I was reading Two injured in experimental airplane crash in the Reno Gazette-Journal and came across something that's likely to be puzzling to non-pilots.

The experimental classification means the plane wasn't built in an aircraft factory, said John Grub, vice president of the Carson City chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
"I think overall they probably have a great safety record," Grub said of experimental aircraft.

Followed closely by this:

He doesn't have specific figures, but believes experimental aircraft may be outselling factory-produced aircraft because they use less fuel and generally perform better.

While this is all clearly a case of over-simplification, at a cursory read one might conclude that the single engine aircraft industry is pretty messed up. Consider that the "experimental" aircraft "have a great safety record" and "use less fuel and generally perform better."

In reality, the certificated aircraft from manufacturers like Cessna, Piper, Diamond, Cirrus Design (though some might debate it), and others also have great safety records. But it is true that few of them are as good on fuel economy or performance.

Posted by jzawodn at June 02, 2006 11:32 AM

Reader Comments
# Kuas said:

Many 'experimental' aircraft were in fact built in factories, just not American factories and not factories with enough of an American market that they wanted to go through the hoops for certification.

on June 2, 2006 12:54 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

And some were partially built in factories. And some were buit in factories with the owner helping out.

Like I said, over-simplificaiton. :-)

on June 2, 2006 12:58 PM
# Jeffrey Friedl said:

I was once at a small local airport (Portage County, Ohio) and saw a tiny little plane in approach. I thought it was odd that there was no landing gear visible -- it had a curved hull as if it were a water plane (but clearly wasn't). It landed, skidded to a stop, then tipped slightly until one wingtip rested on the ground. I thought it was odd, but hey, what do I know? I figured that's just how it's supoosed to work.

It wasn't, of course. People ran out to the plane to help the badly-shaken pilot out. He'd a good "gear down" indicator when the gear weren't down.

Sometimes, they're experimental for a reason ;-)

on June 2, 2006 04:43 PM
# Richard Cunningham said:

Of course an EAA guy will defend experimental aircraft.
I like that experimentals usually encapsulate responsibility -
you build it, fly it, and can only blame yourself if you
crash it. That's my opinion, not ASO's.

on June 2, 2006 10:56 PM
# Igor Lebovic said:

I work for Diamond and from my point of view, the safety record of an entry-level General Aviation aircraft is closely associated with the profile of pilots flying them. People who build their own airplanes are usually more experienced and risk adverse than people who are chartering them.

As far as performance and fuel consumption are concerned - they both boil down to drag assuming that the same or similar engines are used (which often is the case).

Now, drag management is always a trade-off between aircraft handling (often negatively affected when increasing amount of linear airflow over the wing), economics (choice of tools and materials, and cost of manufacture), and ergonomics (size of the cockpit and seating position).

In other words, aviation is not much different from the car industry - there are always going to be exotics better in certain isolated aspects, but hardly ever in the big picture.

on June 3, 2006 10:27 AM
# Oleg Kristajic said:

@ Igor Lebovic:

I agree with you. A few years ago I was the owner of an aircraft from Diamond.

Are you working for Diamond in Canada or in Austria?

on June 10, 2006 09:03 AM
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