NTSB Undertakes Comprehensive Study of Experimental Amateur-built (E-AB) Aircraft Safety

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) will support the project by hosting a web-based survey for E-AB owners of the aircraft; their survey findings will be shared with the NTSB.


WASHINGTON - The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a study of accidents involving E-AB (sometimes called homebuilt) aircraft in order to evaluate the safety of this growing and innovative segment of general aviation. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) will support the project by hosting a web-based survey for E-AB owners of the aircraft; their survey findings will be shared with the NTSB.

“Going all the way back to the Wright brothers, amateur aircraft builders have played a crucial and inspirational role in leading the way towards greater achievements in manned flight,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “We are pleased to be working with EAA towards the shared goal of improving safety in this particularly innovative sector of general aviation.”

Of the approximately 224,000 general aviation (GA) aircraft in the U.S., about 33,000 of them are classified as E-AB. This includes a wide variety of aircraft, which can be built from a prefabricated kit, existing plans, or a builder’s unique design. Unfortunately, this group of aircraft has, for several years, experienced accident rates greater than those of other comparable segments of GA. The NTSB and EAA are collaborating to identify how to improve that record.

The study will look at a range of issue areas, including builder assistance programs; transition training for pilot-builders of E-ABs; flight test and certification requirements; maintenance of E-AB aircraft; and the performance and failures of systems, structures, and power plants.

“Earlier studies have looked at isolated E-AB safety issues, but this is the first study to comprehensively examine both the building and piloting of these unique aircraft,” said Joseph M. Kolly, Director of the NTSB Office of Research and Engineering. “And the direct input from E-AB owners and others involved in the design and day-to-day operations of these aircraft will be of enormous value in understanding all of the aspects that play a role in the safety of experimental flight operations.”

The EAA will be collecting survey data this summer. Operators, builders, and owners of E-AB aircraft who are interested in participating in the survey should go to www.EAA.org/AB-Survey.

The completed safety study is expected to be published by the fall of 2012.

We Recommend