FAA changes will revolutionize homebuilt flight testing

After years of hard work and advocacy by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the FAA has published draft guidance to implement an optional task-based Phase I program for Experimental Amateur-Built (E-AB) aircraft.

Under the program, once an aircraft completes a flight test plan that meets FAA standards, Phase I is complete.

The standard 25- or 40-hour flight test period for Phase I will remain an option for all E-AB, and Experimental Light-Sport (E-LSA) continues to carry a five-hour test period, according to EAA officials.

The program is part of an upcoming update to Advisory Circular (AC) 90-89B. Flight test programs do not need specific approval by the FAA, but the circular lays out certain required flight test points and requires the use of test cards for data collection in flight.

EAA’s new Flight Test Manual is now available to homebuilders.

Users of the EAA Flight Test Manual should find it a straightforward way to complete the requirements of the task-based Phase I program, but anyone may draft a flight test plan that meets the FAA’s outline, including kit manufacturers and other experts, EAA officials explain.

Task-based Phase I ensures that every hour spent in flight testing is meaningful and is contributing to both validating the airworthiness of the aircraft and gathering the data necessary to build a detailed operating manual. This will benefit the builder in ensuring full exploration of the aircraft’s operating envelope, and it will benefit subsequent owners in having access to quality data on the aircraft. In exchange for this work, the aircraft will be released from Phase I when it is ready, not based on an arbitrary time requirement, according to EAA officials.

“This is the result of more than

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