What is Aircraft Airworthiness?

According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), people may not legally operate an aircraft that has not been deemed airworthy. From required annual inspections to approval of parts for maintenance, aircraft and their parts undergo many certifications and inspections to ensure that they are airworthy and legal for use. While it may be simple to understand the reasons we demand that aircraft are airworthy, the details in what qualifies a part as “airworthy” can be complicated. With many set regulations in place, what makes an aircraft part considered airworthy?

14 CFR Part 21.303 includes a set of quality standards to which any new part that is installed during maintenance must meet to be considered airworthy. Parts that meet approval are manufactured to FAA-approved quality standard and have passed inspection. There are five possible quality standards that a new part can meet: PMA, PAH, TSO, standard parts, and owner-produced parts.

Parts Manufactured Approval (PMA) are often direct replacements and apply to specific part numbers. PAH are those that are produced under a production certificate. Technical Standard Order (TSO) parts are those that are FAA-approved designs and the manufacturer must hold TSO authorization from the FAA. Standard parts are those that are manufactured up to standards such as AN, NAS, and MS hardware. Lastly, owner-produced parts are those that are for the purpose of repairing one’s own aircraft and often still must meet FAA approval.

Even used parts for maintenance and repair must meet the criteria set under 14 CFR Part 43. These parts can be properly approved for return to service through the use of FAA form 8130-3 which is an authorized release certificate and airworthiness approval tag. Interior materials for aircraft installation also have various criteria that must be met to be considered airworthy. Those that have a lot of leather or fabric will often come with certification for meeting flammability requirements.

From new and used aviation components, to the materials that are used for interiors, every part of an aircraft must meet requirements to be considered airworthy. While this may be a complex process, it is important to have regulations and requirements to ensure the safety and smooth operation of aircraft for everyone.


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