Experimental?!?...don't let the name scare you...
Amateur-built aircraft are built by individuals and licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as “Experimental.” It defines aircraft that are used for non-commercial, recreational purposes such as education or personal use. Under FAA regulations, if an individual builds at least 51 percent of an aircraft, the aircraft is eligible to be registered in the amateur-built category.
FAA’s Experimental category also includes nearly 10 other subcategories, including aircraft used for crew training, air racing, and historic aircraft (such as World War II military aircraft) flown to air shows and exhibitions.
Who constructs amateur-built/homebuilt aircraft?
People from all walks of life, including astronauts, airline pilots, military jet pilots, machinists, welders, engineers, professional people and others.
Why do they build them?
A variety of reasons...a personal challenge, education, performance. Many amateur-built/homebuilt aircraft utilize composite materials that help create airplanes that are lighter, faster and more fuel efficient than similar production aircraft.
How are these aircraft regulated?
All amateur-built/homebuilt airplanes must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These airplanes must be inspected by an FAA inspector or a designated inspector before an airworthiness certificate can be issued.
This is a fairly rigorous process. The builder(s) must provide logs of when, where and how construction took place, along with supporting documents and photographs. If the aircraft passes this inspection, a pilot must fly between 25-40 hours of test flights in specific non-populated areas to make sure all components are operating properly. Only after that test time is flown may passengers be flown in the aircraft.
In addition, an amateur-built airplane is subject to condition inspections every 12 months, the same scrutiny required of other production aircraft.
Does a person have to be a licensed pilot to fly these airplanes?
Yes. Pilots of amateur-built/homebuilt aircraft must earn and maintain the same federal pilot training and ratings as those who fly factory-built aircraft. They also must follow all appropriate federal regulations during each of their flights.
Click HERE to learn more about experimental aircraft at EAA National.