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Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority has announced it’s extending its deadline for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast installations in private aircraft, but GA advocates say the move won’t do much to offer regulatory relief for aircraft owners. CASA recently announced the deadline, a requirement for satellite-based separation of IFR flights, will be delayed from Feb. 2, 2017 to Jan. 1, 2020. The authority says it will help owners more easily comply, and “aircraft can be fitted with the equipment in an orderly manner — reducing the burden on owners, operators and avionics suppliers.” Australia’s biggest GA group, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, had pushed for moving the deadline to 2020, which would match the FAA’s deadline for aircraft in the U.S., as reported Thursday by The Australian. Air carriers and charter operators will still be required to complete ADS-B upgrades by February 2017.

However, CASA also imposed limitations on private aircraft that do not have ADS-B equipment by the 2017 deadline, requiring that they fly below 10,000 feet in class G airspace and obtain ATC clearances for flying in most controlled airspace, including GA class D airports. AOPA’s executive director, Ben Morgan, told The Australian the revised measure is “unworkable” and CASA should meet immediately with the GA industry to work out something better. “The restrictions mean that the extension will only apply to a very, very limited number of pilots,” Morgan said. “ADS-B doesn’t service below 10,000 feet so what’s the point? We want all airspace limitations removed.” CASA responded in the report that AOPA and other GA stakeholders worked with the authority over nearly a decade on the ADS-B issue and “it was agreed by aviation industry representatives, including AOPA, that ADS-B would be phased in over a three-year period commencing in December 2013.”

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Investigators examining the crash of a chartered Avro RJ85 this week in Colombia are focusing on the possibility that the jet flew a route that exceeded its fuel range. The aircraft, operated by Bolivian charter company LaMia, crashed in a rugged area short of its destination in Medellin late Monday, killing 71 of the 77 people on board. Reports of fuel exhaustion had emerged soon after the accident due to the lack of fuel in the wreckage or a post-crash fire. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that an analysis of the chartered route from Viru Viru International Airport in Bolivia to José María Cordova International Airport in Colombia shows a distance of 1,839 miles. The Avro’s range is about 1,842 miles. In addition, a Colombian aviation official said the jet flew a holding pattern while two airliners were approaching Medellin, according to the Journal’s report. “They did say ‘emergency,’ but at the very end, when it was too late,” he said.

The jet’s passengers included a group of journalists and members of a Brazilian soccer team who were to compete in the Copa Sudamericana tournament. Audio recordings obtained by news outlets show a crew member reporting an electrical failure and lack of fuel to ATC, according to CNN. Colombian media also quoted the copilot of a Colombian airliner who said he and the captain heard the LaMia jet crew reporting “fuel problems” without declaring an emergency, The Wall Street Journal reported. CNN also said the copilot witnessed the moments before the crash, saying “we even saw the plane lights as it was going down.”

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Stratos Aircraft’s new light jet flew for the first time this month as the Oregon company launched its flight test series for the prototype. The Stratos 714 flew for about ten minutes from Redmond, reaching 128 knots and an altitude of 3,700 feet AGL. As marketed, the four-seat, single-engine jet will cater to owner-operators for business and personal travel, capable of cruise speeds exceeding 400 knots and a range of 1,500 nautical miles. It’s powered with a Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5 engine and Stratos has indicated it's developing the 714 to will be competitive in operating costs and capabilities compared to small business jets and single-engine turboprops.  

“After years of development, the first flight was a very exciting event for the whole team,” Stratos said in a statement Wednesday. “We invested the time and effort in the initial design and construction phases to assure that this proof of concept aircraft would ease the path to certification.” In response to inquiries about a certification timeline and required capital to bring the jet to production, the company did not provide specifics, but said it "could shave off a considerable amount of certification time and start producing finished aircraft with additional investment." Stratos, which first announced its very light jet project in 2008, said Wednesday it plans to introduce the prototype at EAA’s AirVenture show in July 2017.

Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is in a New Zealand hospital after he fell ill on a trip to Antarctica. Aldrin, 86, was evacuated from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station early Thursday on an LC-130 cargo aircraft, the National Science Foundation announced. Aldrin was with a group visiting the South Pole under arrangements by tour operator White Desert, which said in a statement that Aldrin had fluid in his lungs “but is responding well to antibiotics and being kept overnight for observation. His condition is stable and his manager, who is currently with him, described him being in good spirits.” He was flown first to the southern region of Antarctica to the McMurdo Station to await a flight to Christchurch, New Zealand, according to the Washington Post. 

