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Aircraft Categories & Classes

Introduction:

  • The FAA uses various ways to classify or group machines operated or flown in the air
  • The most general grouping uses the term aircraft, which according to 14 CFR 1.1, means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air
  • The FAA differentiates aircraft (category, class, type) by their characteristics and physical properties which are broken down with respect to the certification of airmen or with respect to the certification of the aircraft themselves
  • This system of definitions allows the FAA to group and regulate aircraft to provide for their safe operation

Definitions:

  • Category:

    • As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a broad classification of aircraft
    • As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a grouping of aircraft based upon intended use or operating limitations
  • Class:

    • As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a classification of aircraft within a category having similar operating characteristics
    • As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a broad grouping of aircraft having similar characteristics of propulsion, flight, or landing
  • Types:

    • As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a specific make and basic model of aircraft, Including modifications thereto that do not change its handling or flight characteristics. Examples include: 737-700, G-IV, and 1900; and
    • As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means those aircraft which are similar in design. Examples include: 737-700 and 737700C; G-IV and G-IV-X; and 1900 and 1900C

Aircraft Design, Certification, and Airworthiness:

  • The FAA certifies three types of aviation products:
    • Aircraft
    • Aircraft Engines
    • Propellers
  • Each of these products has been designed to a set of airworthiness standards that are published within Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR)
  • Different airworthiness standards apply to the different categories of aviation products as follows:
    • Normal, Utility, Acrobatic, and Commuter Category Airplanes: 14 CFR part 23
    • Transport Category Airplanes: 14 CFR part 25
    • Normal Category: 14 CFR part 27
    • Transport Category Rotorcraft: 14 CFR part 29
    • Manned Free Balloons: 14 CFR part 31
    • Aircraft Engines: 14 CFR part 33
    • Propellers: 14 CFR part 35
  • Some aircraft are considered “special classes” of aircraft and do not have their own airworthiness standards, such as gliders and powered lift
    • The airworthiness standards used for these aircraft are a combination of requirements in 14 CFR parts 23, 25, 27, and 29 that the FAA and the designer have agreed are appropriate for the proposed aircraft
  • The FAA issues a Type Certificate (TC) for the product when they are satisfied it complies with the applicable airworthiness standards
    • When the TC is issued, a Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) is generated that specifies the important design and operational characteristics of the aircraft, aircraft engine, or propeller
    • The TCDS defines the product and are available to the public from the FAA website at www.faa.gov
  • A Note About Light Sport Aircraft:

    • Light sport aircraft are not designed according to FAA airworthiness standards. Instead, they are designed to a consensus of standards agreed upon in the aviation industry. The FAA has agreed the consensus of standards is acceptable as the design criteria for these aircraft. Light sport aircraft do not necessarily have individually type certificated engines and propellers. Instead, a TC is issued to the aircraft as a whole. It includes the airframe, engine, and propeller. Aircraft, aircraft engines, and propellers can be manufactured one at a time from the design drawings, or through an FAA approved manufacturing process, depending on the size and capabilities of the manufacturer. During the manufacturing process, each part is inspected to ensure that it has been built exactly according to the approved design. This inspection is called a conformity inspection
    • When the aircraft is complete, with the airframe, engine, and propeller, it is inspected and the FAA issues an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft. Having an airworthiness certificate means the complete aircraft meets the design and manufacturing standards, and is in a condition for safe flight. This airworthiness certificate must be carried in the aircraft during all flight operations. The airworthiness certificate remains valid as long as the required maintenance and inspections are kept up to date for the aircraft. Airworthiness certificates are classified as either “Standard" or “Special.” Standard airworthiness certificates are white, and are issued for normal, utility, acrobatic, commuter, or transport category aircraft. They are also issued for manned free balloons and aircraft designated as “Special Class.” Special airworthiness certificates are pink, and are issued for primary, restricted, and limited category aircraft, and light sport aircraft. They are also issued as provisional airworthiness certificates, special flight permits (ferry permits), and for experimental aircraft
    • More information on airworthiness certificates can be found in Chapter 9, in 14 CFR parts 175-225, and also on the FAA website at www.faa.gov

Certification of Airmen:

  • Categories:

    1. Airplane:

      • An engine-driven fixed-wing aircraft heavier than air, that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its wings
        • Classes:
          • Single-Engine Land
          • Single-Engine Sea
          • Multi-Engine Land
          • Multi-Engine Sea
    2. Rotorcraft:

