Friday, August 6, 2010

Administrators Faulty Cause and Effect

As I mentioned earlier, Randy Babbit is nothing more than the next peg to be crammed into the well worn slot titled “Agendized Bureaucrat”. I have no idea where they find these people but there must be some underground network of assholes being continually prepped for placement in positions such as FAA Administrator. There, wherever it is, out back covered by an old blue tarp, next to a rotting fence, and surrounded by weeds is sure to be a pile of things determined useless to government employees and thus surgically removed from these puppets in the making. Among the pieces rot logic, common sense, understanding of physics and nature, and the conscience.

Exhibit A: During Oshkosh, Mr. Babbit said that the statistical percentage of overall accidents credited to experimental aircraft was unacceptably high and that something must be done to counteract this trend. He then went on to express all the reasons homebuilders and pilots are at fault. Well, there’s a surprise. Mr. Babbit, like all administrators before him, sees everything as aviation’s fault and he’s sure he’s the man to fix it. Yet I strongly disagree.

A man as supposedly educated and well trained in aviation, as Babbit is claimed, would know that the FAA is more likely than not, the root cause of this trend. But then again, I believe Mr. Babbit would see record ice cream sales on a hot sunny day and come to the conclusion the ice cream sales made the sun hot.

One particular problem Babbit pointed to was new pilots who just bought a homebuilt. This segment he said, was quite high. But ask yourself, why does someone buy a homebuilt airplane?

There are two reasons and only two reasons a person buys a homebuilt; either it’s cheap to own and operate, or it outperforms everything on the certified market, and often it’s both. That’s it. There are no other reasons someone would buy a homebuilt aircraft. So then ask yourself, why are homebuilts cheaper and or better performing than certified aircraft? Because the FAA has its hand in certified aircraft, that’s why.

This government organization is so restrictive, certified aviation is still operating on 1930’s technology and struggling to survive at a time experimental aviation offers the innovation, performance, and ease of maintenance owners desire. Therefore, you have a large number of pilots doing anything they can to get out from under burdensome FAA restrictions by purchasing homebuilts. And in the process, many of them are dying.

Mr. Babbit, the next time you want to lay the ground work for new regulation by pointing fingers, you should do a better job of making sure they don’t point back to you.


Unknown said...

A Few Points:

Your reason's to build are very much in the eyes of a pilot and not a builder. I think you're leaving out satisfaction/ education. I'd argue that even if the planes were more expensive and flew like a brick, a subset of the population would still build them just to have them fly. Historic restoration, preservation, or re-creation are other reasons. There are a many folks working on projects that are likely longer than their effective flying career.

Also, experimental accident rates aren't that much worse than certified. The statement "And in the process, many of them are dying." way overblown. A small subset are.

Lastly I missed Babbit's speech. Every account of it makes me want to scream Ron Wanttaja. I'll bet he's addressing a crowd of E-AB builders with statistics of all Experimentals including: Experimental Research and Development, Market Survey, Exhibition, Racing, E-LSA's (grandfathered fat UL's), Ultralights, Foreign Planes, and Unregistered Aircraft. I can only wish the crowd called him out on it.

Charlie said...

A typical homebuilt test flight is new airplane, new engine, prop and low time or no time in type pilot.

There are bound to be more accidents in this situation. thats what the fly-off time before carrying passengers is for. Test flying has always been a higher risk.

But I don't think a established design built correctly has much different risk than test flights after a major restoration or repair.

The performance of many homebuilt airplanes exceeds factory built airplanes with similar power but at the expense of higher stall speeds, less seats handling qualities or structural capability. There are exceptions to this like a RV-9 to a Tomahawk but stand back and take a hard look.

I've been more concerned about structure in the LSA's I've flown. One kit I built later failed it's static test in England below the gross weight the american importers were advertising.

Of the homebuilts I've flown only the Pitts S-1C flew with no unexpected handling, stability or structural problems. That's out of 25 or so designs from Glasair TD to Challenger. That is really sad. Some were downright scary even built to the plans.

The other thing that gets me mad is seeing obvious mistakes in the design of a kit. Things designed or being operated in a way that was an AD or caused an accident in a certified airplane. example: How many ultralights and lightplanes crashed because of no carb heat from the 80's to now. We figured that out in the 1920's. My X air built in 2006 had no carb heat. Check out the evolution of the LSA designs supposedly proven and sold by the hundreds in europe. Suddenly they all grow larger tails after being imported for a year or two. Even though they supposedly passed the LSA testing.

Must be the europeans fly better than Americans.

But the FAA and NTSB rule those accidents pilot error.

How about a steel or fire resistant sealed firewall? My Kitfox had an aluminum one. CT firwall is a layer of carbon fiber.

When you settle on a design how much testing has it "really" had. DId they do a proper test program / engineering or did the designer get it to fly to OSH and start selling kits with 40 hours on the airframe and no real idea how it will hold up. Once you exceed the total time of the prototype or highest time example every flight you are a test pilot.

Rich Davidson said...


I was talking about people buying homebuilts that are flying. Therefore I am of course talking from a pilot's standpoint. Typically, people don't die at the controls of a homebuilt that doesn't fly. And as for pilot's whose primary interest is in building the plane, then that right there is likely a good suspect for root cause of several accidents. I have flown many homebuilts that were obviously built by someone who merely wanted to build and nearly all of them had serious and often deadly flaws due to the mindset of the builder. This is not intended as an insult, merely an observation. Thanks for your input. Rich

Anonymous said...

"A man as supposedly educated ... as Babbitt is claimed, would know..."

Wait a minute. Babbitt testified in his 2009 confirmation hearing before Senate CST that he never graduated college.