Welcome to EAA Chapter 1373!

The X chapter

Experimental Amateur Built and Light Sport Aircraft

What is an experimental amateur built aircraft?
In the US, “experimental aircraft” generally refers to an aircraft flown under an experimental category Special Airworthiness Certificate. The aircraft may be based on a well-tested and proven conventional design and therefore not truly experimental. Homebuilt aircraft built from a kit or from scratch fall into this category.

Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) aircraft are those for which the major portion has been fabricated and assembled by a person(s) who undertook the construction process solely for their own education or recreation.

(Ref.: FAA Experimental Category, FAR §21.191, §21.193)
What are some of the more popular aircraft kits available?
Here are some manufacturers of aircraft kits commonly built and flown in this area: Vans, Zenith, Kitfox, RANS, Lancair, Sonex. Each manufacture has several different types available.
Who can maintain or repair my experimental amateur built aircraft?
Anyone. There is no certification required to maintain or repair an EAB aircraft. Literally anyone can perform this work. Naturally, the owner/operator should assure the person making repairs (including him/her self) is competent to do so. (Ref.: §43.1b)
Can I use type-certified aircraft components in my EAB aircraft?
Yes. However, once a type-certified component is installed in an experimental aircraft it is no longer certified. (Ref.: EAA FAQ, FAA AC 39-7D 9b, FAA 8130.H)
What is the “51%” or “major portion” requirement?
This applies to experimental category aircraft as described in the first question above. It simply means that the “major portion of the aircraft has been fabricated and assembled by persons who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation”.

Note that any number or people may work on the aircraft. In some cases, aircraft kits and projects pass through several owners before they are finally finished. This does not violate the major portion rule as long as all builders “undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation”. If you purchase an unfinished kit from another party make sure to obtain the construction log to prove the major portion was amateur built.

You may not pay someone to build your EAB aircraft and you may not build an EAB aircraft to sell for profit.
(Note that ELSA are different from EAB aircraft. See LSA section.)

(Ref.: FAR §21.191, FAA 8130.H)
What does a Condition Inspection involve?
The aircraft’s Operating Limitations (OL) describe the requirements for a Condition Inspection. Typically, the OL require the inspector to state in the aircraft log book “I certify that this aircraft has been inspected on [date] per the scope and detail of part 43, appendix D, and was found to be in a condition for safe operation”. Per the OL, a condition inspection is required every 12 months.

Note that although part 43 (§43.1b1) specifically states “This part does not apply to- any aircraft for which the FAA has issued an experimental certificate[…]”, in this case the Operating Limitations override this and the condition inspection must be completed in accordance with Appendix D. Also, note the inspector is certifying the aircraft is “in a condition for safe operation”. He/she is not saying it is airworthy.
Who can complete a condition inspection on my EAB aircraft?
The primary builder who holds a Repairman certificate for the aircraft, or a certified A&P mechanic can complete the condition inspection.

The primary builder may obtain a Repairman certificate to perform condition inspections on the EAB aircraft he/she constructed in accordance with the operating limitations of that aircraft. (Ref.: FAR §65.104)

There can be only one primary builder. Therefore, if you purchase a completed EAB aircraft you cannot obtain a Repairman certificate for that aircraft and you cannot perform a condition inspection of it. (There is no class or certification that will allow you to do this, other than as a certified A&P mechanic. Note that ELSA are different in this respect; see below.)

Any certified A&P mechanic may complete a condition inspection on an EAB aircraft. The mechanic does not need to hold an Inspection Authorization (IA) certificate.
How is a condition inspection different from the annual inspection for a type-certified aircraft?
The condition inspection for an EAB aircraft:
• May be completed by the primary builder (if he/she registered the aircraft and obtained the repairman certificate for that aircraft).
• May be completed by an A&P mechanic (an IA is not required).
• Is not required to follow an inspection checklist. (There may be none, unless the original builder created one.)
Must my EAB aircraft comply with airworthiness directives (ADs)?
No, but…

But the true answer could be "maybe", or "sometimes", or "it depends".

Advisory Circular 39-7D (section 9b) addresses this directly: “Unless stated otherwise (see subparagraph 9b of this AC), ADs only apply to type-certificated (TC) aircraft, including ADs issued for an engine, propeller, and appliance.” Subparagraph 9b states “The AD applicability statement will identify if the AD applies to non-TC’d aircraft or engines, propellers, and appliances installed thereon.” Section 9b goes on to include examples of ADs that would apply to all aircraft, including non-type certified aircraft. If the AD states “This AD applies to any aircraft […]”, then (some would say) it applies to EAB aircraft and components as well.

There's a valid argument that ADs do not apply to EAB aircraft. The examples shown in AC 39-7D 9b do not explicitly state that they apply to non-TC’d aircraft (as described at the beginning of section 9). Plus, ACs are not binding anyway.

