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Could I buy a Cessna 172 or a similar plane, take it apart into as many pieces as I safely could without damaging it, rebuild it, and register it as amateur-built? Assume that I know what I'm doing but do not have an A&P certificate.

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    $\begingroup$ What would be the purpose? For what it's worth, you can register a certified aircraft as experimental with no disassembly required. Equipment manufacturers do this to enable installation and testing of equipment for the purpose of getting approval of a Supplemental Type Certificate to add parts to certified aircraft. $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I was thinking of a case where someone wanted to make modifications without an STC. I didn't realize that was possible; the fact that you can register a certified aircraft as experimental without disassembling it makes this question moot. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ Are you referring to yourself in the third person? ;) $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall possibly in the distant future; I don't expect to be able to afford flight training, let alone buying my own airplane, for a long time $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ One potential benefit of an experimental amateur-built airworthiness certificate is that the builder can sign off on the annual by getting a repairman certificate. If it is registered as experimental but not amateur-built, an A&P will have to sign off on it. Depending on the scope of the changes it may be difficult to find an A&P willing to sign off. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:43

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The criteria to receive an experimental amateur-built airworthiness certificate are in §21.191(g):

aircraft the major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by persons who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation

The "major portion" in this case meaning more than 50%.

In your hypothetical situation, you did zero percent of the fabrication. Arguably you also did zero percent of the assembly since the plane was already fully assembled when you got it. But in any case even if you fully disassembled it into its constituent parts there is no way you could possibly do more than 50% of the assembly work.

I imagine you would also have a hard time convincing the FAA that you were doing this "solely for your own education or recreation" and not to exploit some legal loophole regarding experimental aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ Disassembling and rebuilding something may well be educative and entertaining! $\endgroup$
    – DaG
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed! Still, you need to convince the FAA that that's your only reason for doing it. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 3:50
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I wasn't trying to make a legal argument, just a trivial remark! :) $\endgroup$
    – DaG
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 9:34
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In North America, you have to complete more than 50% of the construction yourself. In the case of a project like that, you'd have to negotiate with your local authority to agree on activities that constitute 51%.

Stripping it down and overhauling it doesn't count. You could however, build new wings from scratch and use an existing fuselage, and your local authority might agree to that as amateur built. Or replacement of a significant amount of the skins or other major structural repairs might do it. So a rebuild of a wreck might meet the requirement.

On tube and fabric airplanes, stripping it down the the bare tubing, and rebuilding a significant part of the wings, like new spars etc. might be enough to satisfy a 51% requirement. Something that replicates a "quick build kit" more or less. There are plenty of amateur built Champ or Piper Pacer rebuilds that are like that.

In Canada, there is a category called "Owner Maintenance" that you can reregister any airplane on an approved list into, and it becomes similar to amateur built. You can rebuild an OM airplane as much as you want, use non-certified parts, etc. The only requirement is the owner has to have a pilot's license.

The catch is, you can't fly it outside Canada, you can't use it for IFR operations, and you have to X out all the serial numbered components so they can never be used in a certified aircraft again. It's a bit of a one-way road. There was a guy who registered a Sea Bee in OM, and put a Corvette V8 engine conversion in it some years back.

You can put a Cessna 172 or a Cardinal into OM category, but it's not done very often because of the limitations placed on the airplane. It tends to be limited to airplanes that are never likely to cross the border. In fact, because the US has no such category and doesn't recognize OM, you can't even overfly US territory with your OM airplane.

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  • $\begingroup$ "In North America, you have to complete more than 50% of the construction yourself." From recent articles about Murphy Aircraft which are based in Canada I gather that the 50% rule only exists in the US. Also, remember that 50% does not apply to the amount of work, but rather to the number of different tasks. That's how builder assist programs work: you cut one blank, you form one rib, you set one rivet, etc. and the company employees do the rest for you. $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2023 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ The rules in Canada are broadly similar WRT 51%. Except there is an inspection requirement during construction of a homebuilt. Also, Canada has no "repairman certificate" requirement. Whomever's name is on the C of R of a Cdn homebuilt can sign off all maint repairs and overhauls. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ Mmh, funny. Maybe some misunderstanding, I based my comment on this and this Kitplanes articles, both published this year. $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2023 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Transport Canada waives the 51% part for certain kits. There is a list. md-ra.com/en/faq_en.html Outside the list of fast build kits approved, the 51% still applies. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 15:21

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