Aldrin, a crewmember for the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and the second person to walk on the moon, had publicized his excitement over his trip to the South Pole via Twitter and other media, arriving there on Tuesday for what was to be a trip lasting about two weeks. Thursday’s emergency flight from Antarctica occurred during the summer season there that starts in November, when tourists are permitted to visit through February. The last evacuation from Antarctica for medical reasons occurred during hazardous winter conditions in June, when a Canadian company was hired to fly a DeHavilland Twin Otter to rescue two Amundsen-Scott station workers.

The FAA is working to comply with new legislation, passed in July, that will make it possible sometime next year for private pilots to fly without a medical — but right now, until new rules are in place, the current rules remain in force, and that has created some confusion. One examiner advised some pilots who had special issuances that they should surrender their medicals, rather than wait for them to lapse, but that’s never a good idea, according to Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president for advocacy and safety. “An airman should never surrender their certificate,” he told AVweb in an interview this week. In some cases, he added, it might be a good idea to “just let it lapse.” 

The misguided advice to surrender the medical was an “isolated incident,” Elliot said, and “just a misunderstanding,” but it could have resulted in a pilot losing their flight privileges. “The decision to surrender should never be made lightly or without consultation with an aviation attorney,” EAA said in a statement. As far as the new rules are concerned, Elliot said, “We are hoping to see something [from FAA] in the early part of 2017.” He advised EAA members to call EAA if they have questions about their medical or the pending new rules. AOPA and other member groups provide similar services to their members.

AVweb's search of aviation news worldwide found announcements from Tecnam, the Hayward Air Rally, the National Business Aviation Association and Able Flight. Tecnam has introduced a substantially updated and improved Mark 2 version of the company’s popular P2002 Sierra. The Tecnam P2002 Sierra MkII now offers an improved cabin for greater comfort, top level avionics, new paint colors and interior options and a redesigned cowling for the 100-HP Rotax engine. The Hayward Air Rally, the longest continually held proficiency flying event in North America, is funding scholarships for students ages 16-18 for the EAA Air Academy's summer 2017 program. The scholarships offered will cover the costs of camp tuition and round-trip commercial air transportation.  

W. Ashley Smith Jr., founder and president of Jet Logistics Inc., was announced as one of the inaugural recipients of the prestigious Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award by the National Business Aviation Association. Smith's nomination for the award, which was then vetted by a panel of NBAA Safety Committee Professionalism Working Group members, noted his lifelong passion and commitment to aviation. Able Flight and The Ohio State University will partner on a new flight training program for people with physical disabilities beginning in May 2017. The program will begin with two Able Flight Scholarship recipients who will take part in an intensive six-week program at the Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, Ohio, and who will be trained by OSU instructors.

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There are many reasons why you might want to buy a used homebuilt instead of building. Those who have built their own airplanes know the satisfaction of spawning a flying machine with their own two hands. But the reality is, some folks are either not in a position to build, or they simply aren't interested.

That doesn't mean you have to be a builder to enjoy the benefits of Experimental aviation. There are plenty of used amateur-built aircraft for sale, and many are an excellent value. Nevertheless, buying a pre-owned homebuilt can seem like a daunting task. I will attempt to dispel the myths and provide helpful advice so you can understand what's involved.

For this article, I'll assume you are interested in purchasing a flying aircraft, not a project to be restored or completed. I'll also assume you have decided on your budget and mission.

Why Not Buy a Used Production Aircraft?

One reason is the sheer variety of homebuilt aircraft available. Many designs are significantly different from anything that exists in the production world. This point alone draws a large crowd to Experimentals that might otherwise opt to buy something built in Wichita. Another consideration is some homebuilt aircraft are no longer available in kit or plans form, but are for sale on the open market as flyable airplanes.

One universal difference between factory-built and Experimental aircraft is the cost. Because an Experimental is amateur-built, it doesn't carry the burden of liability insurance, factory overhead, and certification costs. Also, depending on the popularity of the model, most homebuilts are valued near the cost to build, with no consideration for the labor involved. This represents a tremendous value for the buyer.

There are also some regulatory differences between factory-built and homebuilt aircraft. These regulations vary from country to country, and should be well understood before getting too far into the buying process.

