1Experimental Aircraft – What does that really mean?
First of all, it does not mean that your airplane is an experiment. It is an FAA aircraft category that is governed by “Special Category” regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration regulations of which “Experimental- Amateur Built” or E-AB is one of several.
A Type Certificate is issued to an aircraft manufacturer allowing that manufacturer to completely manufacture the aircraft and sell direct to the public. In the case of an aircraft like a Lancair, the “Experimental” designation does not imply anything untried, untested, or unsafe about the Lancair design – only that it is partially completed by an amateur rather than the manufacturer.
A little history: The 1930’s saw a great deal of experimentation and innovation in aviation. At that time the CAA (later to become the FAA) felt the need to regulate this innovation and created the Experimental category whereby citizens could build their own aircraft “for education and recreation”. The idea of a “kit” soon followed and the new FAA formulated a series of requirements for such kits. One of these requirements is the “51% rule” requiring the owner/builder of such a kit to “assist or complete” more than 51% of the tasks of manufacturing, fabricating, and installing the components of an aircraft.
2Why Choose Experimental over Type Certified?
There are three primary reasons. Most important is lower cost, then the opportunity to focus on education and recreation in the build process, and also the freedom to customize the aircraft with the latest technology and processes. The substantial cost differential between your Lancair and an equivalent certified aircraft exists because you are not paying for the extensive, expensive and laborious certification process. FAA Production Certification costs millions of dollars, most of which is administrative, regulatory, and recurring non-engineering cost. As we have seen recently with Eclipse, HondaJet and ICON, there are often lengthy delays due to the certification process. Experimental aircraft can avoid that cost and delay.
The Experimental category also allows more freedom in engineering and component selection. For example, a type certificated aircraft is prohibited from utilizing a different engine without obtaining a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), a lengthy and expensive process. The E-AB category allows you to choose from a wide variety of engines and build your aircraft to suit your specific needs and desires. This freedom applies to many other details of your aircraft, from avionics to braking systems. For your safety and confidence we use the FAA regulations as guidance, but there are areas where they may over-regulate. E-AB certification avoids that while still producing an efficient and safe design. Your Lancair is a custom, “Hand Built” aircraft. The resultant superior craftsmanship is rarely seen in a certified aircraft.
351% of What?
It is not the fabrication of the majority of the parts, or the majority of the hours, or the majority of the assembly operations. It is the majority of the “processes” spent accomplishing a list of the construction tasks specified by the FAA. It is a clear-cut process that is easily followed and one that we have made sure can be accomplished through the build process of our Kit.
4Can I hire someone to do the 51% ?
Yes, you can. The Lancair Builder Assistance shop specializes in this type of assistance and is well versed in legally guiding you through the process. Keep in mind that major portions of the assembly process are not covered by the FAA required steps, like avionics, interior, paint, and many other systems and options.
5How do I prove that I did “my share”?
A record (photographic and written) called a “Builder’s Log” is kept of the time you spend building your Lancair. It is a very enjoyable and rewarding experience and one that we urge you to discuss with other owners.
6I have no skills for such an activity, but I’m willing. Can I do it?
You not only can, but you will have the time of your life. If someone is good with their hands, then they are a good candidate to build one of our custom aircraft. We complete a majority of each kit’s structural components for you at the factory prior to moving into the Builder Assist Program.
By participating in building your Lancair you really get to know all the aircraft systems in detail. So, if there were ever an issue in flight, you would know exactly what course of action to take. In essence, knowing your aircraft inside and out makes you a better pilot. Owners that have gone through the building process with Lancair’s professional guidance report that it was one of the most rewarding things they have ever done. This very complete understanding of your aircraft is invaluable and unattainable any other way.
7I don’t have the time. Can I send a partner for some or all of this time?
Absolutely. The only requirement is that he (or she) be an amateur and participating for the purposes of education and recreation.
8How long does it take?
Typically, the time from input at the Lancair Builders Assistance facility to first flight is around 6 months and rarely more than 8 months.
9How do I get started on a Lancair Kit?
A nominal deposit will secure the kit price and a delivery position. Deposits vary per kit and once the deposit is taken, customers have 9 months to take delivery of their kit at the original price. If delivery is not taken after 9 months, the customer has another 9 months to take delivery at a price based on the anticipated delivery date. Lancair will work with each owner to build a funding schedule that meets their specific needs.
