I'm a certified airplane mechanic. I plan on building a homebuilt airplane in the future. I also might work on other people's homebuilts that someone else built. My questions are these: 1. How can I absolve my liability if they fly in their own plane after I work on it and something happens and it goes down? 2. How can I absolve myself of any liability if someone is flying with me in my homebuilt airplane and something happens and we go down and he is injured or killed? A well built homebuilt airplane is just as safe as an FAA certificated and factory built one, these questions are only worse-case scenarios. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
One other thing, is there any way to defend myself if an aircraft I work on goes down? Even a regular FAA certificated one? I was told that if they find out something I did is why it went down, it comes down on me totally. That scares me, it makes me not want to work on anything. I'll do my best, but I can't guarantee anything. I don't think its fair that we end up with the short stick because we did the work. If nobody else would do it, they should be HAPPY we do it. Not trying to sue because of a goof up. Nobody is perfect.
1 Answer from Attorneys
There is nothing you can do to absolve yourself from liability for your own negligence. If you screw it up, you pay for it. You can have buyers of a plane you sell sign an "as is" bill of sale, which could help. But, in the end, if one of your planes goes down due to some error of yours in building it, you will be responsible.
My understanding is that even home built aircraft must pass FAA inspections before they can be flown and must further pass all FAA annual inspections. The FAA has plenty of information about these types of issues on their website. There may even be a prohibition about building "home built" aircraft for others, but I am not certain of that. Check with the FAA. You may also want to look at the latest FAR/AIM. I believe there are chapters in there about home built planes. You can buy the most recent FAR/AIM at Sporty's Pilot Shop online for only a few dollars.
You should probably also join the AOPA ("Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association"), if you aren't a member already. They have a plethera of information on their site for aircraft builders and they also offer group rate insurance for private pilots.
Insurance is what you really need. Certainly insurance for you and your passengers while flying and, if you can get it, insurance to cover you for building the planes--some sort of E&O policy or umbrella liability policy.
You may also want to look into starting an LLC for this plane building business (assuming the FAA rules allow you to build planes for others without certification).
I love flying. Haven't done it in over a year and I never did finish my private pilot's license, but it was fun. Everyone should sit in the left seat at least once in their life. There's nothing like flying on a calm sunny day.