In the U.S. there are no restrictions on buying a used homebuilt, as long as it is maintained and operated in accordance with the regulations governing Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft. The current U.S. regulations even allow non-builders to do their own maintenance, as long as the annual condition inspection is conducted by a licensed A&P; this is another big advantage over factory aircraft.

In many cases, modern homebuilts offer safety features that simply aren't available in a comparably priced used factory aircraft. Some examples include modern EFIS displays that provide incredible situational awareness, better ergonomics, and human-factors considerations in the cockpit design, and advanced engine monitoring and warning capabilities. All are very common in today's Experimentals. However, in the production world, only the newest models have these features unless an older aircraft has been retrofitted at great expense. In both cases, most of these are out of reach for the average buyer.

Doing Your Homework

Since you already have a budget and have set a goal for what you intend to do with your new machine, the next step is research. This is vitally important. You need to know what's out there that meets your needs.

One way is to spend some time on the Internet learning about various makes and models. A good place to start is the KITPLANES® online Buyer's Guide. At the end of the specifications for many aircraft are links to related articles. The KITPLANES® archive contains hundreds of pilot reports and builder articles about a wide range of homebuilts, so there's a good chance you'll find what you need. Access to all information is free for subscribers.

Other publications are also a good source of relevant information. And you'll gain valuable insight by surfing the Experimental sections of the Internet classifieds. When you see something that looks interesting, click to investigate it further and see if it suits your needs. For modern buyers, the Internet is definitely your friend.

It's important not to fall in love with an aircraft that is plagued with issues or doesn't meet your objectives. Spending more time here will pay off in the long run, plus why wouldn't you want to fully educate yourself on your future pride-and-joy?

As part of the learning process, you'll want to determine if this aircraft is something you have the capability of maintaining. Many Experimentals are straightforward and employ factory construction techniques and systems, but some can be very unorthodox. This can be a huge hindrance for finding a qualified and willing mechanic. You don't want to buy a complicated machine and later be forced to sell it because you can't maintain it. If you work as an engine builder for a NASCAR team for your day-job, that V-8 powered Mustang replica might not be an issue. For the rest of us, shop accordingly.

As far as the aircraft itself, you'll want to know if it is still supported by the kit manufacturer. Can you still obtain parts? Are they costly? Can they be easily fabricated? These are important details to flush out that will not only affect maintainability, but resale as well. An aircraft constructed from unobtainium might be cause to reevaluate. That's not to say you shouldn't buy an out-of-production homebuilt. In fact, plansbuilt airplanes—the genesis for this industry—have never enjoyed support. In the end, it's all about being informed and making the appropriate decision for your situation.

Let's Go Shopping

Once you have a short list of aircraft models that will fit the bill, you'll want to do some serious shopping. Again, print and online classified ads are very helpful. You might get lucky and find your dream machine on a bulletin board at the local FBO, but even then, use classifieds to compare it with what's available on the open market. It might take some time, but this will let you determine two important elements: how big is the market, and what are the price ranges. Since you have done your homework, those classifieds should also provide relevant information about that model to improve your decision-making process.

If there is an aircraft based locally that is on your list, you could approach the owner about selling it. Many have purchased their aircraft this way. You save a lot of money and hassles when buying close to home.

At this point you need to take your research and build a questionnaire or checklist, so you can ask the right questions when you contact sellers. If there are certain items you must have, or pitfalls that you want to stay away from, asking those questions first saves everyone a lot of time.

If possible, talking to the original builder can be very insightful. You can pick their brain about details that might not otherwise be available.

If the market is large enough, it is helpful to have a list of two or three final candidates that you can prioritize and go visit (with the intent to buy). Recognizing that you may be traveling long distances to view these birds, you need to plan carefully; the expenses can add up quick.

Often you can get a good feel for how well an aircraft is constructed and maintained at first glance, but you'll still want to crawl around and take a very close look at everything. Even if you don't feel like you know what you are looking at, common sense can be a powerful judge. However, this should not replace a pre-purchase examination. A thorough pre-purchase examination is an important part of any aircraft transaction.