Some time ago – exact date unknown – the EAA stated “EAA takes the general position that AD’s do not apply to experimental amateur-built aircraft or to any previously type certified parts being operated on an experimental amateur-built aircraft.” The EAA no longer publishes this or other position papers but the original article can still be found here and here. The EAA’s reasons for this position were:
• The aircraft has no type design, nor do any of the design standards in the FAR’s apply (e.g. Part 23)
• FAR Part 43 Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, Rebuilding, and Alteration does not apply. [Ref.: §43.1b]
FAR 39 Airworthiness Directives, does not apply.
• The airworthiness standard for experimental aircraft is “safe to fly” not “Conformity to a type design.”

Bottom line:
ADs are published for good reason. Do not ignore them! As an EAB owner/operator, you must decide whether to comply with ADs that may apply to your aircraft. If you do not, and your aircraft is in an accident, you may have to defend that decision against any injured parties or your insurance provider.

Ed.: The primary answer to this question was originally shown as "Yes", but it has since been changed to "No". This change reflects the complexity and ambiguity around this question. It is up to the owner/operator of the aircraft to determine the correct answer for their particular aircraft.
Where can I find a POH for my EAB aircraft?
The Pilot’s Operating Handbook is developed by the manufacturer. For an EAB aircraft, the manufacturer is the builder. For example, if John J. Doe builds a Zenith 701 from the Zenith kit the aircraft registration will indicate the manufacturer is “DOE JOHN J”, not Zenith. Thus, John is responsible for creating the POH, although the FAA does not require that he does so.
Can I fly my EAB aircraft at night? In IMC? For hire?
The aircraft Operating Limitations govern operation of the aircraft. For EAB aircraft, the Operating Limitations are attached to the airworthiness certificate and must be accessible to the pilot. (Ref. FAR §91.319)
Can I train for my private or sport pilot certificate in an EAB aircraft?
Updated 23 December 2022 — Yes. Owners of experimental aircraft may hire a CFI to provide them flight training in their own aircraft, or in a borrowed aircraft.

Section 5604 of the NDAA for FY 2023 reads:

A flight instructor, registered owner, lessor, or lessee of an aircraft shall not be required to obtain a letter of deviation authority from the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to allow, conduct or receive flight training, checking, and testing in an experimental aircraft if--
(1) the flight instructor is not providing both the training and the aircraft;
(2) no person advertises or broadly offers the aircraft as available for flight training, checking, or testing; and
(3) no person receives compensation for use of the aircraft for a specific flight during which flight training, checking, or testing was received, other than expenses for owning, operating, and maintaining the aircraft.

This effectively reverses the directive described in the update from June 2021 below.

Updated 04 June 2021No. Alas, the FAA has recently clarified their official position on this and the answer is no. Giving any flight instruction for compensation in an experimental aircraft is not permitted under applicable FAR’s, without a Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA) or exemption issued by the FAA to the individual flight instructor. The language is broad enough to include even a flight instructor giving a flight review for compensation in someone else’s experimental airplane. An example of an instructor operating under an FAA issued LODA would be one of those instructors well known in the Van’s Aircraft community who offer transition training, in specific Van’s Aircraft models. This is a significant change to long standing past practices for those building, owning, flying or purchasing experimental category aircraft, which is why aviation organizations are opposing it, so far with no success. Stand by for more on the subject as the aviation organizations do the legal and administrative heavy lifting to change it, but for now the FAA has unambiguously stated its official position on the matter.

Yes, you may receive training in an EAB aircraft that you own. There are restrictions around this. You cannot pay another owner to rent their EAB aircraft for any reason. Some instructors hold Letters of Deviation Authority (LODA) from the FAA, authorizing them to operate their experimental aircraft for hire for the purposes of type-specific training.

(Ref. FAR §91.319)
What are the differences between Special LSA, Experimental LSA, and Experimental Amateur Built?
A light-sport aircraft (LSA) is any aircraft that meets the FAA’s LSA definition, whether certificated or experimental. (See Glossary of Aviation Acronyms.)

Any pilot with a Sport Pilot or higher certificate can fly LSA.

Special light-sport aircraft (SLSA) are factory built aircraft constructed to an industry consensus standard and sold with a special airworthiness certification.

Experimental light-sport aircraft (ELSA) are assembled from a kit under the experimental rules. The company providing the kit must have produced and certified at least one SLSA to be permitted to sell ELSA kits of the same model.

Note: ELSA is not the same as EAB! Even though many EAB aircraft qualify as light sport, they are not ELSA. Here are some important differences:
• ELSA kits are not subject to the “major portion” rule (FAR §21.191g) that EAB aircraft are. You can pay someone to build some or all of your ESLA for you.
• ESLA must follow the exact manufacturer design and specifications. The builder cannot choose an engine model, propeller, or other part different from that specified by the manufacturer. Builders of EAB aircraft can modify their design at will.

The Van’s RV-12 provides an illustrative example of these differences, because the same model can be licensed in three ways:
As SLSA: You can purchase a fully complete, factory built RV-12 from a Van’s Aircraft dealer. SLSA may be used as a rental, for paid instruction, or for commercial purposes.
As ELSA: You can purchase an RV-12 kit from Van’s and either build it yourself or pay someone else to complete it. It must be built to the exact specifications provided by Van’s. An ELSA owner can take a 16-hour class and receive a Repairman certificate that allows them to conduct the annual condition inspection themselves. (FAA AC65-32A)
As EAB: You can purchase an RV-12 kit from Van’s and build it to any specification you prefer. Unless you dramatically change the design, it will still qualify as LSA. (Van’s does not recommend changing their design or parts selection.) The primary builder of EAB aircraft may complete the annual condition inspection, but any subsequent owners must have an A&P mechanic do this.

