REGULATORY ISSUES

 

GENERAL
CONSTRUCTION GUIDELINES
REGISTRATION PROCESS
EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS
REQUIRED DOCUMENTS
FLIGHT TRAINING and PERSONAL LICENSING
INSURANCE


 

Since this kit is being assembled in Canada where it falls under the classification of "Amateur-Built Aircraft", these are the only regulatory issues that will be directly addressed. Although I'm aware of a lot of the US rules re: Experimentals, it's not reasonable for me to directly address these. Perhaps a "guest editor" will come forward and contribute a relevant article. This link seems to be a good starting point for those requiring further information.

As of the time of this writing, the following Safari helicopters are registered in Canada : C-FBMG, C-FCER, C-GZNW, C-FEWH, C-FGQJ, C-FMSP, C-GPZY, C-GOEZ and C-FVDD ... (Baby Belle C-FZQN has been de-registered). C-FKBZ is registered as a Commuter. The kit has been accepted under the 51% rule and the feedback I've gotten on inspections indicate that any of the snags were items that could easily occur on any amateur-built.

 

Quick Items:

Before beginning an amateur-built craft, one is supposed to send a "Letter of Intent" using a standard form to the government; this is usually handled by sending it to the MD-RA (more about this later).

Registration marks (ie. C-F*** or C-G***) may either be specially requested and reserved or just randomly assigned as the craft is being registered. Reserving a mark currently costs $140 Cdn initially plus $45 /year after the first one and a list of available marks is available online. The last time I checked, currently reserved marks can only be found by inference of not being on the "current" or the "available marks" database. If one REALLY wanted a specific mark, there's even a procedure to have a current mark changed and then re-assigned; perhaps CHR may eventually want to obtain C-FARI ... then again, the mark C-FARY is currently available as this is being written.

I have just looked at this quickly, but it would appear that one can now import a US-registered experimental into Canada ... HOWEVER if I read this correctly, the craft must have at least one hundred hours on it and needs to be inspected by Transport Canada. I have not investigated in detail the issue of built (or partially built) in the US but not registered; it would appear that this would still fall within the definition of a "kit" and be subject to the normal MD-RA inspections. The real grey area is a craft that has been registered in the US and has 0-99.9 hours on it. Before attempting to import an experimental craft with hours in this range, I would get a WRITTEN response from Transport Canada about the requirements.

A helicopter pilot licence (private or higher) is required to fly a Safari in Canada. If one has a fixed wing licence, they still need at least a private helicopter alternate category rating. Once a helicopter licence has been obtained it is then necessary to get a type rating on the Safari since unlike fixed wings, there is a need for an endorsement for each type of rotary wing craft.

It is my understanding that in the US a "repairman's certificate" is required to perform annual inspections on an experimental aircraft and this certificate may be difficult to obtain by anyone other than the original builder. While an appropriately licenced mechanic may also perform these inspections, it may be difficult to convince one to perform this required service. So far, I have not found a similar restriction in Canada and it would appear that the owner of an amateur-built aircraft is entitled to perform maintenance and annual inspections. It should be noted that there was some ambiguity about when a formal inspection is required after a "major" modification or repair.


 

GENERAL

The regulations governing all aviation is covered in the "Canadian Aviation Regulations" (CARs). These are available online and can also be ordered in print or CD-ROM versions ... because of our two official languages, they are also available in either English or French. Of particular importance is Chapter 549 which governs Amateur-Built Aircraft (ie. the loose definition of aircraft). Other chapters deal with everything from required equipment, operating rules, personnel licensing, etc. etc. They're dry reading, but violations of any of them can get one in hot water real quick.

For a good summary of the regulatory issues, I would recommend getting the "Amateur Built Aircraft Builder's Manual" available from the Recreational Aircraft Association (RAA - similar to the EAA). This is a synopsis of most of the relevant construction regulations and outlines the various procedures and forms that are required.

