As promised, this post is all about outlining the different hurdles that we had to clear before the project got off the ground (well we are still on the ground but you know what I mean). This is my individual perspective so I’m sure that there is more to be known from the other leads.
This project is the brainchild of Brandon Gorang who now leads the project. His original idea was to restore an antique airplane but the idea evolved into building an all-new airplane. I first found out about the project through an e-mail asking for individuals interested in participating in a feasibility study about building an experimental airplane. I had been seriously thinking about building one myself so I was definitely interested and jumped at the opportunity. I was very happy to find out I had been chosen to be part of the original team.
The main points that we had to investigate were:
- What kind of airplane does BEFA want?
- Which airplane are we going to build?
- Will the FAA give an airworthiness ticket to an airplane built by a Boeing-sponsored project?
- Can we get insurance for the airplane?
- How much will it cost & how long will it take?
- Where are we going to build the airplane?
- Will ONE and its advisers approve the project?
The challenges and decisions dealing with the first two questions are the subject of this earlier post about the Glasair.
The first problem to tackle was the question of our ability to get an airworthiness certificate. This pretty much involved an out of the blue call to Seattle’s MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office, the FAA guys in charge of inspecting amateur-built aircraft). Fortunately our request landed on the desk of the very capable Rich Arterburn. He has been very open about the project and also has been very clear on the expectations that he has for us. His main concern is that the group of people that began building the airplane will be completely different from the group of people that finish it. The problem with this was there would be no knowledge transfer so we would not know exactly how the airplane came together which created risk in his eyes. For this reason we established a rule to set the membership of the team in stone and work very hard to ensure that many team members were knowledgeable about every aspect of the airplane. Through several meetings we reached an agreement that was satisfactory for both parties and we had the green light on that aspect of the project.
Operating an experimental airplane as part of a “flying club” is something that is very unusual so we had to do some legwork on that front. Fortunately BEFA is not a flying club but an organization in which every member is part-owner of the airplane. This means that when a member pays to fly the airplane they are merely paying for the operating costs of the flight, not renting the airplane. This means that it is allowed under the rules of amateur-built aircraft. There are a couple of precedents to this such as with the original Fly-Baby that was flown by a group of guys who were all part-owners. This is a question that is often asked of us when we tell them who the end user of the airplane is going to be.
Related to the airplane being operated by a group of pilots instead of an individual was the problem of insurance. Fortunately BEFA’s insurance was open to the idea of insuring the airplane but they are still working on the details so I shall say no more on the subject.
Well that is enough for one day, the answer to the last couple of questions will be the subject of some future post. Now I have to get back to being a Boeing engineer. Although in my case that fortunately involves getting to ride very often on this lovely airplane.