Process of Aircraft Certification

Process of Aircraft Certification





Before an aircraft is found to be suitable to travel in the global skies, it has to be examined to ascertain its airworthiness. The applicant for the certificate has to enter a symbiotic relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from the conception of the idea to its implementation and after. This unity promotes mutual safety hence the name Partnership for Safety Plan (PSP) a strategy essential to the certification process. Another strategy employed is the Project Specific Certification Plan (PSCP). The FAA and the Industry clearly show what is required from each stakeholder during the certification process. The ‘Phase Evaluation Checklists’, helps in documentation of the milestones reached during the certification. The human element in this process is not to be overlooked. The phases of certification are interconnected. The human element is also factored in during the certification process.


Process of Aircraft Certification

The principle of certification highlights the minimum requirements that a given aircraft design is meant to satisfy in order to be deemed airworthy. The aircraft has to reach the benchmark set by the FAA to stymie the increasing number aircraft accidents and improve the overall quality of air transport. As the issues that may hinder certification are public knowledge, the manufacturers should review their craft in advance and rectify any faults before presenting it to FAA. The certification process consists of five phases that start from the conception stage of the craft and continues even after the certification activities. Aircraft certification helps to maintain high standards of air safety by awarding certification only to the vessels capable of efficiently navigating the airspace with minimal risk of loss to all stakeholders involved.

The first phase is the conceptual design. It involves an application for a certification once there is a concrete design for the product. By engaging the FAA at the nascent of the project in a bid to create a mutually benefiting relationship, they preempt any complication that may hinder certification of the said project during the development stage and on completion. The applicant should leverage Project Specific Certification Plan (PSCP). Harnessing a cordial relationship from the onset will help modify the critical issues pertaining to the details of the project (Linling, Wenjin, & Kelly, 2011). The task is usually to go to the meeting to discuss the novel concept design. The required information is communicated to the relevant bodies. The applicant is guided on the basis how they can approach the certification and comply with its corresponding regulations. The relationship with the aircrafts parts suppliers is forged. The supply may be found by the initiative of the applicant, preexisting relationship, or a referral from the FAA. The safety of the project is assessed, and relevant modifications may be suggested. The deliverables agreed by the two parties determine progression into the next phase. They have to be done to completion for the progress to be possible. It involves documentation of agreements and major decisions, symbols of clear intentions of rectifying highlighted critical issues, approximating each other’s capacity to handling the upcoming project, and formulation of PSCP. A team focusing on the PSCP is created to guarantee continuity (Zazzaro et al., 2014). The signatories to PSP have to maintain a commitment to their cause to ensure success. The first phase concludes after evaluating the checklist.

The attempts at demarcating the classification of the product mark the secondary phase, requirement definitions. The proposed project is clarified, and the accompanying risks are acknowledged. If there was consensus, the commitment towards the ratified PSCP is strengthened. The product is defined, whether it is a cargo plane or passenger plane. A preliminary Certification Board is established. The applicant submits the production data and description of the design is given. Information on the rectifications is made drawing from the recommendation of the initial safety assessment provided. The core subject remains establishing the definition of the product (Zazzaro et al., 2014). A proposed schedule is fitted into the project’s timeline. The deliverables in the second phase entail submission of an application form, FAA 8110-12 and confirming the application. The project commences officially. Concurrently, there is the establishment of project certification team comprising of the FAA and the applicant. The minutes documenting the milestones reached are also critical to the advancement to the next stage. The Preliminary PSCP should also highlight the status of the said program (Goossen & Buster, 2014). Depicted is the agreement of certification and clarification of the issues relevant to the project that is means of compliance such as the exemptions and special conditions. Imperative to the success of this phase is the application of the PSP and commitment to developing the PSCP.

Phase 3 marks the completion of the PSCP; it is the compliance planning stage. This plan is leveraged in the certification of the said product. The tasks are predominantly focused on developing the PSCP and project planning. The information on the issues that could cripple the project if left unresolved is required. The initial safety assessments are revisited. The details of the production process have to be given. At this juncture in the project, the stakeholders have to be clearly identified. The prerequisite to progress to the subsequent phase are the provision of decision-making correspondence that is action item assignments, meeting minutes, and schedules (De Florio, 2010). Another deliverable required is a compliance checklist. There should be an agreement on the type of certification basis. The project schedule should be submitted for final analysis. Details such as test plan, flight test, and plans for resolving critical issues are scrutinized. A PSCP ratified by the relevant stakeholders is required. All documentation is supposed to be completed at this stage. Identification of stakeholders is an essential deliverable in order to allocate liability; they range from the suppliers to engineers. Delegations are sent to supervise the project. The conformity procedures coupled up with the list of the resource requirements are vital. Akin to all the deliverables in the other phases, it must be concluded by evaluating that stage’s checklist (De Florio, 2010). Similar to the previous phase, its success hinges on the application of PSP and abiding by the agreed tenets of PSCP.

Phase 4 is the implementation stage. There is increased cooperation between the FAA and the applicant to ensure the product meets the agreed upon specifications demanded certification. They refer to PSCP in their decision-making. The activity in this phase alludes to compliance and conformance in order to verify certification. It follows that the last Certification Board meeting is held in this phase. The data demanded should show the witnessing, inspection results, analysis of design, production, and safety. Apart from the usual correspondence, the deliverables emphasis on completed documentation, approval issuance of production and type design. The success of the phase is determined by the speed of the applicant in responding to recommendations.

The final phase is called post certification. It helps in closing the remaining activity and plans for sustainability of the attained airworthiness (Linling, Wenjin, & Kelly, 2011). The primary activity is the closure of departments and management of the certificate awarded. The information required should show the limitations of the attained airworthiness, design change data, relevant safety data, and evaluation of the findings of the whole project. The deliverable to start commercial or personal operations persists. There have to be instructions on airworthiness and a management plan for the same. There is a compliance summary document and type Inspection report among the usual correspondence. For this success to endure, they must be continued cooperation between the FAA and the applicant. Similarly, they should be a review of critical issues both resolved and unresolved and their relevance to post-certification activities.

Before an aircraft is certified, it has to guarantee the safety of the human factors to be instrumental in its travels hence the need for special mention. There has to be a minimum crew that will remain functional even when one of their colleagues is too injured to perform his duties. The craft has to provide the ideal conditions for the crew to operate efficiently (Paries, 2000). The crew has to be protected from external conditions that may cause the crew to perform their duties under duress. The craft must optimize the use of the most important sense for the cockpit crew, sight. Visibility of the outside world is imperative. The propensity of error during use has to be reduced to its minimum by standardizing its major flight controls (Yeh et al. 2012). The ambiguities that may occur when taking readings exhibited by the instruments should be avoided. The craft should able to warn the crew of impending danger in order to give the crew sufficient time to respond accordingly.



De Florio, F. (2010). Airworthiness: an introduction to aircraft certification. Elsevier.

Goossen, E. R., & Buster, D. A. (2014). Regulatory Compliance in Multi-Tier Supplier Networks.

Linling, S., Wenjin, Z., & Kelly, T. (2011). Do safety cases have a role in aircraft certification?. Procedia Engineering, 17, 358-368.

Paries, J. (2000). Some inadequacies of current human factors certification process of advanced aircraft technologies. Human Factors in Certification, 349.

Yeh, M., Swider, C., Abbott, K., Donovan, C., Neiderman, E., & Piccione, D. (2012, September). Human Factors at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): From Research to Reality. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 56-60). Sage Publications.

Zazzaro, G., Gigante, G., Zaccariello, E., Ficco, M., & Di Martino, B. (2014, July). Supporting Development of Certified Aeronautical Components by applying Text Analysis Technique. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Complex, Intelligent and Software Intensive Systems, CISIS-2014 (July 2014).

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