Emma Kelly / Perth

Fatal crash prompts sports flying association to reinforce advice for kitplane owners

The Sports Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA) is introducing what it believes is the most extensive safety programme available for homebuilt aircraft. The programme comes in the wake of the fatal crash of a modified Lancair IV-T last year in Queensland.

The SAAA has offered a builder assistance programme for the last three years, but the organisation's new flight safety assistance programme adds flight testing and owner assistance, says Peter Bennett, SAAA president. The builder assistance programme makes technical advisers available to builders of kit aircraft to ensure that they complete a safe aircraft.

The flight-test programme element, which is due for introduction early next year, extends that safety philosophy to flight tests. The owner enters a formal agreement with the SAAA to do certain things, for example a hazard analysis before the first flight. If the owner feels he or she is not capable of performing the first flight, it can be conducted by one of three experienced test pilots that have volunteered to participate in the SAAA's programme, says Bennett.

The third aspect is an owner assistance module, which commits the owner to an inspections and maintenance schedule and includes a pilot proficiency module.

Sports aircraft have a better safety record in Australia than general aviation, says Bennett, but the intention is to make them even safer.

He says the catalyst was the crash of the homebuilt Lancair in December 2002. The aircraft crashed when it became laterally unstable as it approached the stall speed during its flight-test programme, killing the owner/builder and a test pilot.

The aircraft was based on the Lancair IV-T kitplane, but incorporated significant design changes, including a turboprop rather than the normal piston engine.

In last week's crash report, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau says no risk assessment was undertaken to consider the safety implications of the changes.

Source: Flight International