Airworthiness: key facts you need to know

April 23, 2019

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In 1982 an ordinary but inventive American Larry Walters purchased 45 weather balloons and helium tanks for balloons. Walters filled weather balloons with helium, tied them to his lawn chair, put on a parachute and set off from the backyard of the house. Larry did not expect that as soon as he cut the mooring rope, the balloons would lift him to a height of 4,600 m. The poor guy drifted over Long Island for over an hour. Surprisingly, the desperate traveler survived. Unfortunately for Larry, his brilliant invention was not legalized as airworthy. Wanna fly – better don’t do like Larry Walters.

To understand why this is so complicated, let's find out more about the concept of airworthiness.

Definition of Airworthiness states that it is a feature of aircraft model, which includes airworthiness standards in its design and flight characteristics.

In Ukraine, for every civil aircraft that is included in the State Register of Civil Aircraft of Ukraine, the State Aviation Service issues a certificate of airworthiness of a corresponding sample certifying the conformity of its design and operational documentation with an approved type design, as well as the condition of airworthiness of the aircraft for flight.

In other words, if a helicopter / aircraft / and even a dirigible matches certain type of design and is able to fly, it will get the approval. If this design is typical only in the imagination of the developer (as was in the case with Larry), then it is unlikely that it will obtain the status of airworthiness.

Before an aircraft is licensed to fly, the authorities must recognize it as being capable of flying, and also confirm that it was designed in strict accordance with engineering rules, standards and restrictions. Moreover, these airplanes must be reliable and authorized, operating within organizations whose activities are permitted in Ukraine. That's how everything is so complicated. Larry had no chance.

The conclusion is simple - you need to have permission. This permission is called a “airworthiness certificate”.

A certificate of airworthiness is a document certifying the conformity of an aircraft to an approved type design, stated in an aircraft type certificate or equivalent document, and entitles you to flight operations in accordance with established restrictions.

What it looks like in real life?

In general terms, for example: the developer designs and manufactures a new model of the aircraft, and the competent authorities begin to evaluate and test it. Literally all aspects are analyzed: technical and flight characteristics, quality of design and production of structures, engines and propellers, design and installation of on board systems and equipment, operational limits. On top of that authorities check the rules and general information, which later form the basis of instructions for the flight operation of the aircraft and the requirements for the crashworthiness of the aircraft, the safety of the cabin, etc.

According to the flight performance requirements, the aircraft must meet the minimum navigation requirements, safely continue or interrupt take-off in the event of a main engine failure while operation of other engines. The aircraft must be controlled and stable in all, even extreme, operating conditions, and at the same time it should not require exceptionally high skill or great physical effort from the pilot, even in case of failure of any of the engines.

Design and manufacturing requirements should ensure a high level of assurance that all parts of the aircraft will function reliably and efficiently. The operation of all moving parts must be demonstrated through appropriate tests, and all materials used must comply with the approved technical requirements.

Production and assembly technology should ensure the stability of the structure, which should be protected from a decrease or loss of durability due to erosion, corrosion, wear or other reasons. The design should minimize the possibility of fire in flight, depressurization of the cockpit and the appearance of toxic gases in the aircraft, as well as protection of the aircraft from lightning and static electricity.

Extra attention is paid to those design features that affect the ability of the flight crew to maintain flight control. For example, the cabin layout should provide a broad, unshaded and undistorted view for the safe operation of the aircraft.

The greatest number of checks and tests are made on the engines and auxiliary units. Tests should be carried out over a sufficiently long period of time and under such power conditions and under such operating conditions that allow to check the reliability and durability of the engine.

The list can go on forever, therefore:

A detailed list of airworthiness test requirements can be found here

By the way, the state system of regulation in the field of airworthiness includes:

  • certification of aircraft type design
  • certification of operators
  • certification of maintenance organizations
  • certification of aviation personnel
  • aircraft registration
  • certification of a civil aircraft
  • issuance of a document confirming the airworthiness of an aircraft (Airworthiness Certificate or any type of permit)
  • control of the level of maintaining the airworthiness of an operating aircraft (inspection of the aircraft)
  • development of measures to maintain airworthiness of the aircraft.

Why is everything so complicated and multistage? Because we are talking about the safety of people.

Aiming to improve flight safety, the entire modern world strives for uniform standards in the field of aviation, and Ukraine is deeply involved in this process. And how the international airworthiness standards have historically been formed - read in our next article.

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