But when all is said and done," he concludes, "the accident rate for Amateur-Built aircraft is going to be higher than Standard-category aircraft. Homebuilt aircraft are amateur-built, amateur-maintained, amateur-flown, and often amateur-designed. The fact that more than 1,000 new homebuilts safely complete their test period every year speaks well of the abilities and dedication of the typical builder."