      • A heavier-than-air aircraft that depends principally for its support in flight on the lift generated by one or more rotors
        • Classes:
          • Helicopter:
            • A rotorcraft that, for its horizontal motion, depends principally on its engine-driven rotors
          • Gyro-plane:
            • A rotorcraft whose rotors are not engine-driven, except for Initial starting, but are made to rotate by action of the air when the rotorcraft Is moving; and whose means of propulsion, consisting usually of conventional propellers, is Independent of the rotor system
    3. Glider:

      • A heavier-than-air aircraft, that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its lifting surfaces and whose free flight does not depend principally on an engine
        • Classes:
          • None
    4. Lighter than air:

      • An aircraft that can rise and remain suspended by using contained gas weighing less than the air that is displaced by the gas
        • Classes:
          • Airship:
            • An engine-driven lighter-than-air aircraft that can be steered
          • Free Balloon:
            • A lighter-than-air aircraft that is not engine driven, and that sustains flight through the use of either gas buoyancy or an airborne heater
    5. Powered lift:

      • A heavier-than-air aircraft capable of vertical takeoff, vertical landing, and low speed flight that depends principally on engine-driven lift devices or engine thrust for lift during these flight regimes and on non-rotating airfoil(s) for lift during horizontal flight
        • Classes:
          • None
    6. Powered parachute:

      • A powered aircraft comprised of a flexible or semi-rigid wing connected to a fuselage so that the wing is not in position for flight until the aircraft is in motion
      • The fuselage of a powered parachute contains the aircraft engine, a seat for each occupant and Is attached to the aircraft's landing gear
        • Classes:
          • Powered parachute land
          • Powered parachute sea
    7. Weight-shift-control:

      • A powered aircraft with a framed pivoting wing and a fuselage controllable only in pitch and roll by the pilot's ability to change the aircraft's center of gravity with respect to the wing
      • Flight control of the aircraft depends on the wing's ability to flexibly deform rather than the use of control surfaces deform rather than the use of control surfaces
        • Classes:
          • Weight-shift-control land
          • Weight-shift-control sea
    8. Rocket:

      • An aircraft propelled by ejected expanding gases generated in the engine from self-contained propellants and not dependent on the intake of outside substances
      • It includes any part which becomes separated during the operation
        • Classes:
          • Powered parachute land
          • Powered parachute sea

Certification of Aircraft:

  • Categories:

    • As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a grouping of aircraft based upon intended use or operating limitations:
      • Transport
      • Normal
      • Utility
      • Acrobatic
      • Limited
      • Restricted
      • Provisional
  • Classes:

    • As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a broad grouping of aircraft having similar characteristics of propulsion, flight, or landing
    • Examples include:
      • airplane, rotorcraft, gilder, balloon, landplane, and seaplane
  • Types:

    • As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means those aircraft which are similar in design. Examples include: 737-700 and 737700C; G-IV and G-IV-X; and 1900 and 1900C

Type Ratings:

  • A person who acts as a pilot in command of any of the following aircraft must hold a type rating for that aircraft:
    • Large aircraft (except lighter-than-air)
    • Turbojet-powered airplanes
    • Other aircraft specified by the Administrator through aircraft type certificate procedures
  • A person may be authorized to operate without a type rating for up to 60 days an aircraft requiring a type rating, provided:
    • The Administrator has authorized the flight or series of flights
    • The Administrator has determined that an equivalent level of safety can be achieved through the operating limitations on the authorization;
    • The person shows that earning a type rating (as shown above) is impracticable for the flight or series of flights and the flight:
      • Involves only a ferry flight, training flight, test flight, or practical test for a pilot certificate or rating;
      • Is within the United States;
      • Does not involve operations for compensation or hire unless the compensation or hire involves payment for the use of the aircraft for training or taking a practical test; and
      • Involves only the carriage of flight crewmembers considered essential for the flight
    • If the flight or series of flights cannot be accomplished within the time limit of the authorization, the Administrator may authorize an additional period of up to 60 days to accomplish the flight or series of flights
  • Type Rating Limitations: Unless a person holds a category, class, and type rating (if a class and type rating is required) that applies to the aircraft, that person may not act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying another person, or is operated for compensation or hire. That person also may not act as pilot in command of that aircraft for compensation or hire
  • To serve as the pilot in command of an aircraft, a person must:
    • Hold the appropriate category, class, and type rating (if a class or type rating is required) for the aircraft to be flown; or
    • Have received training required by this part that is appropriate to the pilot certification level, aircraft category, class, and type rating (if a class or type rating is required) for the aircraft to be flown, and have received an endorsement for solo flight in that aircraft from an authorized instructor

Endorsements:

  • Various aircraft or configurations require additional training
  • Additional training is then documented in the form of an endorsement
  • Complex airplanes:

