July 27, 2012
The Aircraft Kit Industry Association (AKIA) officially organized at AirVenture 2012, affirming its role as a proactive voice to address safety issues, expanding membership, and moving to establish itself as a legal entity. AKIA emerged following a recent NTSB report that focussed on the lagging experimental amateur built aircraft safety record. Its mission is to represent and support the kit industry, from manufacturers to supporters, offering a unified voice that promotes the industry and enhances safety. The group is headed by its president, Dick VanGrunsven, of Van's Aircraft, and worked this week to establish relationships with EAA, AOPA, FAA, NTSB, GAMA, NBAA, HAI, and LAMA. In general aviation, the kit segment holds the highest percentage of fatalities. Said VanGrunsven, "We have to get involved."
The NTSB has placed general aviation safety on its Ten Most Wanted list and the safety record of experimental amateur built aircraft has contributed to that. Manufacturers like VanGrunsven's company produce the parts that make up many of those aircraft. "We do have a direct link" to experimental amateur built aircraft, "and it's time we make our presence known and become proactive in addressing safety issues," VanGrunsven said. Speaking for AKIA, VanGrunsven called out specific areas of concern, adding that "more attention should be paid to the first pre-flight," along with transition training for pilots and early stage flight testing. "Collectively, we have the knowledge and experience to make a difference in the culture." Since its formation, AKIA's membership has swelled to 20, including aircraft builder suppliers, like Wicks and Aircraft Spruce, and manufacturers like Vans, Sonex, Lancair, Kitfox and Zenith.