Owners of SLSA are permitted to “downgrade” their aircraft to ELSA. By doing so, they lose commercial use of the aircraft, but they gain the ability repair and maintain the aircraft or even change the design however they desire (as long as it stays within the LSA definition).

Here are some links to good articles on this topic: Kitplanes magazine, Airtime Aircraft, Aviators Hotline.
(Ref.: FAR §1.1, ATSM Committee F37 on LSA)


What is ADS-B?
Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast — A surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked.

By January 1, 2020, all aircraft must be equipped with ADS-B Out to fly in most controlled airspace. Federal Regulations 14 CFR 91.225 and 14 CFR 91.227 contain the details.

ADS-B In allows aircraft to receive free traffic (TIS-B) and weather (FIS-B) information.

(Ref.: Wikipedia)
Is my EAB aircraft required to have ADS-B Out by the 2020 mandate?
The ADS-B requirement applies to all aircraft, not just certain types. The ADS-B Out rule starts January 1, 2020. After that, if you stay below 10,000 feet MSL or 2,500 feet AGL (whichever is greater) and out of class B and C airspace you won’t need ADS-B Out (though your flying area will be limited). There are additional restrictions and exceptions. See FAA ADS-B FAQ. (Ref.: FAR §91.225)
How can I display ADS-B traffic and weather on my iPad?
Various devices are available that receive ADS-B In data (TIS-B and FIS-B) for display on an iPad or Android tablet device or smartphone. Examples include the Stratus receivers, ForeFlight Sentry, and Garmin GDL. Stratux is a homebuilt ADS-B In receiver that is simple to build and costs less than $150.
I have a portable ADS-B receiver. Why am I not seeing other traffic?
Unlike weather, which is broadcast continuously, ADS-B traffic is only transmitted in response to specific prompts.

Let's say your aircraft does not have ADS-B Out, and there are no ADS-B ground stations in range. In this case your portable receiver will only see aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out (broadcasting air-to-air). You will not see other aircraft that do not have ADS-B Out. You will not see Mode C targets.

In this same scenario, if there is an ADS-B Out equipped aircraft within range it will "wake up" nearby ground stations and your aircraft can listen in. Remember that you will only see traffic that is broadcast to the other aircraft. There could be a target outside the range of the other aircraft but close to you that you will not see.

Now, let's say your aircraft has an ABS-B Out transponder and you get ADS-B In from a portable receiver. In this case you will see all traffic (except aircraft without any transponder). NOTE: Make sure your ADS-B Out transponder is configured to indicate you are capable of receiving ADS-B In. Otherwise your transponder will not wake up ground stations even though you have ADS-B Out.

(Ref.: Sporty's iPAD Pilot News, FAA: ADS-B Ins and Outs)
Can I buy or build a portable ADS-B Out device to meet the 2020 mandate?
No. While it is technically feasible, use of a portable ADS-B Out device is prohibited by the FAA.
Where can I find more info about ADS-B?
The FAA maintains a page of Frequently Asked Questions about ADS-B here.

Sport Pilot Certification

What are the requirements to fly as a Sport Pilot?
I'm a certificated pilot without a medical. Can I fly as a sport pilot?
Yes. For example, let’s say you are a certified Private Pilot but you stopped flying 15 years ago and your medical certificate is not current. You can fly as a Sport Pilot if you have a valid driver’s license (and you meet other Sport Pilot requirements). Because a PPL is a higher level of certificate than Sport Pilot you do not need to take a written or flight test, although you will need a flight review (f.k.a. BFR). (Ref.: AOPA FAQ)
My medical certificate application was denied, or my certificate was suspended or revoked. Can I fly as a Sport Pilot?
No. Under current regulations, if you apply for a medical certificate and it is denied you cannot fly any aircraft (perhaps ever). The same is true if your medical certificate is suspended or revoked. Note that if you voluntarily surrender your medical certificate it is considered revoked and you won’t be flying again. (Ref.: FAR §61.2(a))

Medical and BasicMed

Where can I find an Airman Medical Examiner in this area?
Dr. Joe Adragna, MD, MHA, MGH, is a new Airman Medical Examiner (AME) located in Montrose. See this page for more information.

You can also search for an AME using this FAA website.
What is BasicMed?
The U.S. Congress passed the FAA Extension, Safety, Security Act of 2016 (FESSA), which includes relief from holding an FAA medical certificate for certain pilots. This relief is called BasicMed.
For more information, see:
Where can I find more detailed answers to my BasicMed questions?
For even more detailed questions, review this BasicMed FAQ.
Tell me more about the BasicMed course and physician guide.
Go to: AOPA BasicMed Course site.
This site also includes BasicMed Course FAQs, the FAA Medical Exam Checklist, and the BasicMed Pilot & Physician Guide.

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