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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:

  • AS32, en-route, near Peterhead Scotland UK, 2009 (On 1 April 2009, the flight crew of a Bond Helicopters’ Eurocopter AS332 L2 Super Puma en route from the Miller Offshore Platform to Aberdeen at an altitude of 2000 feet lost control of their helicopter when a sudden and catastrophic failure of the main rotor gearbox occurred and, within less than 20 seconds, the hub with the main rotor blades attached separated from the helicopter causing it to fall into the sea at a high vertical speed The impact destroyed the helicopter and all 16 occupants were killed. Seventeen Safety Recommendations were made as a result of the investigation.)
  • F50, vicinity Luxembourg, 2002 (On 6 November 2002, a Fokker 50 operated by Luxair, crashed on approach to Luxembourg Airport following loss of control attributed to intentional operation of power levers in the ground range, contrary to SOPs.)
  • AT72, en-route, Mediterranean Sea near Palermo Italy, 2005 (On 6 August 2005, a Tuninter ATR 72-210 was ditched near Palermo after fuel was unexpectedly exhausted en route. The aircraft broke into three sections on impact and 16 of the 39 occupants died. The Investigation found that insufficient fuel had been loaded prior to flight because the flight crew relied exclusively upon the fuel quantity gauges which had been fitted incorrectly by maintenance personnel. It was also found that the pilots had not fully followed appropriate procedures after the engine run down and that if they had, it was at least possible that a ditching could have been avoided.)
  • 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.)
  • 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.)
  • B788, London Heathrow UK, 2013 (On 12 July 2013 an unoccupied and unpowered Boeing 787-8, remotely parked at London Heathrow after an arrival earlier the same day caught fire. An investigation found that the source of the fire was an uncontained thermal runaway in the lithium-metal battery within an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). Fifteen Safety Recommendations, all but one to the FAA, were made as a result of the Investigation.)

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