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Experimental Gliders - Program Letters

It has come to our attention that several owners of Experimentally certificated sailplanes might not be keeping up with their paperwork issues on an annual basis.  If you own a glider with an Experimental Airworthiness certificate, please take a moment to pull out your paperwork and read a few things.

All Experimental Airworthiness certificates also have a document with them called Operating Limitations.  This document describes where the glider may be flown, how it will be maintained or repaired and the record keeping required for maintenance, repairs and how to continue its operating privilege. (Operating Limitations are also required to be aboard when the machine is flown.)

For gliders imported prior to August of 1993, a set of Operating Limitations possibly didn't specify an area of operations, nor did it require an annual Program Letter submission to the FAA Flight Standards District Office describing the owner's activity plans.

For gliders imported after August 1993, a newer set of FAA instructions were used, and Operating Limitations (OL) became much more specific.   Typically, the newer OL document will say that the owner may fly within 300 nm of their home base airfield, that the glider will be used for participation in SSA/FAI contests and awards programs, and for proficiency flights for those awards programs, and if the glider is sold, or the owner moves to a different locale, that they must reapply to the new jurisdictional FSDO office for a new OL document. 

Part of the Operating Limitations requirements are that a pilot MUST submit an annual Program Letter of intended operations to their Flight Standards Office.  SSA suggests that an owner include calendaring participation in regional, national or local sanctioned contests, FAI Badge programs, SSA state records, SSA's World Distance Award program and any other events or safaris in which a pilot typically participates.  Listing events outside the normal 300 nm mile base range satisfies the notification requirement to the FAA.

 An airframe is not ‘grounded' while waiting for an FAA response to this filing, as no response is typically given.  Program Letter filing should be made by certified or return receipt mailing, to have proof of filing.

If a pilot needs assistance determining their course of action, after reading their glider's documents, they should contact their local maintenance staff, or perhaps their Regional Director.  Failure to file a Program Letter means the vehicle is operating without compliance with the Airworthiness Certificate, which may have bad repercussions should there be damage, incidents or random ramp inspections.

Please review your records and be certain you have filed your annual Program Letter.

SSA appreciates the continued cooperation of FAA staff in allowing us to clarify this compliance issue to our members prior to any  abrupt enforcement actions.

C. Brickner, Govt. Liaison Committee

Posted: 9/1/2009 By: Government Liaison Committee

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