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FAA Product Certification Process
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The FAA and Industry Guide to Product Certification (CPI Guide, 3rd edition), published in May 2017, notes significant changes in the certification processes over the previous 10-15 years that were effected to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification and design approval processes to enhance product safety. The CPI Guide says a credible and concise product certification process better ensures safe aircraft and consists of:
- Timely, efficient and predictable product type design and production approvals,
- Clearly defined and understood roles, responsibilities, and accountability of all stakeholders,
- Timely identification of the certification basis, means of compliance, potential safety issues, and business practice requirements,
- Effective issue resolution process that includes a pre-defined structured escalation to appropriate leadership within FAA and Applicant stakeholders. Emphasis should be placed on Applicants to have robust, internal issue resolution processes that maximizes internal Applicant vetting and minimizes need for FAA involvement,
- Optimal delegation using a risk based approach with appropriate controls and systemic oversight, and
- Maximum use of the Applicant’s showing of compliance based on observed competencies.
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines a "product" as an aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, or appliance.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Applicant is responsible for managing the project and creating and managing the schedule in coordination with the FAA.
The Applicant’s responsibility starts with top management and includes every individual involved in certification and project involvement. It includes:
- Defining the intended function of the product/article,
- Achieving and conforming the design/test articles,
- Making a statement of conformity as defined in the applicable regulations.
- Showing compliance to each applicable rule,
- Making a statement of compliance as defined in the application regulations or a statement of conformance as defined in the regulations.
FAA staff are expected to work collaboratively with the an Applicant’s certification teams. The agency’s responsibilities, starting with top management, include:
- Enabling Applicants to maximize delegation within their projects, processes, and procedures,
- Applying risk based oversight processes, behaviors and tools within Applicant projects, processes, and procedures. Efficient FAA level of project involvement will be determined by a risk based oversight model based on observed compliance capability of the Applicant with a systems approach that incorporates an audit process by the FAA and Holder after the completion of the project
- Enable the Applicant’s path towards the Applicant Showing Only (ASO), state. Consistent with the “Accountability Framework,” in this role, the FAA accepts the Applicant’s compliance data as compliant without FAA or designee review when the applicant’s capability has been determined competent by the FAA.
- The FAA and Industry Guide to Product Certification, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/Aerospace Industries Association (AIA)/Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA)/General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Third Edition, May 2017.
- FAA Order 8110.4c ‘Type Certification’, issued 12 October 2005 as amended by CHG 5 and effective from 20 November 2011
- FAA Order 8110.5A Aircraft Certification Service mission, responsibilities, relationships and programs, published 30 September 2003
- FAA Advisory Circular (AC) Application for U.S. Airworthiness Certificate, FAA Form 8130-6, AC 21-12C, 7 Sept. 2012.