PPT Solutions offers Software Analyses & Safety services that help customers receive Airworthiness Certifications. Our team of experts, which includes two Designated Engineering Representatives (DER), are well versed in what it takes to comply with the DO-178C and DO-254 Design Assurance Level (DAL) A objectives.


What is the Purpose of an Airworthiness Certification?

airplane in clouds

An airworthiness certification certifies that an aircraft is airworthy, meaning it is safe to operate in accordance with its intended purpose.  An aircraft intended to transport cargo may not need a pressurized cabin.  However, an aircraft that is intended to ferry passengers certainly requires a pressurized and heated cabin. 

After an aircraft has been certified, the aircraft retains its certification for as long as the terms of the certification do not change. If the operator replaces a piece of equipment, either because the new equipment provides an advantage or because the current equipment cannot be replaced or repaired (obsolescence), a new certification is required. 

The certification process ensures that the new equipment functions as intended in this particular aircraft type. For example, if the air data computer has been calibrated to operate between 0.0 and 100 C, it may provide erroneous data at high altitudes or cold days if the aircraft’s operational temperatures are between 0.0 and 100 F (-17.8 to 37.87 C).  Even when nothing changes, just altering how the aircraft operates may require recertification. 

For example, if the flight profile is changed from over land flights to over water flights, additional navigation equipment may be required to ensure safe flight since the aircraft will no longer be able to use ground stations.  In summary, certification is required for any fixed wing, rotary wing, and unmanned vehicle that is new, has modified to its certified configuration, or has changed its operational usage profile.


Types of Airworthiness Certifications

drone above clouds

A registered owner or owner’s agent of an aircraft can apply for two different types of airworthiness certificates.


Standard Airworthiness Certificate

A standard airworthiness certificate (FAA form 8100-2 displayed in the aircraft) is the FAA’s official authorization allowing for the operation of type certificated aircraft in the following categories:

  • Normal
  • Utility
  • Acrobatic
  • Commuter
  • Transport
  • Manned Free Balloons
  • Special Classes

A standard airworthiness certificate remains valid as long as the aircraft meets its approved type design, 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.

The standard airworthiness certificate is mandatory if an aircraft is to be used in commercial operations.


Special Airworthiness Certificate

The FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate (FAA Form 8130-7) is an FAA authorization to operate an aircraft in the U.S. airspace in one or more of the following categories:

  • Primary – aircraft flown for pleasure and personal use
  • Restricted – agricultural, forest and wildlife conservation, aerial surveying, patrolling (pipelines, powerlines), weather control, aerial advertising, and other operations specified by the Administrator
  • Multiple
  • Limited
  • Light-Sport
  • Experimental – research and development, showing compliance with regulations, crew training, exhibition, air racing, market surveys, operating amateur-built aircraft, operating kit-built aircraft, operating light-sport aircraft, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
  • Special Flight Permit
  • Provisional

The Airworthiness Certification Processdashboard of aircraft


The FAA issues an applicant an airworthiness certificate when the registered owner or operator/agent registers aircraft, an applicant submits an application to the local FAA office, and the FAA determines the aircraft is eligible and in safe operating conditions.

The duration between application submission and receipt of an airworthiness certificate is usually measured in years. How does an applicant prove to the FAA that the aircraft is safe? By performing safety analyses (PHA, FHA, Fault Tree Analysis, FMEA, PSSA, SSA, etc.). How does an applicant prove that the safety analyses are correct? By lots of analyses and tests.

PPT is pleased to have a team of experts who provide Airworthiness Certification capabilities as part of our Software Analysis & Safety service offerings. Discover more about our services here.

Stay tuned for a future blog on the certification of Army aircraft. The process is similar. Instead of certification, the aircraft is qualified and receives the Statement of Airworthiness Qualification (SAQ) from the Aviation Engineering Directorate instead of the FAA. Unfortunately, the list of requirements is just as rigorous, if not more so, than the certification of civil aircraft.


Incorporated in 2005, PPT Solutions, Inc. provides systems and software engineering services to government and commercial aerospace organizations. PPT represents People, Processes, and Technology. It is our goal to offer solutions that improve the effectiveness of these three things to work together for optimum performance. Find out more today!