Before an amateur-built is given an airworthiness certificate, it must be inspected and if it is acceptable it will be given a restricted authorization (ie. restricted location and hours to be flown off). Although I believe inspections may still be performed by Transport Canada personnel, they are usually performed by the MD-RA (Minister's Delegates - Recreational Aircraft). This is a fee-based service and all paper work stays with the MD-RA until such time as the issuance of the initial Special Certificate of Airworthiness and a flight authority with certain restrictions. After that, the paper work and all future dealings are with Transport Canada.

It would appear that the MD-RA has formally decided that an interim inspection IS required for helicopters. Checking their website on Aug. 05/03 under Construction Process, it clearly states "Helicopters are subject to an interim inspection as well as the final". I did a quick search for exemptions, but it would appear that the stumbling block is that any enclosed area that will not be accessible after final assembly must be available for inspection during construction. It looks like the design of the floor and the enclosed bay below it are going to cost Canadian builders another $240 + GST just so an inspector can look at a couple of lines of rivets. The builder should contact their MD-RA inspector before closing this area and/or installing the console to confirm the inspection requirement. If my design for storage bins in the floor allowed them to be totally removeable, I would have pushed the controversy since the total fees to the MD-RA would now appear to be about $950 (including GST) plus travel expenses for the inspector.

At this time, the Transport Canada rules for 51% eligibility is the same as the US FAA's and in fact the TC website just has a link the the FAA website where the current list is available. The Safari (Master Parts List dated 12/16/99) is currently on this list (dated April 10, 2003 the last time I checked). Although Canada is more liberal than the US in allowing professional builder assist programs, these craft still need to be inspected per the amateur-built guidelines. There is a very distinct line between builder assist and a "kit" manufacturer. Before considering having someone else build a craft for the owner and besides checking their credentials, I would recommend asking a couple of key questions:
- Has that person or organization ever registered an amateur-built aircraft in Canada and are they familiar with the current regulations?
- Will they do all the paperwork and guarantee that it will be able to pass a Canadian inspection and receive a CofA?

 


 

CONSTRUCTION GUIDELINES

One of the key regulations governing workmanship is contained in Airworthiness Standards, Chapter 549 - Amateur Built Aircraft and a related Advisory Circular:

549.5(b) "Methods of fabrication and assembly, and workmanship shall be appropriate and should conform to accepted aviation standard practices."

Airworthiness Manual Advisory (AMA) 549/1B Dated 1 April 1996 5(a)(5) 'Information and guidance concerning acceptable fabrication and assembly methods, techniques and practices are provided in the U.S. FAA Advisory Circular (AC) No. 43.13-1A, "Acceptable Methods, Techniques, and Practices - Aircraft Inspection and Repair," and AC No. 43.13-2A, "Acceptable Methods, Techniques and Practices - Aircraft Alterations." These publications are accepted by the Minister.'

So in essence, AC43.13-1A and -2A are the bibles for both the US and Canada.

The issue of a firewall and requirements has been a grey area. While I did a quick unsuccessful search of Transport Canada's site for this document, I'll follow the MD-RA's copy of the exemption which clarifies this issue as "(24) Each enclosed engine compartment shall be isolated from the remainder of the aircraft by a firewall, which shall be made of fireproof material." My interpretation is that the Safari does NOT require a formal firewall of fireproof material since it is not "enclosed".

If one got a picky inspector, they might get into difficulty with CAR 605.29 which says in essence that no control lock can become engaged when the craft is in motion and must have an unmistakeable warning when engaged. Common sense says the collective and cyclic locks should be discovered during the pre-takeoff checks, but I also intend to install positive restraints to keep them in a stationary out of the way position when dis-engaged.

 


 

REGISTRATION PROCESS

I'll only talk about the process in Canada since those are the regulations that I'm familiar with and have personally dealt with. Note that until an amateur-built aircraft has actually received it's CofA, most of the paperwork is handled by the MD-RA (Minister's Delegate - Recreational Aircraft). Once the CofA has been received then all further dealings are with Transport Canada.

