08 - Flight Testing of Amateur-Built Light Aircraft

  • Safety Articles

Hi Folks,

I have recently been concerned about the flight testing schedules being followed by some of our pilots when testing their newly-built or re-built aircraft.

Some otherwise responsible people seem to have been 'running before they have tried walking' and others seem merely to have been flying around the local area for 25 or 50 hours (or whatever) rather than following a proper test flight schedule to explore all the corners of their aeroplane's flight envelope.

As a reminder, the whole point of that designated period is to really get to know your aeroplane: How it performs and handles in all configurations, under all conditions of weight, Centre of Gravity and at all ambient temperatures and in all wind conditions (plus any other variable you can think of).

Just in case you don't know about it, may I recommend an excellent FAA publication on the topic: Advisory Circular 90-89A, the Amateur-Built Aircraft and Ultralight Flight Testing Handbook.

It is not a 'dry' publication, and makes interesting reading for any pilot. It contains, hour-by-hour recommendations on what you should do on each flight, so that you gently broaden your experience of the new aircraft WITHOUT FRIGHTENING YOURSELF.

I would even suggest you could follow its format when getting to know any new aeroplane you have recently bought, homebuilt or not.

Take a look at it. We should all find it interesting, and if you are currently testing a new aeroplane, or shortly about to do so, reading it and following its recommendations may just save a few grey hairs (or even your life).

Happy (and safe) flying,

Bob Grimstead
SABC Safety Committee