If you are qualified to do the pre-purchase examination, it's easy enough to do it yourself. Otherwise you will need to rely on a third party (not the seller). You can use an A&P mechanic, a nearby EAA Technical Counselor, or another builder. If the person inspecting the aircraft has experience with the model, it's helpful. But sometimes that's just not possible. The key thing is to make sure the airplane is safe. That means it must be built and maintained to aircraft standards. These findings will determine if the aircraft is something you need to walk away from or not. Small issues that can easily be corrected shouldn't be a problem. In many cases, you might be able to make the go/no-go determination yourself—but only you can judge your qualification to make that decision.

Even with a third party examination, you'll want to pour over the aircraft yourself. Beyond the airworthiness determination, you need to be generally satisfied with your potential purchase. The same goes for the logbooks and all the records.

The Paper Jungle

You (or your inspector) need to make sure that all the documents are in order and there are no concerns. Each Experimental aircraft is issued a unique set of operating limitations by the FAA. Make sure there is nothing in there that would be onerous for you or the next buyer. The paperwork review is an important step for many reasons:

1. You'll be using an A&P to sign off future annual condition inspections. If they see something that makes them uncomfortable, you may be in for problems. You wouldn't be the first person to have to redo a 10-year-old repair or modification.

2. If you plan to resell the aircraft, the next buyer will be combing through the records as well. You don't want to lose a deal or take a hit on the value due to inherited paperwork, or lack thereof. If it is possible to get copies of the records before traveling to the airplane, you should—it's that important.

If possible, you should fly the aircraft before making the purchase. If the airplane has a single seat, you'll have to work out the best way to do this, or maybe forego this step. For multi-place aircraft, the seller should be able to take you up and at least demonstrate that everything is in working condition. This is your chance to see the airplane in action and get your initial impressions about how it flies.

If you are not qualified to fly the aircraft and the seller is not an instructor or highly skilled in the aircraft, use caution! Do not use a demonstration flight as your checkout. Leave that for subsequent flights with someone qualified.

One of the telling accident statistics for Experimentals is first flights—but it's not just the first test flight that is a problem. Many folks attempt to teach themselves to fly their new aircraft with disastrous results. Seek out an instructor or someone with experience in the aircraft. A local builder or EAA flight advisor can help. Some models have transition courses available that can really lower the exposure involved. This is one area that you need to put your ego aside and carefully consider the risks.

Don't Forget Insurance

This is an important consideration. More than one excited buyer has found that the combination of the aircraft and their pilot experience made them uninsurable, or the insurance was so expensive it was cost prohibitive. It's worth mentioning that insurers are wildly different, so exhaust all your resources before you give up. However, if insurance is a challenge, it might be a hint that you are running into an area of risk. Insurance isn't required, but at least some insurance to protect you from personal liability is highly recommended.

Once you have satisfied all the questions and you feel good about the deal, it's time to purchase the aircraft. This involves a title search, title insurance, possibly money in escrow, a bill of sale, and most likely a purchase contract (optional). I won't go into the details here, but you'll want to research these steps thoroughly. Many of these items can be completed before ever traveling to see the aircraft. It's also quite possible that the seller may not be up to speed on all the transactional matters, so you need to have a firm grasp on the process.

Additionally, you'll have local tax implications, as well as state and federal registrations, to comply with. And don't forget—you'll need a home for your acquisition, so these details need to be flushed out as well. This all sounds ominous, but it's not really hard.

Once everything else is completed, it's time to get the aircraft home safely. There are a couple of ways to do this:

1. Obtain a ferry pilot. This could be an experienced colleague or a professional ferry pilot that you hire.

2. Ferry the aircraft yourself, if you are qualified to do so.

3. Have the seller fly the aircraft to its new home.

In all cases, don't compromise safety. This isn't the time or place for you to learn to fly your new steed. Swallow your pride and live to fly another day.

When it comes to value, it's hard to beat buying a previously loved homebuilt. If you have ever been to Sun 'n Fun or AirVenture, you know that oftentimes they are built with such care as to put factory aircraft to shame. I know a lot of pilots that have jumped into Experimentals and have never looked back. Don't let the process intimidate you; there are plenty of knowledgeable people out there that are more than willing to help. All you have to do is ask.

Happy hunting!

Brent Owens is an ATP-rated pilot and a flight operations manager for a large business jet provider. He has flown his whole life and enjoys all aspects of aviation. He has rebuilt a 1946 Ercoupe and a 1970 plansbuilt Bucker Jungster I, and built an RV-8. He is formerly the vice president of EAA Chapter 9 and serves as an EAA technical counselor and flight advisor. He is passionate about promoting flight and sees the Experimental sector as the biggest growth opportunity for recreational aviation.

