EAA Previews New, Less Controversial, "51% Rule" Changes

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The FAA's proposed changes to the so-called "51-Percent Rule" drew just about universal opposition from the kit aircraft industry and homebuilders over the last year or two, but on Friday at AirVenture Oshkosh, the EAA's Earl Lawrence outlined the latest overhaul of that proposal, and it got a warm welcome from the forum audience. Past forums on the issue have been contentious, but this one -- which was perhaps helped by the fact that no FAA representatives were present -- was collegial and calm. Lawrence said that after receiving 2,300 comments on the proposed policy changes, 98 percent of them negative, the Aviation Rulemaking Committee was reconvened early this year and came up with a revised FAA Advisory Circular, which he expects to be published on Aug. 17 or thereabouts. Under the new plan, some of the more troublesome details of the previous proposal have been dropped, including a widely reviled "20/20/11" rule that created a quagmire of questions about what qualifies as "fabrication" or "assembly." (Click here for a detailed analysis of those issues by Kitplanes editor Marc Cook.)

The newly revised policy will require checklists for all kits that will clarify which tasks are completed by the builder, or the manufacturer, or commercial assistance; and all kits now in progress will be grandfathered, so they will be assessed according to the rules that were in place when the kit was purchased. The FAA also will create a National Kit Evaluation Team, Lawrence said, and as of August, the moratorium on approving new kits will be lifted. He noted that such approvals have never been a requirement, but in practice, it makes final approvals much easier. Lawrence also said that the FAA has made clear that once they have the clarified policy in place, they plan to step up enforcement efforts. Dick VanGrunsven, of Van's Aircraft, who was a member of the ARC, also spoke at the forum, and expressed overall satisfaction with the new proposals.

For much more about this issue, and continuing coverage, visit the Kitplanes web site.