What is an Experimental Plane? - NBC Connecticut

What is an Experimental Plane?

Experts say experimental planes are safe and have a strict set of federal rules to follow.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    What is an Experimental Plane?

    Members say thousands of planes classified as experimental are registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, and they make up a significant chunk of the newer registrations received by the agency.

    (Published Thursday, July 12, 2018)

    What to Know

    • A plane classified as "experimental" was involved in a fatal crash in Plainville Thursday.

    • Experts say experimental airplanes are not uncommon and not unsafe- there is a strict set of federal guidelines regarding them.

    • Experimental planes are often built by their owners and can be huge cost savings.

    A plane involved in a fatal crash in Plainville Thursday was classified as an experimental aircraft. But what does that mean?

    The Experimental Aircraft Association has more than a half-dozen chapters in Connecticut alone.

    Members say thousands of planes classified as experimental are registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, and they make up a significant chunk of the newer registrations received by the agency.

    EAA member Paul Dowgewicz told NBC Connecticut planes with this classification are mostly built by their owners, yet still have a strict set of federal rules to follow.

    “These are safe planes, they are inspected, the pilots undergo the same training,” Dowgewicz said.

    EAA members that spoke with NBC Connecticut said the FAA must inspect the planes before they’re allowed to fly. The owners of the planes or a certified aircraft mechanic must inspect the planes once per year after that.

    In terms of the plane that crashed in Plainville, the model, a Rutan Defiant, is equipped with two sets of wings, and a pair of engines, right behind the other, on the fuselage, Dowgewicz explained.

    He said while he can’t speculate on what happened with the Rutan Defiant that went down here, he says with one wing in the front, and the main one in the back, “…what happens with that plane if it slows down a little bit, the nose will dip, and the plane will pick up speed, and it’ll continue flying, and stay in control.”

    The extra engine, Dowgewicz said, makes the plane safer because if one goes down there’s always a backup.

    One reason Dowgewicz believes we are seeing more experimental planes, is because they are less costly.

    “…the cost of a brand new Cessna or Piper you are talking $300- or $400,000 for a new plane. When you can probably get in the air for 50 to 200,000 for something in the experimental category.”

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