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experimental homebuilt aircraft

Also known as “experimental amateur-built aircraft”, “kit planes”, or merely “homebuilt aircraft”, this category of aircraft includes vehicles which are constructed by non-professionals without a manufacturing factory for personal/non-commercial use. Homebuilt aircraft is certified for use by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as experimental amateur-built (E-AB). Defined under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) within FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations), section 21.191(g), an E-AB aircraft is one in which “the major portion has been fabricated and assembled by a person(s) who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation”. For E-AB certification of airworthiness, the aircraft must have been built with at least 51% of the work done by amateurs. While the FAA currently lists about 30,000 homebuilt aircraft on its registry, the popularity of kit aircraft is steadily increasing.
The primary methods of homebuilt aircraft include the scratchbuilding method and construction from pre-planned assembly kits. A scratchbuilt aircraft entails foraging for various aircraft graded materials and assembling them from a set of plans. A kit aircraft arrives with pre-fabricated parts which can be assembled by the user. E-AB aircraft is typically constructed from strong but lightweight materials such as wood and aircraft grade fabric, metals (typically aluminum or steel), composites (synthetic fabric with high tensile strength – fiberglass, carbon fiber, etc. – combined with plastics to create structure), or wood/composites.
In response to a subpar safety record, numerous organizations have collaborated to advocate and consolidate the homebuilt industry for safety and consistent regulation. In 2011, E-AB aircraft accounted for approximately 10% of the U.S. general aviation (GA) fleet but had 21% of GA accidents. For fiscal year 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board found that homebuilt aircraft had an accident rate 3-4 times greater than the other types of aircraft within the United States’ registered general aviation fleet. In 2012, the Aircraft Kit Industry Association (AKIA) was formed in Aurora State, Oregon. Working in tandem with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) – founded in 1953 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – and other aviation institutions, AKIA promotes improvements in flight training, pilot resources, and regulated manufacturing. As a result of these efforts, fatalities from experimental aircraft have seen a 30% decline from 2012 to 2013.

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