FAA Overhauls Its Aircraft Certification Ops

By James T. McKenna | July 21, 2017
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The U.S. FAA is implementing wholesale changes in its approval of civil aircraft and aviation products through a complete reorganization of its Aircraft Certification Service.

Aircraft Certification Service leaders have spent more than a year working on the reorganization, which they said is aimed at eliminating inefficiencies that jeopardize the ongoing success of a U.S. aviation industry operating at a quickening pace.

“The aviation system is rapidly changing, placing greater demands on its participants,” the FAA says in its blueprint for what it calls transformation of the Aircraft Certification Service. “It is more complex, more interconnected, and more reliant on new technologies. The aircraft certification system in use today will not sustain the level of success achieved to date.”

At stake with the service’s current inefficiencies is the safety record of the American aviation system, which is at or near its best levels in the last two decades, the FAA says.

“Also at stake is the ability of organizations in the aerospace industry to continue to reach new global markets, without unnecessary delays, costs, or variations in service,” the blueprint reads. “Such inefficiencies discourage innovation and jeopardize the development of future products that could further improve aviation safety. “

Effective July 23, the agency is adopting a functional alignment of that service’s activities. A significant result of that alignment is that the FAA’s Transport, Small Airplane, Engine and Propeller and Rotorcraft directorates — which oversaw certification and manufacturing of aircraft and products in those categories — go away.

The FAA says the benefits of a functionally aligned organization will be improved consistency and standardization of certification, standards, and system oversight and greater promotion of innovation through early engagement of applicants and industry “to understand new concepts and ensure a viable path to compliance.”

Other benefits, it says, will include shifting from “transactional compliance activities to system oversight and early involvement in standards development” and streamlining certification by “early industry engagement and risk-based monitoring to eliminate unnecessary FAA involvement in the ‘critical path’ during certification."

The agency's changes also will allow it to better determine efficacy of industry and FAA efforts to improve the time required to bring products to market and to be more agile in adapting to “challenges of the dynamic global aviation industry.”

Taking the place of the directorates will be the new Compliance & Airworthiness Division (bearing the organizational designator AIR-700). That division will be headed by Lance Gant, formerly the manager of the Rotorcraft Directorate.

However, that division will not inherit the former directorates’ manufacturing oversight responsibilities, which will fall under the new System Oversight Division (AIR-800) headed by Jeff Duven. Duven formerly was manager of the Transport Airplane Directorate.

As head of compliance and airworthiness, Gant will oversee all of the FAA's Aircraft Certification and Delegation Systems Certification offices. He also will be in charge of the issuance of “all design approvals for both domestic and foreign manufacturers, as well as production and airworthiness certificates.”

Gant’s division also will be in charge of executing FAA processes covering Continued Operational Safety (or the assurance of effective manufacturer support of products after they have gone into service). The division, too, will provide support for flight test activities.

Duven’s System Oversight Division will oversee the FAA's Manufacturing Inspection District and Manufacturing Inspection offices, as well as the Boeing Aviation Safety Oversight Office. The Boeing office oversees employees of that manufacturer who have been appointed by the FAA as inspectors and audits the company’s internal inspection program.

Duven’s division will also be in charge of all FAA approvals, certificates and bilateral partners, in addition to designee and delegation programs.

Part of the FAA’s Office of Aviation Safety, the Aircraft Certification Service employs more than 1,300 engineers, scientists, inspectors, test pilots and other experts. The service will continue by its current director, Dorenda Baker, who will become its executive director.

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