Question: OK. The new rules for homebuilders are here. What has changed?
Answer: When the FAA first said that the 51% rule (actually its officially known as the major portion rule) was going to be reworked, everyone got up in arms. And rightly so if you looked at the original proposal. It threatened the entire homebuilding community as we know it. While aimed primarily at the homebuilt factories turning out aircraft built for hire, there were a few points that would hit builders of quickbuild kits. Those that were already on the FAA approved kit list would be grandfathered, but the proposed change would have made it nearly impossible for manufacturers of new QB kits to compete.
The big scare was the fabrication requirements definition. The proposal would have required builders to fabricate a minimum of 20% of the parts. But in the final rule, changes from the old rule were minimal.
The most significant change is the form used to evaluate whether the aircraft meets the major-portion requirement. The old form 8000-38 contained two categories: the kit manufacturer and the builder. If you had more checks than the kit manufacturer, you won.
The new list is a bit more complex. First, the title is Amateur-Built Aircraft Fabrication and Assembly Checklist (2009)(Fixed-wing). It contains no less than four categories per task: A. Mfr. Kit/Part/Component, B. Commercial Assistance, C. Amateur-Builder Assembly, and D. Amateur-Builder Fabrication. Each task is valued at 1 point. This point may be divided into 1⁄10 fractions among the four categories. When you total up the percentages the sum of categories C & D must exceed 50%. Hey, it sounds like were back at the 51% rule doesn’t it? The biggest difference is the commercial-assistance category. All commercial assistance must be listed.
Also, the new list is for fixed-wing aircraft only. We are still waiting for lists to cover other categories. This new checklist along with an explanation of how to use it can be found in Appendix 8 of the new AC 20-27G, discussed in the last paragraph of this article.
A major problem with the checklist is that a lot of it is subjective. For example, the kit manufacturer sends you a wingrib. It has been cut out with the flanges folded over. You must drill, deburr, dimple and flute it to make it fit the airframe. What percentage of fabrication have you done compared to what the kit manufacturer did? The good news is the FAA is again evaluating kits for the approved list. If your aircraft is on this list, you don’t make any significant modifications, and you don’t receive commercial assistance, you’re good to go. If not, you must use the new checklist.
Dont forget the infamous form 8130-12, aka the Eligibility Statement. The new form has a place to list all commercial assistance. This is the form that can send you to jail if you perjure yourself.
Another good thing to come out of the new rule is that Advisory Circular 20-27 has finally been updated to Revision G. Its long overdue and is mandatory reading by anyone considering an amateur-built project.
AC 20-27G, dated 9/30/2009, has most of the information you need to certificate and operate your Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft. The commercial assistance information is now included. Of particular importance is section 8(b)(2), which lists commercial assistance that is allowed without it counting against you, including fabrication of engines, propellers, wheels and brake assemblies, and standard aircraft hardware. You may also outsource painting, upholstery and avionics installation.
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