By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
The FAA has made it official, in a written notice published Friday, that existing aircraft kits already approved by the FAA will not be re-evaluated. The clarification is certainly a relief to many kit manufacturers, as well as homebuilders with unfinished kit projects. The agency has temporarily suspended kit evaluations while it develops new procedures, and speculation as to whether existing kits might be re-evaluated has been widespread. "Previous FAA-conducted amateur-built aircraft kit evaluations remain valid," the agency now declares. "As is current practice, a re-evaluation of any kit on the current eligibility list would only occur if a potentially unsafe condition is identified." Kim Smith, manager of the FAA's Small Airplane Directorate, first announced the "grandfathering" policy at a forum at Sun 'n Fun.
Kit evaluations have never been required, says the FAA, but are conducted as a courtesy to manufacturers to determine if an amateur-built aircraft kit would be eligible for certification as an amateur-built aircraft. Upon determination that the percentage of a kit presented for evaluation by a manufacturer permits the major portion (51 percent) of the aircraft's fabrication and assembly to be completed by an amateur builder, the aircraft kit is added to a list of eligible kits that is maintained by the FAA. However, existing policy and guidance used to evaluate these kits has resulted in "inconsistent determinations regarding regulatory compliance," the FAA says, prompting the moratorium on such approvals until new evaluation guidelines are established.