Airworthiness Certificate


  • A standard airworthiness certificate is the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) official authorization allowing for the operation of type certificated aircraft in the following categories:
    • Normal
    • Utility
    • Aerobatic
    • Commuter
    • Transport
    • Manned Free Balloons
    • Special Classes
  • Airworthiness certificates are broken down into two categories, standard and special
  • It is contingent on maintaining an aircraft in compliance with regulations including airworthiness directives (think of a recall for your car) and mandatory service bulletins

Standard Airworthiness Certificates:

  • Standard Airworthiness Certificate
    Standard Airworthiness Certificate
  • Special Airworthiness Certificate
    Special Airworthiness Certificate
  • Standard airworthiness certificates are issued for aircraft type certificated in the normal, utility, acrobatic, commuter, or transport category, and for manned free balloons, and for aircraft designated by the FAA as special classes of aircraft
  • Certificate Validity:

    • Unless sooner surrendered, suspended, revoked, or a termination date is otherwise established by the FAA, standard airworthiness certificates are effective provided:
      • The aircraft meets its approved type design
      • It is in a condition for safe operation and maintenance
      • Preventative Maintenance and alterations are performed in accordance with 14 CFR parts 21, 43, and 91
    • Additional considerations are:
      • Required inspections are completed as necessary
      • Airworthiness directives (ADs) are complied with
      • Required Service Bulletins are complied with
      • Aircraft contains the instruments and equipment necessary for operations being practices
    • In fact, much of these requirements are written on FAA Form 8100-2 itself
  • The owner or operator is responsible for maintaining the aircraft in airworthiness condition
    • Responsibility to determine airworthiness rests with the pilot-in-command who shall not operate a civil aircraft unless it is airworthy and shall discontinue the flight when un-airworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur
  • The owner, operator, or bailee of the aircraft must, upon request, make it available for inspection by the FAA
  • Upon suspension, revocation, or termination by order of the FAA of an airworthiness certificate, the owner, operator, or bailee of an aircraft must, upon request, surrender the certificate to the FAA
  • Standard airworthiness certificates are transferable upon sale under FAR part 21.179, assuming the above is true
  • The airworthiness certificate (FAA form 8100-2) must be visible to the occupants of the aircraft [Figure 1]
  • Standard Airworthiness Certificate
    Standard Airworthiness Certificate
  • Special Airworthiness Certificate
    Special Airworthiness Certificate

Special Airworthiness Certificate:

  • Special airworthiness certificates are primary, restricted, limited, light-sport, and provisional airworthiness certificates, special flight permits, and experimental certificates
  • The FAA special airworthiness certificate is an FAA authorization to operate an aircraft in the US airspace in one or more of the following categories:
    • Primary
    • Restricted
    • Multiple
    • Limited
    • Experimental:

      • A special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category is issued to operate an aircraft that does not have a type certificate or does not conform to its type certificate and is in a condition for safe operation
      • Special airworthiness certificates may be issued in the experimental category for the following purposes:
        • Research and development
        • Showing compliance with regulations
        • Crew training
        • Exhibition
        • Air racing
        • Market surveys
        • Operating amateur-built, kit-built, or light-sport aircraft
        • Special Airworthiness Certificate, Experimental Category for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA)
      • The duration of an experimental certificate is unlimited, unless the FAA establishes a specific period for good cause
    • Special Flight Permit:

      • A special flight permit may be issued for an aircraft that may not currently meet applicable airworthiness requirements but is capable of safe flight, for the following purposes:
        • Flying the aircraft to a base where repairs, alterations, or maintenance are to be performed, or to a point of storage
        • Delivering or exporting the aircraft
        • Production flight testing new production aircraft
        • Evacuating aircraft from areas of impending danger
        • Conducting customer demonstration flights in new production aircraft that have satisfactorily completed production flight tests
      • A special flight permit may also be issued to authorize the operation of an aircraft at a weight in excess of its maximum certificated takeoff weight for flight beyond the normal range over water, or over land areas where adequate landing facilities or appropriate fuel is not available. The excess weight that may be authorized under this paragraph is limited to the additional fuel, fuel-carrying facilities, and navigation equipment necessary for the flight
      • Upon application, as prescribed in §§91.1017 or 119.51 of this chapter, a special flight permit with a continuing authorization may be issued for aircraft that may not meet applicable airworthiness requirements, but are capable of safe flight for the purpose of flying aircraft to a base where maintenance or alterations are to be performed. The permit issued under this paragraph is an authorization, including conditions and limitations for flight, which is set forth in the certificate holder's operations specifications. The permit issued under this paragraph may be issued to:
        • Certificate holders authorized to conduct operations under part 119 of this chapter, that have an approved program for continuing flight authorization; or
        • Management specification holders authorized to conduct operations under part 91, subpart K of this chapter for those aircraft they operate and maintain under a continuous airworthiness maintenance program prescribed by §91.1411 of this chapter
      • In order to obtain a special flight permit a pilot must submit a Form FAA 8130-6 - Application for U.S Airworthiness Certificate
      • A special flight permit is effective for the period of time specified in the permit
    • Provisional
  • Special airworthiness certificate (FAA Form 8130-7) must be visible to the occupants of the aircraft [Figure 2]

