THE APPROVED PERSON
Readers of Pilot's Post will have seen the article ”Building an RV,” by Jan Hanekom, if not then follow this link “Building an RV with Jan Hanekom - Part One”. This article serves to introduce the aircraft homebuilder to the RV-series of homebuilt aircraft and the 'AP Scheme.'
Who and what is an “Approved Person”?
The Approved Person Scheme falls under the auspices of the Aero Club of South Africa and, as a result, those who make use of the scheme need to be members of the Aero Club and at least one section which represent the type of aircraft in question.
Homebuilding of aircraft is primarily aimed at education; the aircraft homebuilder will be introduced to a myriad of trades, from sheet metal working, to the layup of composite materials, perhaps the cutting and welding of 4130 tubing followed by fabric covering, or even working with wood, Nature's own composite. From machining, cutting, grinding, deburring, to the rigging of an aircraft, plus electrical and avionic wiring. The aircraft homebuilder is not expected to know how to do every task, rather to learn new technical skills. This is where the Approved Person enters the picture. It is the AP's job to ensure that you produce a safe, secure final product that conforms to the plans issued by the designer, whilst you are learning new skills.
The aircraft homebuilder is not expected to do everything perfectly as he/she is, after all, going through a learning experience. Your AP is meant to be your mentor, your guide; even your councilor when you suffer 'homebuilder's burnout,' and, yes; it does happen.
The learning experience starts with learning as much as you can about your proposed project, from others who have built the same or similar aircraft before you. Once you have the plans, you need to study them, not just read the plans. You need to understand the tasks that lay ahead before you start, then once the component reaches a critical stage of construction, this is difficult to describe in a general discussion document; but generally, before any component is 'closed' your AP needs to inspect your handiwork and correct any errors before the component is completed. This process will continue throughout the construction of all the components, including the final assembly and the preparation for the first flight of your new homebuilt aircraft. The first 25 to 40 hours (or more, if required by the CAA) will be accomplished under a Proving Flight Authority.
This document will not cover the requirement of the proving flight period, but concentrate on your, and your AP's duties. Once you have completed all the required testing (proving) and performance documentation, you (as the owner/builder) will be required to do an Annual Inspection of the complete aircraft. Your AP is not expected to do the work; you, as the owner/builder are expected to do the work (yes, you can employ others to assist, or do the work for you) and once the work has been completed, your AP should be called to do an inspection.
Herein lies the rub... By now you are good buddies and perhaps you expect a quick inspection followed by signing and stamping of the required paperwork for the CAA or RAASA... but NO! This is not a formality, this is flight safety we are dealing with.
You owe it to yourself and to any passengers you might carry, to allow an AP a free hand to complete a thorough inspection of your aircraft for your initial issue of the Authority To Fly and every subsequent inspection. You are not bound to 'your' AP, you could choose another to conduct an inspection as a new pair of eyes could, possibly, find something that had been overlooked by previous inspectors. I can assure you that errors have been made in the past, the AP scheme was instituted to enhance error-trapping, which is in the pursuit of safe flight for all.
As an owner/builder you are entitled to do all the work, but this does not entitle you to being able to sign all the paperwork; only some forms. In the RSA, an AP or AME or AMO is required to add their signature to the paperwork to certify that the aircraft has been inspected. This is required to ensure your safety.
So; who can become an AP?
Anybody who has successfully completed his/her own homebuilt aircraft, or any person who has been trained as an AME; or is a current AME. All that is required is for the person to apply to write the required exams and once the tests have been successfully completed, the AP Rating is issued by RAASA / AeCSA.
Then as an AP, you can assist others and pass on the knowledge that you have gained.
Keep it safe.
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