FAA Paperwork needed prior to your first flight

by Rick Lavoie, St. Augustine Florida USA
January 1998

Remember "ARROW" from your private pilot written exam? Well you better remember it prior to your first flight. This acronym spells out the paperwork you must have aboard your plane for your first and every flight:

A = Airworthiness Certificate
R = Registration
R = Radio Station License
O = Operators Instructions
W = Weight & Balance

Note: Through the efforts of the AOPA, Radio Station License is now only required if you plan international flights.

First off, you should get a copy of FAA Advisory Circular "AC # 20-27D", which is Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft. Your local FSDO should have them in stock. If not, try the EAA or AOPA, or the Government Printing Office. This document covers what you need to do to document construction, etc. It is must reading for any experimental homebuilder! Everything that I am highlighting below regarding registration and certification is in this circular in detail.

You will most likely want to reserve special registration numbers. You can call the FAA at 405-954-3116 to see if the registration number you want is available. Or you can write to the FAA and list 5 choices:

Federal Aviation Administration

Aircraft Registry

POB 25504

Oklahoma City OK 73125

Be sure to enclose a $10 check (good to hold your number for one year).

About six months prior to your first flight, you need to get all the other paperwork going. Prepare AC form 8050-88 which is the I.D. number assignment and registration of your amateur built aircraft on one side, and on the other side, the affidavit of ownership. Also, prepare AC form 8050-1 (application for aircraft registration). These forms go to the FAA registry with a $5 check, along with a copy of your Invoice from the kit or plans manufacturer. You will receive your aircraft registration certificate from the FAA in about 3 months. You need to have this prior to your pre-first flight FAA inspection.

To get your airworthiness certificate, you will need to have a copy of form 8130-6. Being in St. Augustine Florida, I used John Murphy (FAA DAR) for my inspection, and John prefers to fill in the form together. John charges $200 for the inspection for a local trip. Check with your FAA Inspector or DAR first. Everything on the airworthiness application must match exactly to your registration certificate. When you call your local FAA Inspector or DAR, be sure to go over a checklist of items that he or she will expect to check for. John Murphy did this with me and it saved us both a lot of time. In general, your aircraft must be ready to fly, but with the engine cowling off, and inspection panels off. Registration marks must be on (even if in primer), metal ID plate riveted to the fuselage (I put mine on the fuselage (pilot side) below the wing strake, near the gear, "passenger warning" placard and the "experimental" 2 inches tall markings in the interior. Be sure all placards labelling your instrument panel per the manufacturer's Owners flight manual (Operators Instructions) are in place too. All log books must be there (builders log and photo log, engine and airframe log books)! Your Weight and Balance must also be complete. John spent about one hour looking over my engine installation, hydraulics, and overall construction. Although I was nervous, I enjoyed having such a knowledgeable DAR as Johnnie Murphy inspecting my plane. John is a legend in the experimental aviation world, and knows canard pushers inside and out. It was an honour having him sign me off! Don't fight what your inspector or DAR tells you to do. Just do it!

Once you have flown off the required 40 hours, you are eligible to apply for an "airman certificate" for "Repairman Experimental Aircraft Builder" using Ac form 8610-2. This will allow you to perform your own maintenance inspections and sign off your maintenance logs for your plane only. Ask the inspector or DAR where you will need to go for this in your area. Here in Florida, you need to go to the FAA Orlando FSDO 15 with your log book and photo files. You must prove that you built your plane and may be asked questions in this regard. The answer to any question that the FAA asks you is "I will do that in accordance with FAR 43-13 Appendix D".

Acceptable Methods, Techniques, and Practices of Aircraft Inspection and Repair. This is contained in FAA manual AC 43.13-1A Change 3 and AC 43.13-2A. Be sure to get it and bring a copy with you.

If you plan on flying outside the US, then you need to get the FCC Radio Station License. Get FCC 404.

Make an inventory of the FAA publications and forms you will need and order them right now before you forget. This is when your membership to organizations like EAA or AOPA pay off big!