Aircraft Categories & Classes

Powered Parachute Flying Handbook

Introduction:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration uses various ways to classify or group machines operated or flown in the air
  • This system of definitions allows the Federal Aviation Administration to group and regulate aircraft to provide for their safe operation
  • The Federal Aviation Administration certifies three types of aviation products: Aircraft, Aircraft Engines, Propellers
  • The most general grouping uses the term aircraft, which according to 14 Code of Federal Regulations 1.1, means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air
  • The Federal Aviation Administration differentiates aircraft (category, class, type) by their characteristics and physical properties which are broken down for the certification of airmen or the certification of the aircraft themselves
    • Note that while category and class are common classifications, certain circumstances require type ratings
  • Pilot endorsements made by an authorized instructor maintain proof of certifications
  • Ultralight vehicles in the United States have specific considerations, not falling within standard category and class classification
  • Think you've got a solid understanding of aircraft categories and classes? Don't miss the aircraft categories and classes quiz below, and topic summary

Aircraft Category, Class, and Type Definitions:

  • Aircraft Category Definition:

    • As used concerning the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a broad classification of aircraft
      • Examples include: airplane; rotorcraft; glider; and lighter-than-air
    • As used concerning the certification of aircraft, it means a grouping of aircraft based upon intended use or operating limitations
      • Examples include: transport, normal, utility, acrobatic, limited, restricted, and provisional
  • Aircraft Class Definitions:

    • As used concerning the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a classification of aircraft within a category having similar operating characteristics
      • Examples include: single engine; multiengine; land; water; gyroplane, helicopter, airship, and free balloon
    • As used concerning the certification of aircraft, it means a broad grouping of aircraft having similar characteristics of propulsion, flight, or landing
      • Examples include: airplane, rotorcraft, glider, balloon, landplane, and seaplane
  • Aircraft Types Definition:

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

Aircraft Design, Certification, and Airworthiness:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies three types of aviation products:
    • Aircraft
    • Aircraft Engines
    • Propellers
  • These products have drive airworthiness standards 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 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 is available to the public from the FAA's website
  • Light-Sport Aircraft Specifics:

    • 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. Each part is inspected during manufacturing 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, the FAA inspects and issues a special airworthiness certificate for the aircraft with the airframe, engine, and propeller
    • 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
  • Size and Weight:

    • Size and weight are other methods used in 14 CFR 1.1 to group aircraft:
      • Large Aircraft:

        • A large aircraft is one of more than 12,500 pounds, maximum certificated takeoff weight
      • Light-Sport Aircraft:

        • A Light-Sport Aircraft, or LSA, is 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:

        • Small aircraft are those of 12,500 pounds or less, maximum certificated takeoff weight

Certification of Airmen:

  • Airmen Certification Categories:

    1. Aircraft certification categories include:
    2. 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
        • Airplane Classes:
          • Single-Engine Land
          • Single-Engine Sea
          • Multi-Engine Land
          • Multi-Engine Sea
    3. Rotorcraft:

      • A heavier-than-air aircraft that depends principally for its support in flight on the lift generated by one or more rotors
        • Rotorcraft 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 rotate by action of the air when the rotorcraft Is moving; and whose means of propulsion, usually consisting of conventional propellers, is independent of the rotor system
    4. 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
        • Glider Classes:
          • None
    5. Lighter Than Air:

      • An aircraft that can rise and remain suspended by using contained gas weighing less than the air displaced by the gas
        • Lighter Than Air Classes:
          • Airship:
            • A steerable, engine-driven lighter-than-air aircraft
          • 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
            • Unless otherwise authorized by Air Traffic Control (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
    6. 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
        • Powered Lift Classes:
          • None
    7. Powered Parachute:

      • Powered Parachute Flying Handbook
        Powered Parachute
        Flying Handbook
      • 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 [Figure 1]
      • The fuselage of a powered parachute contains the aircraft engine, a seat for each occupant, and is attached to the aircraft's landing gear
        • Powered Parachute Classes:
          • Powered Parachute Land
          • Powered Parachute Sea
      • Powered Parachute Flying Handbook
        Powered Parachute
        Flying Handbook
    8. 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 concerning 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
        • Weight-Shift Control Classes:
          • Weight-Shift Control Land
          • Weight-Shift Control Sea
    9. 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
        • Rocket Classes:
          • None

Certification of Aircraft:

  • Aircraft Certification Categories:

    • As used concerning the certification of aircraft, it means a grouping of aircraft based upon intended use or operating limitations:
      • Transport
      • Normal
      • Utility
      • Acrobatic
      • Limited
      • Restricted
      • Provisional
  • Aircraft Certification Classes:

    • As used concerning the certification of aircraft, it means a broad grouping of aircraft having similar characteristics of propulsion, flight, or landing
    • Examples include:
      • Airplane, rotorcraft, glider, balloon, landplane, and seaplane
  • Aircraft Certification Types:

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

Type Ratings:

  • The 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 operating limitations on the authorization achieve an equivalent level of safety;
    • 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 required 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 flown; or
    • Have received the 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

Pilot Endorsements:

  • Various aircraft or configurations require additional training
  • Endorsements are the documentation of additional training received
  • Student Pilot Endorsements:

    • Pre-solo aeronautical knowledge (61.87(b))
    • Pre-solo flight training (61.87(c))
    • Pre-solo flight training at night (61.87(c) and (d))
    • Solo flight (61.87 (b)
    • Solo takeoffs and landings at another airport within 25 Nautical Miles (NM) (61.93(b)(1))
    • Initial solo cross-country flight (61.93(c)(2))
    • Solo cross-country flight (61.93(c)(2))
    • Repeated solo cross-country flights not more than 50 NM from the point of departure (61.93(b)(2))
    • Solo flight in class B airspace (61.95(a))
    • Solo flight to, from, or at an airport located in Class B (61.95(a) and 91.131(b)(2))
  • Complex Airplane Endorsements:

    • 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 at 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 at operating a complex airplane
    • The training and endorsement required above is not required if the person has logged flight time as the pilot in command of a complex airplane or in a flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a complex airplane before August 4, 1997
  • High-Performance Airplane Endorsements:

    • 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 at 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 at operating a high-performance airplane
    • The training and endorsement required above is not required if the person has logged flight time as the 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 before August 4, 1997
  • High Altitude Operations:

    • No person may act as the pilot in command of a pressurized aircraft, 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 the 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 the 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 at operating the aircraft and its systems
  • Tailwheel Airplanes:

    • No person may act as the 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 before 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
  • Endorsement 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 ยง61.101(h); or
      • (vi) The holder of a sport pilot certificate when operating a light-sport aircraft

Ultralight Vehicles:

  • 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
  • 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

Aircraft Categories and Classes Knowledge Quiz:

Conclusion:

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