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Kitplanes magazine. 

Read More from Kitplanes, and learn how to receive your FREE copy of The Annual Homebuilt Buyers Guide!

 

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I think I’m about to be voted off the island. Or maybe I’ll just slip out on my own at the next high tide. The reason is that I’m going to go a little rogue here.

I’m really starting to detest airport noise, if not necessarily airplane noise. I reached this conclusion awhile ago, but it rose to a crescendo yesterday, if I may borrow the appropriate acoustic adjective. 

When I go to the airport, it’s frequently to shoot video. Video has audio. So things like voices need to be recorded with sufficient clarity to at least be intelligible, if not broadcast quality. I was trying to set up a shot and kept hearing an annoying screech in my earphones. It was a bizjet either idling or running the APU. It was ¼-mile away. It went on, and on, and on, all of which time I spent sitting on my butt waiting it for it to move.

When it finally did and I reset the camera, a Bonanza taxied up right in front of the hangar on what used to be the old city ramp. The pilot, a distinguished, silver-haired man, entertained us all with a high-power runup that went on, and on, and on. There are several things wrong with this. First of all, the airport has a policy that requests that runups be done on a closed runway (now a taxiway) in the center of the airport. This so reduces ambient noise that you hardly notice any noise at all. It’s a good policy.

Second, that old ramp borders on the airport fence which itself is fronted by several apartment complexes. So anyone running an APU or doing a high power runup will just blast the hell of out them. Not that long ago, I had no patience with airport neighbors who complain about noise. I suspect most of us in aviation don’t. Hey, they moved there and knew full well that the airport was there.

That said, I think we sometimes do a lousy job of understanding the concerns of people who live around airports. If you want to sense life on the other side of the airport fence, read this Air&Space Magazine piece about besieged Santa Monica Airport.

While we’re all rightfully outraged at the city’s heavy-handed pressure on tenants to get out of Santa Monica, there’s another story to be told, too.

In Europe, local governments are so hard over on noise that some airports actually close on the weekends. I’ve always felt that a little extreme, but I’m beginning to understand it. In the U.S., we tend to sniff at electric airplanes, but in Europe, they’re looking more and more attractive because of their low noise signature. Interestingly, the only electric airplane I’ve flown, the Pipistrel Alpha Electro, is just as loud as a piston from inside the cockpit. From outside, it’s the definition of stealth.

Recall a few weeks ago in this blog, a couple of commenters complained about the noisy airshow at AirVenture, where you more or less pay to have your ears assaulted. It’s not so much the noise itself as it is the incessant, hammering nature of just getting no relief from it. I think that’s why I don’t mind landings and takeoffs much; they’re transients. Maybe one exception; the idiots who flatten the prop on downwind at high power. Ya know, you can save that for short final.

That guy’s Bonanza runup was just unnecessary and inconsiderate, since he had the option of taxiing to the designated pad. Many jet operators just let the APU screech away because they want the cabin nice and cool so the boss won’t break a sweat. I get it. But is it too much for us to think of minimizing such on-the-ground noise in consideration of people who live nearby? I wonder if it’s not a good idea to explain this to a charter buyer or aircraft owner. I wonder if they would be sympathetic.

I used to chafe at airport noise-monitoring instruments as just another example of government overreach. But at our airport, there are no consequences for someone who ignores the friendly request to runup where it will make less noise. The AWOS says “fly friendly” and I take that to mean be as quiet as practical and safe. I wouldn’t mind if the airport took it upon itself to make a polite phone call to pilots to remind them to be courteous.

As badly as my day started, it didn’t get much better. A hangar neighbor pulled his airplane out, started it and stayed there. And stayed there. And stayed there. I shouldn’t bitch, I suppose. On airports, airplanes have the right of way over videographers; says so right in the FARs.

All the same, the next YouTuber that asks me to fix my audio problems stops one. 

GoPro's Hero 5 has some improvements over the previous model and in this video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli looks at how suitable the camera is for aviation use.

The FAA is working on implementing congressionally mandated reforms to medical requirements for private pilots but until those rules are in effect, the old system is the law. EAA's Sean Elliot updated AVweb's Mary Grady on the promise and pitfalls of the changing medical regime.

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

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