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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 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.)
  • A139, vicinity Sky Shuttle Heliport Hong Kong China, 2010 (On 3 July 2010, an AW139 helicopter was climbing through 350 feet over Victoria Harbour Hong Kong just after takeoff when the tail rotor detached. A transition to autorotation was accomplished and a controlled ditching followed. All occupants were rescued but some sustained minor injuries. The failure was attributed entirely to manufacturing defects but no corrective manufacturer or regulatory action was taken until two similar accidents had occurred in Qatar (non-fatal) and Brazil (fatal) the following year and two interim Safety Recommendations were issued from this Investigation after which a comprehensive review of the manufacturing process led to numerous changes.)
  • B734, Kabul Afghanistan, 2016 (On 10 December 2016, a Boeing 737-400 main gear leg collapsed on landing after an approach at excessive speed was followed by a prolonged float prior to touchdown on the high-altitude Kabul runway. The Investigation found that the collapse had followed a severe but very brief wheel shimmy episode in the presence of a number of factors conducive to this risk which the aircraft operator’s pilots had not been trained to avoid. It was also found that although the aircraft operator regularly undertook wet lease contract flying, their pilot training policy did not include any route or aerodrome competency training.)
  • EC25, en-route, 20nm east of Aberdeen UK, 2012 (On 10 May 2012, the crew of a Eurocopter EC225 LP on a flight from Aberdeen to an offshore platform received an indication that the main gearbox (MGB) lubrication system had failed. Shortly after selecting the emergency lubrication system, that also indicated failure and the crew responded in accordance with the QRH drill to “land immediately” by carrying out a successful controlled ditching. The ongoing investigation has found that there had been a mechanical failure of the MGB but that the emergency lubrication system had, contrary to indications, been functioning normally.)
  • E195, en-route, Edinburgh UK, 2009 (On 15 January 2009, an Embraer 195-200 being operated by UK Regional Airline Flybe was passing overhead Edinburgh UK at FL370 at night when communications problems between the flight deck and cabin crew occurred following the selection of emergency power as a precautionary measure after smoke, considered to possibly be of electrical origin, had been observed in the galley. An en route diversion with an uneventful outcome was accomplished.)
  • L101, vicinity Riyadh Saudi Arabia, 1980 (On 19 August 1980, a Lockheed L1011 operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines took off from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - seven minutes later an aural warning indicated a smoke in the aft cargo compartment. Despite the successful landing all 301 persons on board perished due toxic fumes inhalation and uncontrolled fire.)

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