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FAA On "51-Percent" Rule -- Not Yet

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The FAA on Wednesday published the findings of its Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) on amateur-built aircraft -- which essentially reiterates what was reported in August at EAA AirVenture -- but the actual new policy documents, which have been in the works for about three years now, are still not in sight. "Contrary to previous indications from the FAA, the agency has yet to publish or pronounce a comprehensive final policy," said EAA this week, adding that "the homebuilding community's frustratingly protracted wait for a definitive declaration of policy from the FAA continues." More information may be coming soon, however. "Several official documents and actions [are] anticipated from the FAA in the weeks ahead," EAA said. This week's report is an "encouraging sign," added EAA's Earl Lawrence, vice president of regulatory affairs and co-chair of the ARC. Amateur builders have been waiting for the FAA to publish the results of its re-interpretation of the "51-percent rule," which sets guidelines for their construction projects. The FAA has said it won't revise the current rules, but will clarify its policies and practices in a new advisory circular and issue new guidance for its designated inspectors.

Kitplanes editor Marc Cook told AVweb on Wednesday he is also anxious to see more definitive action soon. "While it's obviously good news to see some movement on this important topic, I'm not sure why it has taken the FAA so long to produce this document and have to wonder when the final 'rulemaking' will be put in place," he said. "A lot of builders have been figuratively holding their breath as this issue has been hashed out. In all, though, what I see proposed will be good for the Experimental/Amateur-Built community and will allow legitimate builders to go on about their business unmolested by the kind of draconian, completely unnecessary rules that were first offered." Until the long-awaited new documents are published, EAA recommends that all amateur aircraft builders follow current policies and accepted practices.

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