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.
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.
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.