It should be noted that the Flight Authority typically has a 25 mile range from the base of operation. This is understandable for a fixed wing craft but does pose a bit of a problem if one intends to trailer the helicopter elsewhere for initial testing. I tried to get multiple bases added to my Flight Authority but Transport Canada wouldn't allow that. Instead, it means that every time one wants to change the base of operation on the Flight Authority they need to deal with Transport Canada and get a new one issued for a $35 fee. While one might consider omitting this process, they should also be very aware that any flights outside of the specified operating area will mean that their insurance is voided.


 

EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS

I have just looked rather quickly at CAR 605.14+ and made the following observations assuming that one has equipped a kit with the provided instruments plus a radio and a transponder:

Note that the kit supplies the various lights that would be required for any of the above other than day VFR. However, it would appear that the supplied strobe is not in compliance with CAR 527.1401. See the Electrical section for more information.

CAR 549.13(a)(4) is the requirement for a portable fire extinguisher. I once had to use a dry chemical extinguisher and even a VERY quick burst (under 1/2 second) caused the powder to get all over the place. I will definately be getting a halon one for onboard and was given the following link which has some of the dimensions and capacities for the type of extinguishers that one finds at the various aviation retailers.
Update: I was at my local Aviall distributor and they carry the H3R products. They get to worry about hazmat shipping and I got a Model RT A600 that was on their shelf. After reading the literature, I like the idea of the Halon 1211-1301 mixture and I chose to get the slightly larger 600 model vs. 400 model with the idea that if I ever have to actually use it, especially on something like an engine fire, I'd rather have too much Halon rather than run it dry too soon.

There is also a requirement for aircraft in Canada to carry a first aid kit [ CAR 602.60(1)(f) ] and a flashlight if operated at night. Depending on the season and location, there may also be a requirement to carry a survival kit; CAR 602.61 gives some of the conditions.


 

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS

During flight operations in Canada, the following documents must be carried aboard the aircraft:

There seems to be some ambiguity and choice as to whether to include all maintenance documentation in the Journey Log or whether to also have a separate Airframe Log. Personally I like the idea of having all documentation in one place. However, since the Journey Log must be carried aboard the craft in many cases that means that there is no maintenance log left behind. I hate to be negative, but if there was ever an accident involving fire then the maintenance logs would be lost and there would be no records for the TSB. I'm planning on keeping two separate logs. I'm also aware of a technique whereby all maintenance is entered into the Journey Log but it is also transcribed and duplicated in a separate Airframe Log.


 

FLIGHT TRAINING and PERSONAL LICENSING

Since one needs a licence to legally operate a helicopter, I believe it is imperative to receive proper training and not try to "bend the rules". While others may believe in some form of progressive training and flying by themselves, the more I come to understand these machines the more I've become a believer in full and proper training. While someone may have the minimum training to be able to do basic hovering and/or forward flight that does not imply they have the training to get themselves out of an emergency situation which a low-time pilot is more likely to encounter. Looking through the NTSB reports, there are numerous cases of un-licenced or low-time pilots involved in serious incidents.

Originally I had assumed that I would be able to do some kind of balance between formal training in another machine and building time and experience in my own to save on the cost. This would require a Safari-rated instructor and assumes that my ship would be usable for this purpose. The more I pondered this approach, the more I came to the conclusion that flight training and sorting out a new helicopter are two separate activities that I believe should be isolated events. I chose to get my licence by attending a full-time course given by an accredited training school (Bighorn Helicopters Flight School) that specializes in training for commercial helicopter ratings. As a result, I received the full commercial course ground school, briefings and basic syllabus while avoiding the "re-learning" delays imposed by part-time training. The big decision was whether to stop and take the private exam and flight test or go ahead directly and get the commercial rating. I ended up taking the private ride and scored just under the commercial requirements; I'm confident that if I'd put in the full hours required for a commercial licence and used it to "polish" some of the rough edges that I would have been able to pass a commercial ride. One of the key factors was whether I'd ever need or be able to actually utilize a commercial licence; at this time it appears unlikely.

