Additional Pilot Program for Phase I Flight Test

Bob Pilot1
by bob pastusek

By now, this information should be old news, but just in case you've not heard, the FAA Deputy Administrator has signed AC 90-116, Additional Pilot Program for Phase I Flight Test, authorizing a second pilot, having specific minimum qualifications, to accompany the builder of most experimental, amateur-built aircraft during Phase I testing—at the builder's option. This AC should apply to all except turbine-powered Lancairs.

Your LOBO Board worked extensively with the FAA and EAA over the past four years to craft this alternative flight test procedure, and we encourage you to take advantage of it if your situation warrants. A majority of all Lancair accidents to date have occurred within the pilot's first 100 flight hours. Additionally, the flight test period—especially the first 8-10 hours—are particularly risky to the new builder/pilot. The provisions under which a second qualified pilot can be used are rather detailed and more complex than we would have liked, but please appreciate that they were crafted to cover as many E-AB aircraft as possible. Note also that this AC specifically excludes testing, using this AC, of turbine-powered aircraft and those not built from an approved kit.

faa_logoWhile flight training is specifically prohibited during Phase I testing, the opportunity for a new and possibly rusty/inexperienced builder-pilot to take along a better-qualified helper during Phase I testing is a significant improvement over what we could legally do in the past. LOBO encourages you to take advantage of this new authorization if you're getting ready to test your newly-built Lancair. Note that the AC requires you to conduct and document specific aircraft pre-flight tests such as fuel system testing, in addition to documenting the flight test participants. These are things we should be doing anyway, but the AC lays them out in black and white, and makes them a required part of this new alternative Phase I test process.

As a closely related issue, we have been working with the EAA on their XP-3 Flight Test Handbook. This is a detailed set of 18 in-flight tests that take a new aircraft through the process of proving basic and systems airworthiness and then collecting the data to build a performance handbook. If you've been through my "Preparing your Lancair for First Flight" seminars at one of the annual LOBO Landings, you already have a copy of the draft XP-3 Handbook. If you haven't, and are approaching flight test time, I'd strongly suggest you consider using this to plan and document your flight testing.

When the XP-3 Flight Test Handbook is finalized, we expect to ask the FAA to allow event-based testing for Phase I. Specifically, they have indicated a willingness to consider completion and documentation of the tests outlined in XP-3 as the basis for satisfying initial airworthiness, rather than the arbitrary 25 or 40 hours of flight testing they now require. This should allow a well-prepared builder to complete Phase I testing, with the assistance of a qualified second pilot, faster than the current process. As an added bonus you should enjoy considerable savings in time and fuel.

For questions/comments contact Bob at r.pastusek [at]