    • No person may act as pilot in command of a complex airplane, unless the person has:
      • Received and logged ground and flight training from an authorized instructor in a complex airplane, or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a complex airplane, and has been found proficient in the operation and systems of the airplane; and
      • Received a one-time endorsement in the pilot's logbook from an authorized instructor who certifies the person is proficient to operate a complex airplane
    • The training and endorsement required above is not required if the person has logged flight time as pilot in command of a complex airplane, or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a complex airplane prior to August 4, 1997
  • High-performance airplanes

    • No person may act as pilot in command of a high-performance airplane (an airplane with an engine of more than 200 horsepower), unless the person has:
      • Received and logged ground and flight training from an authorized instructor in a high-performance airplane, or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a high-performance airplane, and has been found proficient in the operation and systems of the airplane; and
      • Received a one-time endorsement in the pilot's logbook from an authorized instructor who certifies the person is proficient to operate a high-performance airplane
    • The training and endorsement required above is not required if the person has logged flight time as pilot in command of a high-performance airplane, or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a high-performance airplane prior to August 4, 1997
  • High Altitude Operations:

    • No person may act as pilot in command of a pressurized aircraft (an aircraft that has a service ceiling or maximum operating altitude, whichever is lower, above 25,000 feet MSL), unless that person has received and logged ground training from an authorized instructor and obtained an endorsement in the person's logbook or training record from an authorized instructor who certifies the person has satisfactorily accomplished the ground training. The ground training must include at least the following subjects:
      • (i) High-altitude aerodynamics and meteorology;
      • (ii) Respiration;
      • (iii) Effects, symptoms, and causes of hypoxia and any other high-altitude sickness;
      • (iv) Duration of consciousness without supplemental oxygen;
      • (v) Effects of prolonged usage of supplemental oxygen;
      • (vi) Causes and effects of gas expansion and gas bubble formation;
      • (vii) Preventive measures for eliminating gas expansion, gas bubble formation, and high-altitude sickness;
      • (viii) Physical phenomena and incidents of decompression; and
      • (ix) Any other physiological aspects of high-altitude flight
    • No person may act as pilot in command of a pressurized aircraft unless that person has received and logged training from an authorized instructor in a pressurized aircraft, or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a pressurized aircraft, and obtained an endorsement in the person's logbook or training record from an authorized instructor who found the person proficient in the operation of a pressurized aircraft
    • The flight training must include at least the following subjects:
      • Normal cruise flight operations while operating above 25,000 feet MSL;
      • Proper emergency procedures for simulated rapid decompression without actually de-pressurizing the aircraft; and
      • Emergency descent procedures
    • The training and endorsement required above are not required if that person can document satisfactory accomplishment of any of the following in a pressurized aircraft, or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a pressurized aircraft:
      • Serving as pilot in command before April 15, 1991;
      • Completing a pilot proficiency check for a pilot certificate or rating before April 15, 1991;
      • Completing an official pilot-in-command check conducted by the military services of the United States; or
      • Completing a pilot-in-command proficiency check under part 121, 125, or 135 of this chapter conducted by the Administrator or by an approved pilot check airman
  • Type-specific Training:

    • No person may serve as pilot in command of an aircraft that the Administrator has determined requires aircraft type-specific training unless that person has:
      • Received and logged type-specific training in the aircraft, or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of that type of aircraft; and
      • Received a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor who has found the person proficient in the operation of the aircraft and its systems
  • Tailwheel Airplanes:

    • No person may act as pilot in command of a tailwheel airplane unless that person has received and logged flight training from an authorized instructor in a tailwheel airplane and received an endorsement in the person's logbook from an authorized instructor who found the person proficient in the operation of a tailwheel airplane. The flight training must include at least the following maneuvers and procedures:
      • (i) Normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings;
      • (ii) Wheel landings (unless the manufacturer has recommended against such landings); and
      • (iii) Go-around procedures
    • The training and endorsement required above is not required if the person logged pilot-in-command time in a tailwheel airplane before April 15, 1991
  • Gliders

    • No person may act as pilot in command of a glider:
      • Using ground-tow procedures, unless that person has satisfactorily accomplished ground and flight training on ground-tow procedures and operations, and has received an endorsement from an authorized instructor who certifies in that pilot's logbook that the pilot has been found proficient in ground-tow procedures and operations;
      • Using aerotow procedures, unless that person has satisfactorily accomplished ground and flight training on aerotow procedures and operations, and has received an endorsement from an authorized instructor who certifies in that pilot's logbook that the pilot has been found proficient in aerotow procedures and operations; or
      • Using self-launch procedures, unless that person has satisfactorily accomplished ground and flight training on self-launch procedures and operations, and has received an endorsement from an authorized instructor who certifies in that pilot's logbook that the pilot has been found proficient in self-launch procedures and operations
    • The holder of a glider rating issued prior to August 4, 1997, is considered to be in compliance with the training and logbook endorsement requirements of this paragraph for the specific operating privilege for which the holder is already qualified
  • Night Vision Goggle Operations:

    • (1) Except as provided under paragraph (k)(3) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft using night vision goggles only if that person receives and logs ground training from an authorized instructor and obtains a logbook or training record endorsement from an authorized instructor who certifies the person completed the ground training. The ground training must include the following subjects:
      • (i) Applicable portions of this chapter that relate to night vision goggle limitations and flight operations;
      • (ii) Aeromedical factors related to the use of night vision goggles, including how to protect night vision, how the eyes adapt to night, self-imposed stresses that affect night vision, effects of lighting on night vision, cues used to estimate distance and depth perception at night, and visual illusions;
      • (iii) Normal, abnormal, and emergency operations of night vision goggle equipment;
      • (iv) Night vision goggle performance and scene interpretation; and
      • (v) Night vision goggle operation flight planning, including night terrain interpretation and factors affecting terrain interpretation
    • (2) Except as provided under paragraph (k)(3) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft using night vision goggles only if that person receives and logs flight training from an authorized instructor and obtains a logbook or training record endorsement from an authorized instructor who found the person proficient in the use of night vision goggles. The flight training must include the following tasks:
      • (i) Preflight and use of internal and external aircraft lighting systems for night vision goggle operations;
      • (ii) Preflight preparation of night vision goggles for night vision goggle operations;
      • (iii) Proper piloting techniques when using night vision goggles during the takeoff, climb, enroute, descent, and landing phases of flight; and
      • (iv) Normal, abnormal, and emergency flight operations using night vision goggles
    • (3) The requirements under paragraphs (k)(1) and (2) of this section do not apply if a person can document satisfactory completion of any of the following pilot proficiency checks using night vision goggles in an aircraft:
      • (i) A pilot proficiency check on night vision goggle operations conducted by the U.S. Armed Forces
      • (ii) A pilot proficiency check on night vision goggle operations under part 135 of this chapter conducted by an Examiner or Check Airman
      • (iii) A pilot proficiency check on night vision goggle operations conducted by a night vision goggle manufacturer or authorized instructor, when the pilot:
        • (A) Is employed by a Federal, State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency; and
        • (B) Has logged at least 20 hours as pilot in command in night vision goggle operations
  • (l) Exceptions:
    • (1) This section does not require a category and class rating for aircraft not type-certificated as airplanes, rotorcraft, gliders, lighter-than-air aircraft, powered-lifts, powered parachutes, or weight-shift-control aircraft
    • (2) The rating limitations of this section do not apply to:
      • (i) An applicant when taking a practical test given by an examiner;
      • (ii) The holder of a student pilot certificate;
      • (iii) The holder of a pilot certificate when operating an aircraft under the authority of:
        • (A) A provisional type certificate; or
        • (B) An experimental certificate, unless the operation involves carrying a passenger;
      • (iv) The holder of a pilot certificate with a lighter-than-air category rating when operating a balloon;
      • (v) The holder of a recreational pilot certificate operating under the provisions of §61.101(h); or
      • (vi) The holder of a sport pilot certificate when operating a light-sport aircraft

Ultralight Vehicles:

  • No person may operate an ultralight vehicle within Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that airspace
  • As the term implies, powered ultralight vehicles must weigh less than 254 pounds empty weight and unpowered ultralight vehicles must weigh less than 155 pounds
  • Rules for ultralight vehicles are significantly different from rules for aircraft; ultralight vehicle certification, registration, and operation rules are also contained in 14 CFR 103

Size and Weight:

  • Size and weight are other methods used in 14 CFR 1.1 to group aircraft:
    • Large aircraft: an aircraft of more than 12,500 pounds, maximum certificated takeoff weight
    • Light-sport aircraft (LSA): an aircraft, other than a helicopter or powered-lift that, since its original certification, has continued to meet the definition in 14 CFR 1.1. (LSA can include airplanes, airships, balloons, gliders, gyro planes, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control)
    • Small Aircraft: aircraft of 12,500 pounds or less, maximum certificated takeoff weight

Unmanned Free Balloons:

  • Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, no person may operate an unmanned free balloon below 2,000 feet above the surface within the lateral boundaries of Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E airspace designated for an airport

Conclusion:

  • A pilot must hold a class rating to operate an aircraft in that class

References: