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Certification of Aircraft, Design and Production

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Category: Airworthiness Airworthiness
Content source: Cranfield University About Cranfield University
Content control: Cranfield University About Cranfield University
Publication Authority: SKYbrary SKYbrary

Aircraft Certification Requirements

Certification requirements for civil [commercial] aircraft are derived from International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 8 Airworthiness of Aircraft [ICAO, 2016] and the ICAO Airworthiness Manual, Part V State of Design and State of Manufacture [ICAO, 2014]. Each ICAO contracting state then establishes its own legal framework to implement the internationally agreed standards and recommended practices.

Procedures for certification of aeronautical products (aircraft, engines and propellers) are published in each state. In the EU, these are contained in EC Regulation 748/2012 Annex I - Part 21 [EC, 2012], whereas in USA they are within FAR Part 21 [FAA, 2017]. These “Part 21” regulations also include procedures for the approval of design organisations (Sub-part J) and production organisations (Sub-part G). These processes are known respectively as Design Organisation Approval (DOA) and Production Organisation Approval (POA).

Such approvals are a necessary pre-requisite to obtaining product certification. The main technical codes to be followed for the design of products for certification are set out below as a list of certification specifications for Europe (EASA) and airworthiness standards for USA (FAA) applicable to different categories of product and environmental consideration.

EASA Title FAA Title
CS-22 Sailplanes and Powered Sailplanes
CS-23 Normal, Utility, Aerobatic and Commuter Aeroplanes Part 23 AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: NORMAL, UTILITY, ACROBATIC, AND COMMUTER CATEGORY AIRPLANES
CS-25 Large Aeroplanes Part 25 AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: TRANSPORT CATEGORY AIRPLANES
CS-27 Small Rotorcraft Part 27 AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: NORMAL CATEGORY ROTORCRAFT
CS-29 Large Rotorcraft Part 29 AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: TRANSPORT CATEGORY ROTORCRAFT
CS-31GB CS-31HB (Gas Balloons) (Hot Air Balloons) Part 31 AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: MANNED FREE BALLOONS
CS-E Engines Part 33 AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: AIRCRAFT ENGINES
CS-P Propellers Part 35 AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: PROPELLERS
CS-LSA Light Sport Aeroplanes
CS-VLA Very Light Aeroplanes
CS-VLR Very Light Rotorcraft
CS-34 Aircraft Engine Emissions and Fuel Venting Part 34 FUEL VENTING AND EXHAUST EMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR TURBINE ENGINE POWERED AIRPLANES
CS-36 Aircraft Noise Part 36 NOISE STANDARDS: AIRCRFAT TYPE AND AIRWORTHINESS CERTIFICATION

For full details of EASA Certification Specifications see the EASA Agency rules (Soft law) [EASA, 2017]. Full details of FAA Standards are also available [FAA, 2017].

Compliance with these specifications or standards is approached in one of two ways depending on the requirement. For structures typically the approach is known as Deterministic whereas for systems, a Probabilistic approach is taken. One example of each approach would be:

  • For structure - No detrimental deformation of the airframe under the loads produced by a given magnitude of manoeuvre.
  • For systems - Any catastrophic failure condition must (i) be extremely improbable [1 in 109 flight hours]; and (ii) must not result from a single failure.

For the safety assessment of aircraft systems, regulations are given in EASA CS25.1309 [EASA, 2016] and FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee draft AC25.1309-1B [FAA, 2002]. Useful guidelines for conducting the safety assessment process are also given in ARP4761 [SAE, 1996].

Type-certification Process

The process for civil aircraft by which type certification is achieved comprises four steps. These are outlined below, but additional details can be found from EASA (2010), Type certification [EASA, 2010] and FAA Order 8110.4C [FAA, 2011]

1. Technical Overview and Certification Basis The product designer presents the project to the primary certificating authority (PCA) - EASA in EU, FAA in USA - when it is sufficiently mature. The certification team and the set of rules (Certification Basis) that will apply for the certification of this specific product type are established. In principal this agreed certification basis remains unchanged for a period of five years for an aircraft, three years for an engine.

2. Certification Programme The PCA and the designer define and agree on the means to demonstrate compliance of the product type with every requirement of the Certification Basis. Also at this stage the level of regulatory involvement is proposed and agreed.

3. Compliance demonstration The designer has to demonstrate compliance of the aircraft with regulatory requirements: for all elements of the product e.g. the airframe, systems, engines, flying qualities and performance. Compliance demonstration is done by analysis combined with ground and flight testing. The PCA will perform a detailed examination of this compliance demonstration, by means of selected document reviews and test witnessing.

4. Technical closure and Type Certificate issue When technically satisfied with the compliance demonstration by the designer, the PCA closes the investigation and issues a Type certificate. For European-designed aircraft, EASA delivers the primary certification which is subsequently validated by other authorities for registration and operation in their own countries, e.g. the FAA for the USA. Similarly EASA will validate the FAA certification of US-designed aircraft. This validation is carried out under a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) between the states concerned.