The minimum requirements to fly a Safari are both a Private Pilot Licence - Helicopter and a Safari type rating. While the regulations for a new licence call for a minimum of 45 hours flight time, it would appear that 60 or probably even 70 hours is a more realistic time for comprehensive training leading to a flight test. Needless to say, this is EXPENSIVE but I've come to sincerely believe this is not something I'm willing to try take shortcuts on. If one has a fixed wing commercial licence, its probably just about the same amount of cost and real hours to get a commercial helicopter alternate category licence versus the private.

The other alternative would be to go directly to a Commercial Pilot Licence - Helicopter which requires a minimum of 100 hours (realistic) and bypass first getting the private licence. While this obviously will cost more initially, commercial training is GST exempt when taken at an accredited educational institution ( P-034R) and also potentially tax deductible ( IT-516R2.29). For Canadians with an RRSP, perhaps this is the time to consider tapping into it, but this is definately the kind of decision to consult with an accountant about since there are a lot of potential wrinkles including things such as the declaration at the bottom of this form (TL11B). In the event one gets a private licence and later decides to upgrade it to a commercial one, the requirements appear to be somewhat ambiguous to me, but there may be a requirement for a minimum of an additional 60 hours of training plus the ground school upgrade. Another benefit of going directly to a commercial licence is that one could be able to get their Night Rating and VFR OTT rating as part of the instruction, whereas a private pilot could require 5+15 hours of dual time to reach the minimums.

As one reads through the CARS, there are provisions for a Helicopter Recreational Pilot Permit that essentially limits the pilot to a single engine helicopter with a maximum of one passenger and no external loads. However, it would appear at this time that the standards have not been defined and this class of licence is not available.

Once one has a helicopter license, they will also need to get transition training and a type rating endorsement for the Safari. Anyone requiring these should contact CHR to discuss the options. I've been led to believe that the legal requirement for this is unique to Canada and that the actual endorsement is not required for a US licence, but I have not confirmed this with the FAA. As of Mar. 1/04 the Safari/Baby Belle finally appeared here on the published list of official types in Canada with a type designator of "BABY". I believe that CHR's Chief Pilot often has a TC waiver to allow him to perform type ratings for Canadian pilots and these are also available from Rotorworks in Whitecourt, AB. I need to check the regulations, but I seem to remember that any Canadian commercial pilot with the endorsement can also provide the type rating for others.

Another concern I have with training is currency for low-time pilots. Personally, I was quite surprised at how much of the "sharp edge" was dulled after several months of not flying. While the basics were just a little rough, my bigger concern is with the emergency procedures and the ability to execute them automatically. Unfortunately, it is very easy for a licensed kit builder to get wrapped up in construction and not take the time or expense to actively fly as well. I would like to have my skills at their peak when I'm trying to work out the possible snags on a new machine.

One of the things that I've been doing to maintain currency is to take some mountain training. We're using an R22 Beta II and among other things have been practicing various recce's and landings at 7-8,000' on knolls, ridges, helipads etc. in the Rocky Mountains. I've found that this really sharpened my skills as there isn't much reserve power and even the slightest mistake is highly exaggerated. Perhaps part of this is that I've become much more sensitized to variations in speed and lift. I've also noticed that my airport landings at ~4,000' are now much smoother.

Once again I faced the recurrency issue as I hadn't been flying for quite a while and knew I needed probably at least five hours to reach my comfort level. One option was to go for a fun flight followed by some serious training flights doing various emergency procedures. The other option, which I chose, is to get my night rating. Although this will take a bit longer (5 hours dual, 5 hours solo + 3 hours instrument and 2 hours sim for me), it will give me more options. Flying once a week also allows this to stretch out as I get prepared to have my machine inspected. Although I really don't plan on doing a lot of night flying, I was at a helicopter meet where one pilot had to leave just before the bar-b-que was served in order to make it home just before official night ... he wasn't happy about that but since he had to fly through Class C airspace at the end it would have been obvious if he busted the regulations. Doing recurrency at night is certainly adding a bit more stress but it is coming together ... some of the illusions are under control and even night full-down autos are becoming fun again.

