Earlier this month, my Bede BD-4C airplane was ready for its airworthiness inspection. With the government shut down, there is no one at the FAA to give final approval so I cannot obtain an airworthiness certificate and, therefore, cannot fly the airplane. I decided to move forward with the inspection, anyway, since I am now free to continue working on the plane in the interim.
For the inspection, the plane has to be completely airworthy. While I was waiting for the inspection, I was in limbo, not knowing when the inspection would happen and so unwilling to start a project that would make the plane unairworthy. For instance, I want to take the seats out and rework the foam and the coverings. Obviously an airplane without seats cannot be flown so had I been in the midst of that work, it could not have passed an inspection.
As I was getting ready for the inspection, I discovered a real problem and corrected it. The bottom, back corner of the rudder was scraping against the top of the horizontal stabilator, yet another consequence of having my stabilator about 3/4 of an inch higher than normal for the BD-4C. I moved one rivet and spent a few minutes with a file to cure the problem.
I worked with a local designated airworthiness representative (DAR) to do the inspection. The DAR is basically an independent contractor so he was available even with the FAA not working. The DAR spent about an hour looking at the airplane and seemed pleased with my work. He had a couple of small suggestions (there are always things to improve) and I was happy to get them and will take care of those minor squawks.
We then spent about another hour going through my aircraft logbook, my engine logbook, the FAA forms that I need to submit, and my “program letter.” Again, the DAR’s expertise proved valuable. He found a couple of errors in how I filled out the forms and had a suggestion in how I designated my flight test area in the program letter. For the flight test area, I had specified an irregularly shaped area bounded by a sequence of about a dozen airports and navigation aids. I had attached a map. My DAR suggested that I simply request a circle, 50 miles in radius, around an airport.
I looked at the map, noticed that Pittsfield Penstone Municipal airport is 46 miles northwest of my home field, St. Charles County Smartt Airport, and drew a circle.
This give me a nice big area over farmland that I can use without “wasting” any of the area over cities, portions of the flight test area which I would not be able to use. My area extends from St. Louis on the south, almost to Springfield, IL on the east, almost to Macomb, IL in the north, to Mark Twain Lake on the west.
I sent my paperwork to the FAA and this is what still has to happen:
- The government will open and the FAA will get back to work.
- Someone at the FAA Wichita Manufacturer Inspection District Office (MIDO) will email my DAR with approval of my paperwork and requested flight test area and operating limitations.
- I will get back together with my DAR for about 15 minutes, at which time he will issue my airplane’s airworthiness certificate.
At that point, I can fly my airplane.
After I get the airworthiness certificate, I can go over the the local FAA office and apply for my repairman’s certificate, which will allow me to perform and sign off the annual condition inspections for my Bede BD-4C airplane.