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Builder Spotlight

May 2014 Issue

Ask the DAR

Operating limitations, selling a homebuilt, aircraft that can’t be registered.


Question: I read your September 2013 column with the question about TSO'd position lights. You mention "our operating limitations." What are operating limitations? Is this something that is specified in the paperwork for our aircraft? Who writes them?

The issue of TSO requirement for position lights for night operation of an E/A-B aircraft caught me by surprise—I would have thought it was OK to use non-TSO'd lights.

Answer: Operating limitations are issued by the inspector in conjunction with the airworthiness certificate. They are actually part of the airworthiness certificate. In other words, the airworthiness certificate is not valid unless it is accompanied by the operating limitations.

Basic operating limitations are spelled out in FAA Order 8130.6. While an inspector cannot remove any requirements, they may add something they deem necessary for safety. For example, an inspector can add hours to Phase I testing, or issue only Phase I and require another inspection before Phase II, etc.

Since 91.205, the FAR that lists requirements for aircraft, only applies to certificated aircraft, our operating limitations include a paragraph that makes 91.205 apply to our aircraft during night and/or instrument flight rules.

Question: I am currently building a four-place Bearhawk Experimental. If I sell it someday, will the sale affect the category of the airplane and the regulations the new owner will need to comply with? Is there anything I should do during the build to ensure that the buyer will have a smooth transition regulation wise, as far as the sale and flying of the airplane is concerned?

Answer: Once you complete your aircraft and have it certificated, it will become an Amateur-Built aircraft in the Experimental category. That will never change.

As far as complying with regulations, the aircraft must always be operated in accordance with the operating limitations that are issued to the aircraft. A sale or change of ownership does not affect the operation of the aircraft.

The new owner, or anyone else for that matter, may maintain and/or modify the aircraft. The only restriction toward maintenance is that the new owner may not perform the annual condition inspection required by the operating limitations unless he possesses an FAA mechanic certificate with an airframe and powerplant rating. On the other hand, you, the original builder, may perform that inspection, provided you have the repairman certificate for the aircraft.

Question: About 15 years ago, my flying buddy bought a Quad Cities Challenger that was fully completed by the dealer. He never did get it registered, but now he wants to. What does he need to do?

Answer: Unfortunately your friend is somewhat out of luck. There are only two categories eligible for this type of aircraft: Experimental/Amateur-Built and Experimental Exhibition. Since the aircraft is factory built, it does not qualify as Amateur-Built.

There is a possibility of getting it certificated under Exhibition, but it does not really meet the intent of that category, and it is very restrictive. If your friend is interested in going this way, he should call the local FSDO or MIDO, but don't be surprised if they refuse it.

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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