 

I have read several discussions on the differences between Canadian and US licences. I can't remember them all, but I'll start adding a few of them here as I remember them:


 

INSURANCE

This is one area where every owner has to assess their own risk tolerance plus the government regulations. I found that each of the various policies I looked at had some specific inclusions and exclusions that made it difficult to compare them. There were several terms that I spent a while trying to decipher and understand my own requirements for as each policy has their own definitions and should be carefully read; these are just some of the concepts I came across:

If I read CAR 606.02(8) correctly, it would appear that the Safari requires a minimum of $100,000 Cdn public liability insurance. Obviously, an owner can choose to get a higher coverage. I have not looked into the issue of what coverage is required if the craft is flown into the USA.

An amateur-built craft appears to already raise the eyebrows of the insurance industry, and rotorcraft even more so. When I was first looking at this, I came up with two straightforward options; the RAA plan and COPA's plan. One catch on the RAA plan was that they required 100 hours PIC time which I didn't have at the time; they also appeared to be in the process of switching underwriters. The COPA plan's liability coverage is geared more to the individual rather than the craft and needs to be carefully read, especially if there will be more than one pilot. There are also restrictions with respect to training and the coverage for when an instructor is acting as PIC. The nice thing about the COPA plan is that if one is a Canadian resident and a paid-up member, then acceptance for the coverage is automatic without the need for a bunch of quotes and other hassles. Subsequent to my investigation, I'm lead to believe that the EAA plan has now been extended to cover Canada and they may write hull-in-motion policies for rotorcraft, albeit at a hefty premium. It would also appear that the RAA no longer has a group policy for it's members.

It would appear that rotorcraft attract a premium over fixed wing craft when it comes to both deductibles and hull risks. The numbers I've heard in the past are very high for hull-in-motion coverage (10+% of value) and it is my understanding that most owners choose to self-insure for this (i.e. be very careful and accept any in-flight hull damage as their own). At this time, I am not aware of any underwriter that will actually provide hull-in-motion coverage for amateur-built rotorcraft.

A residential builder also needs to be aware of the implications on their homeowner's policy. Pretty well all the homeowner's policies I've seen very clearly exclude any property damage to aviation related equipment and any personal liability arising thereof. However, the underwriter may still have some liability exposure and this can tend to get their attention and/or create a difficult situation. In my case this has led to a very frustrating round of discussions with Royal & SunAlliance and eventually led to them sending me a formal letter of cancellation. I still don't understand what perceived risk they were worried about as this project is primarily fabricating sheet metal and bolt-together activities for which I repeatedly stated had no fuel onsite, no welding activities and the painting would be performed offsite. I even had a member of the fire department perform an inspection in which absolutely no concerns were raised. It would appear to me that the perceived risk is the word "aviation" rather than any real factor.

As a consequence of receiving the cancellation letter I've had an EXTREMELY difficult time finding an alternate homeowners policy since it appears that once one underwriter has determined the risk is too high then others are extremely cautious. The first round of "refuse to quote" came when they heard that I have an incorporated aviation company. I finally found one brokerage that was aviation savvy and tried to get quotes from any and all of their suppliers but they all refused when they found I still do some computer consulting. All these problems even though every policy I can remember seeing very clearly excluded aviation and/or business liability and property. It appears to me that Canada is now becoming too Americanized and the lawyers are ruling the insurance industry. Even the high risk (and expensive) market was refusing to quote!

After weeks of searching, I finally found a more regional underwriter who was willing to write this policy. When they found out that the project was being moved their only requirement was that I sign an acknowledgement that business liability and property was specifically excluded. That's all I'd been asking for since this whole mess began! See the Shop section for other implications.


 

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Last updated: September 22, 2011