NTSB Undertakes Homebuilt Aircraft Study

"This is the first study to comprehensively examine both the building and piloting of these unique aircraft," said Joseph M. Kolly, director of the NTSB Office of Research and Engineering.

The National Transportation Safety Board has begun a study of accidents involving "homebuilt" aircraft, a category also called "experimental amateur-built," saying it wants to evaluate the safety of this growing segment of general aviation and improve its accident record. The Experimental Aircraft Association will support the project by hosting a web-based survey for E-AB owners and sharing its findings with NTSB.

"Going all the way back to the Wright brothers, amateur aircraft builders have played a crucial and inspirational role in leading the way towards greater achievements in manned flight," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "We are pleased to be working with EAA towards the shared goal of improving safety in this particularly innovative sector of general aviation."

About 33,000 of the approximately 224,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States are in this category. Some are built from prefabricated kits, others from the builder's own design. "Unfortunately, this group of aircraft has, for several years, experienced accident rates greater than those of other comparable segments of [general aviation]," NTSB's announcement said.

The study will explore builder assistance programs; transition training for pilot-builders of E-ABs; flight test and certification requirements; maintenance of these aircraft; and the performance and failures of systems, structures, and power plants. "Earlier studies have looked at isolated E-AB safety issues, but this is the first study to comprehensively examine both the building and piloting of these unique aircraft," said Joseph M. Kolly, director of the NTSB Office of Research and Engineering. "And the direct input from E-AB owners and others involved in the design and day-to-day operations of these aircraft will be of enormous value in understanding all of the aspects that play a role in the safety of experimental flight operations."

Operators, builders, and owners of E-AB aircraft who are interested in participating in the survey should visit www.EAA.org/AB-Survey. The completed safety study is expected to be published by the fall of 2012, NTSB said.

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