10Does the kit price include everything?
No. The kit includes all the major components of the airframe; but no engine, propeller, avionics, paint or interior. Everything you need to complete your airplane can be purchased through Lancair including paint and upholstery. Our dealer arrangements with engine, avionics and other suppliers often allows Lancair to offer even better pricing than going direct to the manufacturer. Contact a Lancair sales representative for more information on the entire selection of quality Lancair accessories.
11When my plane is completed, do I have to be the test pilot?
No, Lancair supplies, at no charge, a complete inspection of your aircraft prior to the FAA’s inspection to issue your Certificate of Airworthiness and a test pilot for first flight. Many owners keep this pilot under contract for the full FAA mandated Phase One fly-off period (40 hours) where the aircraft must be flown in a designated area and distance from the airport continuously expanding the flight envelope.
12What is the purpose of the 40 hour fly off requirement?
Every plane is flown and tested against the entire flight envelope (Vne, all CG configurations, stalls, etc.) and all squawks are addressed before you start flying the plane with passengers or cross country.
13After I complete my plane, what can’t I do with it as an Experimental Category aircraft?
There are only two restrictions on the use of E-AB aircraft. You may not fly the aircraft for hire (charter, lease, rent, etc.) You may, however share expenses. Also you will not have the ability to secure a Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI) certification as this is a Supplemental Type Certificate or STC. Since you do not have a Type Certificate you cannot supplement it. You can however install the same equipment on the aircraft that a FIKI equipped aircraft would carry in order to protect you from inadvertent flight into un-forecast icing.
14What about Warranties?
The major component manufacturers such as the engine, avionics and propeller all have warranties that would transfer to the new owner with Lancair warranting the airframe components that we manufacture.
15Where do I get service work done?
Depending on the component needing attention, you would go to any commercial service shop that offers service to that component. Special airframe issues or issues with Lancair manufactured parts may be addressed at the Lancair factory or one of our authorized Lancair shops across the US and abroad.
16How much does an Annual Condition Inspection cost?
Carbon composite airframes are virtually maintenance free. Making for less expensive inspections relative to certified aircraft. As the builder of the aircraft you are able to sign off your own maintenance work and annuals if you wish. This is a significant savings over even a simple 4 place certified aircraft.
17What about Carbon Fiber? Is it safe over the long term? Is this proven technology?
Carbon (Graphite) composite structures are considered among the strongest structures used anywhere in the world today. Formula One racers, Indy Cars, Americas Cup Racing Yachts, million dollar Supercars, 10 G aerobatic aircraft are almost 100% Carbon Composite. Advanced military combat aircraft from the F-22 to the B-2 are predominantly carbon. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses large quantities of the same Toray “12K Pre-preg” carbon fabric that Lancair uses in our manufacturing. As a matter of fact, this carbon is manufactured and sourced from the same supplier that supplies Boeing. Lancair has been building composite structures since 1984, longer than any other aerospace composite manufacturer. No General Aviation manufacturer has the high level of expertise in this manner and method of construction as Lancair.
18How many hours have Lancairs flown? What is the safety record?
Lancair has an excellent safety record. Since the mid-1980’s Lancairs have been operated by well over a thousand owners, with hundreds of thousands of hours of safe, efficient and exhilarating flight. Our reputation for quality aircraft and practical designs was built by the same people who build and fly our planes. Our commitment to your safety and to the safe assembly and operation of your Lancair is the foundation of our Builder Assist Program and High Performance Flight Training Program. Leading the industry in airframe design, hands-on construction opportunities and top notch safety helps our motto run true: "Into the air faster, back to Earth safer."
19Who will train me?
Lancair can supply training in your aircraft provided by our training pilot. As well, there are a number of authorized training facilities around the country that provide training in your aircraft and at your home airport.
20Is insurance available?
Yes. We have developed relationships with insurance providers to ensure that our airplanes are safe and our pilots are properly certified and trained. Our commitment to our customers and our aircraft goes beyond the showroom floor. Rates are even more affordable when clients successfully complete a ground school training program.There is no “penalty” or surcharge due to the E-AB Category. Rates typically run at 1.25 to 1.75% of named hull value. 250 hrs. of retractable gear time is a plus but this can be offset with special requirements by the insurer.