June 29, 2012
By Dave Hirschman
Aircraft kit manufacturers have formed a new association that aims to increase flight safety, promote Experimental aircraft, and defend the freedom of individuals to build their own airplanes.
Richard VanGrunsven, founder of Vans Aircraft, maker of the RV line of kit airplanes, is the group’s president; John Monnett, designer of the Sonex line, is vice president; and Dave Gustafson, an industry advocate, is secretary of the Aircraft Kit Industry Association (AKIA).
“The group is composed of some very independent and strong-willed people who are united behind the same set of common issues,” Gustafson said.
In particular, the group believes it can improve safety by providing flight training in Experimental amateur-built aircraft. Traditionally, Experimental aircraft have been barred from commercial operations such as flight training (although a few have been granted waivers to allow “transition training”).
The group is composed of about a dozen kit manufacturers including Kitfox, Lancair, Sonex, Vans, and Zenith, along with suppliers Aircraft Spruce and Wicks, Gustafson said.
There are about 30,000 Experimental aircraft on the FAA registry, and about 1,000 more are being added annually. Experimental aircraft comprise roughly 10 percent of the U.S. general aviation fleet.
FAA regulations require builders to complete 51 percent of Experimental aircraft, and Gustafson said AKIA will do everything within its power to preserve that rule.
“The 51 percent rule is unique—and it means everything to us,” he said.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
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