An original FAA design approval is a five-phase process in which an applicant applies for, and the FAA may issue, a type certificate or design approval of a product or a major design change to a product. A product is an aircraft, an aircraft engine or, an aircraft propeller. The process, if approved, results in the issue of a type certificate, a supplemental type certificate or an amendment to either a type certificate or supplemental type certificate as contained in 14 CFR part 21.

The principles of up-front planning, project management, and documenting the certification process are applicable to all applicants. A major change to the design of a type-certificated product is approved by a separate process and issued on a supplemental type certificate or an amended type certificate.