The certification process utilizes a phase and gate system that has 5 distinct phases and 3 gates. All items in a phase must be successfully completed prior to continuing past a gate and into the next phase of the process. An applicant will not be certificated until the FAA is confident that the prospective certificate holder is capable of fulfilling the required responsibilities and will comply with 14 CFR in an appropriate and continuing manner.
Below is a brief overview of the Phases of Certification with a link provided for more detailed information on each phase. Applicants should review the information contained in the provided links, as well as any additional links contained within.
Phase 1 – Pre-application
This phase starts when a prospective applicant first inquires about or requests an application for an air carrier or air operator certificate. This phase can be initiated by individuals or organizations and may be in writing, or in the form of informal meetings with district office personnel. In this phase the following actions will occur:
- The applicant will request access to the FAA Safety Assurance System (SAS) External Portal. The SAS External Portal is a free, secure, web-based application that allows for more direct, streamlined, and timely communication between Certificate Holders and Applicants (CH/As) and the FAA. Some of the SAS External Portal benefits include the ability for CH/As to:
- Review and submit information electronically,
- See where documents are in the FAA review process.
- Registering for SAS External Portal user access,
- SAS user information and Navigation,
- How to submit required information and documentation,
- How to review status of submitted information.
Applicants are encouraged to take the free online SAS training course. The course provides instruction on:
The SAS External Portal Information Guide is an excellent resource that contains additional information and links for applicants and certificate holders.
- The applicant will submit a FAA Form 8400-6 Pre-application Statement of Intent (PASI) to the local Flight Standards District Office via the FAA’s Safety Assurance System (SAS) External Portal. Applicants who are unable to access the SAS External Portal may submit the PASI to the local FSDO, who will enter the information from the PASI into SAS.
- When the PASI is accepted by the FAA, the office manager will initiate the Certification Service Oversight Process (CSOP).
- CSOP is a process that the FAA uses to determine if it has the necessary resources to conduct an initial certification and the continued operational safety oversight for a certificate applicant. The process determines if the certification process will be assigned and begin, or if the applicant will be placed onto a wait list. FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 11, Chapter 13, Section 1 contains additional information on the CSOP process.
More information is available at FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 1.
The completion of the Pre-application Phase also completes Gate 1 of the certification process.
Phase 2 – Formal Application
The formal application phase begins when the formal application and all the required documents are received by the FAA certification team.
Items that must be submitted include:
- Formal Application Letter
- Schedule of Events
- Compliance Statement
- Company Manuals (GOM & GMM) (if required by the Scope of Operation)
- Training Curricula (if required by the Scope of Operation)
- Management Qualification Attachments (Resumes)
- Documents of purchase, contracts, and/or lease attachments.
- SAS Element Design Assessment Tools (ED-DCT’s)
- Proposed Operations Specifications
- Flight Attendant Materials (if required) FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 1, Figure 2-13 Certification Job Aid
Items required to be submitted in the Formal Application are detailed in FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 1.
The Formal Application Phase is concluded with the Formal Application Meeting. This meeting gives the FAA and the applicant an opportunity to address any questions and resolve minor issues encountered in the certification process to this point.
Additional information on the Formal Application Phase is located at FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 2.
The completion of the Formal Application Phase also completes Gate 2 of the certification process.
Phase 3 — Design Assessment
The Design Assessment (DA) phase is that part of the certification process when the applicant’s manuals and other documents are reviewed in depth to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and conformity to safe operating practices.
Additional information on the Design Assessment phase is located at FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 3.
Phase 4 — Performance Assessment
In this phase, the certification team determines that the applicant’s proposed procedures and programs for training and directing personnel in the performance of their duties are effective. In this phase, the emphasis is on compliance with regulations and the operating procedures contained in the applicant’s manuals, as applicable.
Additional information on the Performance Assessment phase is located at FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 4.
The completion of the Performance Assessment Phase also completes Gate 3 of the certification process.
Phase 5 — Administrative Functions
In this phase the FAA will issue the certificate and the operations specifications (OpSpecs) to the applicant. This action completes the certification process. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not, under any circumstances, certificate an applicant until the certification project manager (CPM) determines that the applicant is fully capable of fulfilling his/her responsibilities as charged by Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.) (formerly the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (FA Act)) and that the applicant will comply with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) in an appropriate manner.
Additional information on the Administrative Functions phase is located at FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 5.