Notes:

a. A Type Certificate applies to an aircraft (engine or propeller) of a particular Type Design. Every individual aircraft of that type has to gain its own Certificate of Airworthiness C of A which is achieved when it can be shown to conform to the certificated Type Design and is in a condition for safe operation. As a general rule civil aircraft are not allowed to fly unless they have a valid C of A.

b. Organisation approvals, issued under Part 21, are based on regulatory assessment of capability, facilities, manpower, resources and quality assurance systems in relation to the tasks undertaken. Helpful supporting standards in this respect are AS/EN 9100 and AS/EN9120B [SAE, 2016].

c. Certification of military aircraft has in the past not followed the typical Type Certification Process outlined above. However since 2010 in Europe a very similar process has been evolved by the European Defence Agency (EDA). Known as the Military Airworthiness Authorities (MAWA) Forum [EDA, 2017], one of the documents published is a military guide to certification, denoted EMAR21 [EDA, 2016]. The documents are issued as requirements and do not have legal standing but are nevertheless being followed by a number of states both within and outside Europe.

Accidents and Incidents

There follows a sample of extracts from reports held on SKYbrary that involve a design issue as a contributory factor in the accident:

  • AT75, en-route, north of Visby Sweden, 2014 (On 30 November 2014, an ATR 72-500 suddenly experienced severe propeller vibrations whilst descending through approximately 7,000 feet with the power levers at flight idle. The vibrations "subsided" after the crew feathered the right engine propeller and then shut the right engine down. The flight was completed without further event. Severe damage to the right propeller mechanism was found with significant consequential damage to the engine. Several other similar events were found to have occurred to other ATR72 aircraft and, since the Investigation could not determine the cause, the EASA was recommended to impose temporary operating limitations pending OEM resolution.)
  • F70, vicinity Munich Germany, 2004 (On 5 January 2004, a Fokker 70, operated by Austrian Airlines, carried out a forced landing in a field 2.5 nm short of Munich Runway 26L following loss of thrust from both engines due to icing.)
  • B788, Boston MA USA, 2013 (On 7 January 2013, a battery fire on a Japan Air Lines Boeing 787-8 began almost immediately after passengers and crew had left the aircraft after its arrival at Boston on a scheduled passenger flight from Tokyo Narita. The primary structure of the aircraft was undamaged. Investigation found that an internal short circuit within a cell of the APU lithium-ion battery had led to uncontained thermal runaway in the battery leading to the release of smoke and fire. The origin of the malfunction was attributed to system design deficiency and the failure of the type certification process to detect this.)
  • DH8D, Saarbrucken Germany, 2015 (On 30 September 2015, the First Officer on an in-service airline-operated Bombardier DHC-8 400 selected the gear up without warning as the Captain was in the process of rotating the aircraft for take-off. The aircraft settled back on the runway wheels up and eventually stopped near the end of the 1,990 metre-long runway having sustained severe damage. The Investigation noted that a factor contributing to the First Officer's unintended action may have been her "reduced concentration level" but also highlighted the fact that the landing gear control design logic allowed retraction with the nose landing gear airborne.)
  • B752, Jackson Hole WY USA, 2010 (On 29 December 2010 an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 overran the landing runway at Jackson Hole WY after a bounced touchdown following which neither the speed brakes nor the thrust reversers functioned as expected. The subsequent investigation found that although the speed brakes had been armed and the ‘deployed’ call had been made, this had not occurred and that the thrust reversers had locked on transit after premature selection during the bounce. It was noted that had the spoilers been manually selected, the thrust reverser problem would not have prevented the aircraft stopping on the runway.)
  • LJ60, Columbia SC USA, 2008 (On September 19 2008, a Learjet 60 departing Columbia SC USA on a non scheduled passenger overran after attempting a rejected take off from above V1 and then hit obstructions which led to its destruction by fire and the death or serious injury of all six occupants. The subsequent investigation found that the tyre failure which led to the rejected take off decision had been due to under inflation and had damaged a sensor which caused the thrust reversers to return to their stowed position after deployment with the unintended forward thrust contributing to the severity of the overrun.)

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Related Articles

Further Reading

  • De Florio F (2016), Airworthiness: An Introduction to Aircraft Certification, 3rd edition, Butterworth-Heinemann
  • EASA (2016), Certification Specifications and Acceptable Means of Compliance for Large Aeroplanes CS-25, Amendment 18.
  • EASA (2010), Type certification, PR.TC.00001-002
  • EASA (2017) Agency rules (Soft law), Certification Specifications
  • EC (2012), Commission regulation (EU) No 748/2012, laying down implementing rules for the airworthiness and environmental certification of aircraft and related products, parts and appliances, as well as for the certification of design and production organisations.
  • EC (2014), Commission regulation (EU) No 1321/2014 on the continuing airworthiness of aircraft and aeronautical products, parts and appliances, and on the approval of organisations and personnel involved in these tasks.
  • EDA (2017) Military Airworthiness Authorities (MAWA) Forum
  • EDA (2016), EMAR 21 - Certification of Military Aircraft and Related Products, Parts and Appliances, and Design and Production Organisations, Edition 1.2
  • FAA (2011), Type Certification, Order 8110.4C
  • FAA, FAA Standards
  • FAA, FAR Part 21 - Certification Procedures for Products and Articles
  • FAA (2002), AC25.1309-1B System Design and Analysis, Draft Arsenal edition.
  • ICAO (2016), Annex 8 Airworthiness of Aircraft, 11th Edition, ICAO
  • ICAO (2014), Doc 9760 Airworthiness Manual, Part V. State of Design and State of Manufacture, 3rd Edition, ICAO.
  • SAE International (1996), ARP 4761 Guidelines and Methods for conducting the safety assessment process on civil airborne systems and equipment, SAE (1996)
  • SAE International (2016), AS/EN9100D, Quality Management Systems - Requirements for Aviation, Space, and Defence Organisations
  • SAE International (2016), AS/EN9120B Quality Management Systems – Requirements for Aviation, Space, and Defence Distributors