For the past several years, there’s been an ongoing skirmish between the FAA and homebuilders, and for once, there was probably no bad guy in this battle.
At stake was whether homebuilders of Experimental aircraft would be allowed to work on their planes in their own hangars. With a new rule that will take effect on July 1, 2017, the FAA has decided to allow the activity.
It might seem as though the FAA was being authoritarian in this case; after all, why is this even a question. Why can’t homebuilders do their own thing in their own hangar?
While many in the FAA privately agreed with the aviation community’s position that hangars should be homebuilding-friendly zones, the agency was bound by wording in a policy that prohibited most homebuilding.
The FAA’s overall goal was laudable: to keep hangars filled with airplanes instead of exotic cars or low-priced storage for non-aviation types who just happen to live in the vicinity of an airport in a high-rent place—think “Santa Monica.” In the process, however, it stuck with what AOPA and EAA have long fought against, insisting on a narrow definition of what constitutes homebuilding.
At issue was the wording the FAA went by that hangars at airports that receive federal funding must be used solely for aeronautical activities, and only the final assembly of homebuilts was considered to be such.
The new rule broadens the scope of that definition to include the vast majority of the construction process as aeronautical activities. Also included in the new rule are allowances for aircraft undergoing maintenance procedures to be allowed to remain in their hangars and for airport operators to rent out hangars when there’s a surplus of availability to non-aviation uses if those hangars can be “recovered” for aviation use in a short time frame.