Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another option for the "Planes I'll Never Get Around To Building" list

I've been leaning towards the RV-12 mostly due to the benefits of the Light Sport rules, but I'm not convinced that it is the plane to have if I ever realize my dream to move to the mountainous areas of the southwest. I'd really like a more rugged, bush-flying type of plane for that region. There are a number of Citabrias and Aviat Husky options, but those are store bought and therefore more expensive to acquire and maintain.

Image shamelessly purloined from EAA Chapter 57's web site

I've always thought the Glasair Sportsman would be a good choice, and I really like the idea of their Two Week to Taxi program, but with the recent regulatory review of homebuilding rules by the FAA, I was concerned that the program would be shut down. Naysayers in the homebuilt world are vocal about their disdain for the program, and strongly believed that it went against the grain of the regs.

That appears to no longer be a disqualifying issue:

Two Weeks To Taxi Approved
By Russ Niles, Editor-in-Chief

Glasair's controversial Two Weeks To Taxi program, in which builders of Glasair Sportsman aircraft build an almost-complete aircraft in two weeks at Glasair's facitlity in Washington State, has been endorsed by the FAA's Production and Airworthiness Division after a week-long audit. "The FAA's on-site team found that the "lean manufacturing" processes employed, combined with the provided educational assistance, accelerates the Sportsman build time significantly without violating the spirit or intent of Part 21, Section 21.191(g)," the company said in a news release.

More than 100 Sportsmans have been built in the program, in which company staff lay out tools, round up the necessary parts and provide instruction to customers who, according to the FAA's findings, do at least 51 percent of the work. "We have worked very, very hard to develop a program that makes aircraft building more accessible, more organized, and as efficient as possible, while staying within the letter and spirit of the amateur built rule," said Glasair CEO Michael Via. The company says it will expand the program. The decision would seem to set the tone for the current discussion by the FAA's Amateur-Built Rulemaking Committee, which is reviewing the level of participation required by builders in all aspects of the construction of their aircraft. Among those auditing the Glasair program was Frank Paskiewicz, who heads up the FAA's Production and Airworthiness Division and is a key member of the 51 percent rule committee.

The biggest issue with the Glasair remains the same, though: it costs at least three times what an RV-12 would cost. When you consider that the RV-12 is about 13 1/2 times more expensive than I can afford in the current economic client, well, you can see my dilemma. But long term? It seems like it would be an incredible two weeks, and you one great mountain/travel plane out of it too. For now it's just good to know that it's still an option.

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