FAA repairman’s certificate that authorizes you to do the maintenance on the plane that you built. And that’s what I have. So, I do the maintenance. I’m required to do many of the same inspections that a regular certified plane would require. My plane needs an annual inspection, which I do. If there were certain components that needed to be replaced, I might buy the component and replace it. If it’s overhauled, it ends up getting sent out some place. But there are certain things I can’t do, so every two years I need to have certain avionics checked for tolerances in terms of whether it’s reading the correct altitude. I need to work with an avionics shop, a lot I can do, but pieces I can’t do.
D: Got you.
J: For people who didn’t build, they pretty much need to work with someone who is FAA certified, to be able to do the repairs and sign off. But I think it’s partly a sense of comfort of doing it themselves and having the time versus wanting to rely on somebody else or needing to rely on somebody else.
D: You kind of surprised me there, I thought that anything that was a kit plane was not even looked at by the FAA. And that you can basically fly anything. But you were talking about being certified and being able to do certain checks: overhauls, maintenance checks. Now, is that something that I just got wrong?
J: Well, yes. If you are a manufacturer, like a Cessna, and you produce a plane to sell to the public, you have to go through a certification process, not only for the design of the plane, but for the manufacturer of the plane as well. And that requires when you take off a certain kind of instrument or part, you must replace it with a certain kind of instrument or part, only things that are approved for that plane.
My plane is not standard, airworthiness certification, rather it’s in the experimental category because I built it. And that gives me the ability to make modifications, or not follow a standard process in terms of manufacturing, or certification standards. On the other hand, it still requires certain maintenance and inspection to allow it to be flown. Just like a certified plane I must have an inspection once a year, an annual inspection.
D: Now that’s an FAA mandate?
D: OK. So, I just learned something new!
J: That’s a requirement of my airworthiness certificate, for the plane to continue to be airworthy it needs to be inspected in accordance with certain standards. Again the difference is, as opposed to me being a certified repairman or mechanic, and having to go through the training and the testing to be able to work on a variety of planes that are certified; I am only allowed to do it on the plane that I built.
D: Oh, I see. It’s specifically your plane only.
J: Right. And if I were to sell my plane to someone else, that person would have to go to an authorized mechanic, who is certified to repair, and inspect, and maintain airplanes.
D: What if the new buyer was like you certified to fix their own plane, could they not fix it themselves?
J: Well, they couldn’t be certified for my plane as the builder, because they are not the builder. Only the original builder has that authority.
D: Wow. I didn’t know that.
J: Well, I think the concept is, that if you build it, you really understand the plane. And if it’s been inspected and determined to be airworthy, the assumption is you should continue to have the right to maintain that airplane, throughout the life of that airplane. At some point if you were to transfer the plane to someone else, they don’t really stand in the same shoes that the builder did. They are not intimately familiar with the plane, and they haven’t established that they even have the understanding as to how to assemble and disassemble and repair a plane. In theory, the builder does have that.
In Part 2 we chat about drones, cancellation of EAA Oshkosh 2020, UAVs, battery powered planes and more.