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September 2011 Issue

Ask the DAR

Know your limitations: aerobatics.

This month we continue our discussion of operating limitations.

"(15) This aircraft is prohibited from aerobatic flight, that is, an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in the aircraft's attitude, an abnormal attitude, or an abnormal acceleration not necessary for normal flight."

Wow, this sounds like we could be cited for a high-speed pass down the runway or even a "pull-up, go-up." You have to be careful with this one. Obviously, this paragraph is used for non-aerobatic aircraft.

Note: If the amateur builder states that the aircraft is capable of aerobatic flight, limitation 16 will be used in lieu of limitation 15.

If the particular aircraft you are presenting is not normally considered to be aerobatic, you may be asked to supply data to show how the aircraft was modified to make it meet aerobatic standards.

"(16) This aircraft may conduct aerobatic flight in accordance with the provisions of 91.303. Aerobatics must not be attempted until sufficient flight experience has been gained to establish that the aircraft is satisfactorily controllable and in compliance with 91.319(b). The aircraft may only conduct those aerobatic flight maneuvers that have been satisfactorily accomplished during flight testing and recorded in the aircraft logbook and maintenance records by the use of the following, or a similarly worded statement: 'I certify that the following aerobatic maneuvers have been test flown and that the aircraft is controllable throughout the maneuvers' normal range of speeds, and is safe for operation. The flight-tested maneuvers are ______, ______ and ______.'"

The first sentence tells us that we should not attempt aerobatics until the end of Phase I. After all, the purpose of Phase I is to show compliance with 91.319(b). You may ask, "Must I accomplish all aerobatic testing before going into Phase II?" No! We'll introduce a paragraph later that will allow you to reinstate Phase I for further testing. This way you will be able to fly the aircraft for an unlimited amount of time in Phase II, get comfortable with it, and then place it back into Phase I and accomplish the aerobatic testing. By the way, The FAA may request to witness aerobatic maneuvers, if deemed necessary.

"(17) The pilot in command of this aircraft must hold an appropriate category/class rating. If required, the pilot in command also must hold a type rating in accordance with Part 61, or a letter of authorization issued by an FAA Flight Standards Operations Inspector."

Note: Limitation (17) applies to any turbojet/turbofan-powered aircraft, any aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight exceeding 12,500 pounds and any other aircraft when deemed necessary. The Flight Standards Service inspector should refer to the FAA Order 8700.1, General Aviation Inspector's Handbook, for further guidance.

"(18) The pilot in command of this aircraft must hold a pilot certificate or an authorized instructor's logbook endorsement. The pilot in command also must meet the requirements of 61.31(e), (f), (g), (h), (i), and (j), as appropriate."

Limitation (18) will apply to most amateur-built aircraft as a standard operating limitation (reference 61.31(k)).

Let's take another break here. Next month we'll get into incorporating major changes, glider towing, intentional parachute jumping and operations outside of the United States.

Please send your questions for DAR Asberry to with “Ask the DAR” in the subject line.

Mel Asberry is an experienced Designated Airworthiness Representative specializing in Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft. He and his wife, Ann, have built seven amateur-built airplanes including two ultralight types, a Moni Motorglider, a Dragonfly Mk2, two RV-6s and a Zenair CH 601HDS. They are currently building a scratch-built biplane.

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