Supplemental Type Certificate:

  • A supplemental type certificate (STC) is a type certificate (TC) issued when an applicant has received FAA approval to modify an aeronautical product from its original design
  • Most commonly used as part of the execution of a minimum equipment list

Certificate Location:

  • No person may operate a civil aircraft unless the airworthiness certificate or a special flight authorization issued under 91.715 is displayed at the cabin or cockpit entrance so that it is legible to passengers or crew

Airworthiness Directives:

  • Airworthiness Directives (ADs) are legally enforceable regulations issued by the FAA in accordance with 14 CFR part 39 to correct an unsafe condition in a product
  • Part 39 defines a product as an aircraft, engine, propeller, or appliance
  • Types of Airworthiness Directives:

    • The FAA issues three types of ADs depending on the urgency of a condition
      • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), followed by a Final Rule
      • Final Rule; Request for Comments
      • Emergency ADs:

        • The FAA will issue an Emergency AD when an unsafe condition exists that requires immediate action by an owner/operator
        • Detailed information can be found on the FAA's Emergency Airworthiness Directives page
  • Issuance of Airworthiness Directives:

    • The FAA will issue airworthiness directives when they've determined a product meets two criteria:
      • An unsafe condition exists in a product; and,
      • The condition is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design
    • These directives are published in the Federal Registrar and FAA Regulatory and Guidance Library (RGL)
      • ADs can be found online through manual searches or by signing up for an email subscription
      • Both sources will list ADs by aircraft and engine makes and models selected
    • Airworthiness Directives may also have intervals:
      • One-time AD: requires a one-time modification
      • Recurring AD: requires a check or service to be performed on an ongoing basis at specific intervals
      • N/A AD: a "not applicable AD," but is still noted to show awareness of its existence
  • Airworthiness Directive Compliance:

    • All ADs are mandatory
    • An aircraft cannot overfly an AD
    • Usually require an inspection or conditions and limitations you must comply with
    • Operations specifications give some operators authority to operate including a provision that allow them to fly their aircraft to a destination to do that work

Service Bulletins:

  • Mooney Airplane Company, Inc., Service Bulletin
    Mooney Airplane Company, Inc., Service Bulletin
  • Service Bulletins (SBs) are issued to aircraft owners/operators from the aircraft company
  • SBs are sent out by the company to identify and correct hazards in order to maintain safety
  • Service Bulletin compliance is not mandatory unless stated
  • Types of Service Bulletins:

    • There are two types of service bulletins:
      • Standard

      • Emergency

  • Mooney Airplane Company, Inc., Service Bulletin
    Mooney Airplane Company, Inc., Service Bulletin
  • Service Bulletin Content:

    • Every service bulletin will lay out slightly different but all have the same basic information [Figure 3]

    • Title: the subject of the bulletin
    • Affectivity: the aircraft it applies to
    • Reason: cause for issue
    • Description: narrative of the bulletin
    • Compliance: schedule/requirement to perform
    • Instructions: a walk-through of service steps
    • Approval: shows if the SB has been viewed by the FAA and approved
    • References: appropriate user manuals
    • Parts Required: necessary components
    • Compliance Information: A sign off sent to the company to prove compliance

Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIB):

  • A Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) is an information tool that alerts, educates, and makes recommendations to the aviation community. SAIBs contain non-regulatory information and guidance that does not meet the criteria for an Airworthiness Directive (AD). Guidance on when to use an SAIB, and how to develop and issue an SAIB is provided in Order 8110.100A
  • To locate, view, and download individual bulletins, search the SAIB database in the FAA Regulatory and Guidance Library

Aircraft Condition Notices:

  • Governed under FAA Order 8900.1, Aircraft Condition Notices are issued by aircraft inspectors to aircraft when, during the normal conduct of duties, the inspector finds possible unsafe conditions that will require immediate action by the operator prior to operation
  • The inspector will usually issue an Aircraft Condition Notice during one of the following activities:
    • Performing a scheduled aircraft inspection;
    • Responding to a complaint; or
    • Investigating an aircraft noticed while performing other duties
  • When a possible unsafe condition is noted, the Aircraft Condition Notice will be completed, and the hard copy attached to the aircraft as near as possible to the aircraft entrance
  • If the inspector finds a general discrepancy that should be brought to the attention of the operator, the inspector has the option of using this form as a means of notification
  • If made aware of an aircraft condition notice, pilots should read it carefully and consult with an A&P mechanic to address the identified concerns

Airworthiness Case Studies:


  • No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition
  • The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight
    • The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when un-airworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur
  • Remember the owner or operator is responsible for airworthiness
  • According to part 91.403 of the federal aviation regulations, the owner or operator of an aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition, including compliance with part 39
  • The FAA may issue an applicant an airworthiness certificate when:
    • Registered owner or operator/agent registers aircraft
    • Applicant submits application (PDF) to the local FAA office
    • FAA determines the aircraft is eligible and in a condition for safe operation
  • Your local FAA Flight Standard District Office can provide direct guidance and information in order to obtain an airworthiness certificate
  • It is best to contact your local FAA office for direct guidance immediately after you register your aircraft
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