Ask the DAR

Moving a certified aircraft to another category, operating an Experimental internationally.


Question: Can I take a certified sailplane and move it to another category, such as Experimental/Exhibition, then add a self-launching motor to it? My question is with the certification and licensing aspects, rather than the engineering aspect.

Answer: Yes, it is possible to move a certified aircraft to an Experimental category. However, I don’t recommend it unless you have a very good reason.

Experimental Exhibition [21.191(b)] is designed for the purpose of exhibiting an aircraft’s flight capabilities, performance, or unusual characteristics at airshows, in motion pictures, on television, and in similar productions. Unfortunately, it has become somewhat of a dumping ground for aircraft that don’t fit any other category. I never recommend the Experimental Exhibition category because it is quite restrictive.

I think your best bet might be to certificate your sailplane in the Experimental/Research and Development category [21.191(a)]. It might not be a bad idea to talk with your local FSDO and see what they suggest. If they can’t help you, they should be able to direct you to a local DAR with function code 28.

Question: All of our Experimental/ Amateur-Built aircraft operating limitations include the following paragraph:

“This aircraft does not meet the requirements of the applicable, comprehensive, and detailed airworthiness code as provided by Annex 8 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. The owner/operator of this aircraft must obtain written permission from another CAA prior to operating this aircraft in or over that country. That written permission must be carried aboard the aircraft, together with the U.S. airworthiness certificate and, upon request, be made available to an FAA inspector or the CAA in the country of operation.”

My question is, what exactly constitutes the required permission? Canada and the Bahamas have “airworthiness validation” forms that clearly meet the requirement. Some countries (Denmark, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland, to name a few) have issued to me detailed letters that quite specifically address Experimental permission. Other countries will only issue a landing permit, which includes the aircraft type.

Since the aircraft type is Experimental, one could argue (I have) that this constitutes the permission the operating limitations call for. Yet other countries (Dominican Republic, for example) say that they have no regulation prohibiting E/A-B aircraft and, therefore, permission is not needed. Your thoughts on this?

Answer: It is my understanding that this requirement is to make sure the operator is aware that the U.S. Special Airworthiness Certificate issued in the Experimental/Amateur-Built category is not valid as an “International Airworthiness Certificate.” The FAA doesn’t care what you do once you leave the country. They simply want you to realize that once outside of the U.S., you are on your own. The requirement for written permission is to cover you, as far as that country is concerned. If that country has no requirement, you should be OK.

This is my interpretation only. Your mileage may vary.

Please send your questions for DAR Asberry to [email protected] 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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