Completing the Certification Process

Introduction to the Certification Process

Your submission of the Formal Application Letter and the required items on the Pre-Application Checklist (PAC) begins the actual certification process. The Certification Process, located in FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2, Chapter 3 Section 1 - 5: (Section 1, Section 2, Section 3, Section 4, Section 5), delineates your role and the role of the Certification Project Team (CPT) during the entire certification process. Use this guidance as a reference while you complete requirements for each of the certification process phases.

Phase 2: Formal Application

The Formal Application phase includes the three key steps listed below:

Phase 3: Design Assessment

Design assessment is the function that ensures that your operating systems are designed to comply with regulations and safety standards, including the requirement to provide service at the highest level of safety in the public interest. (You can download these Data Collection Tools from Dynamic Regulatory System (DRS), under Safety Assurance System (SAS)  – SAS FS Data Collection Tools.)

Design assessment is the most important function of SAS because safety is the outcome of a properly designed system. Poor system design compromises safety risk management.

The FAA is not looking for the absence of hazards and risks; that is not practical in a high consequence operation such as aviation. What we are looking for is this: Do you have policies and procedures in place that allow your organization to manage hazard related risk in your system and operating environment?

The Certification Project Manager (CPM) and Certification Project Team (CPT) will continue the process that was used during the Initial Review. Team members will answer Element Design (ED) DCT questions with your system documentation. For each applicable Element, the inspector will:

  • Read your system documentation for the process.
  • Read the Specific Regulatory Requirement (SRRs) listed on the DCT to review the regulatory requirements for the process.
  • Read the FAA’s policy and guidance for the process to review the intent of the regulation and inspector work instructions.
  • If self-audited ED DCT have been submitted
    • Verify that you answered the questions correctly (Yes, No or NA).
    • Verify that your references to the location where the information was found for a question are correct.

For each applicable Element, the certification project manager must decide if your process design meets the requirements for approval and acceptance. Your process design must:

  • Comply with the literal requirements of aviation regulations.
  • Comply with the intent of the regulations by being capable of identifying operational hazards and managing their associated risks to an acceptable level.
  • Allow your personnel to perform their duties and responsibilities with a high degree of safety.

The CPT verifies that all of your Elements fall into one of the three categories associated with Design Accepted/Approved status before you can proceed to Phase 4, Performance Assessment. Refer to Table 10-6-1A in FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 10, Chapter 6, Section 1 for a complete description of Design Accepted/Approved categories.

During Phase 3 the applicant should develop their Fatigue Risk Management Program (FRMP), Fatigue Education and Awareness Training (FEAT) program, and Weight and Balance Control Program. These programs are reviewed by AFS-200 and AFS-300 respectively for approval by the Principal Operations Inspector (POI). These programs should be submitted as early in the process as possible. Refer to Order 8900.1, Volume 3, Chapter 58 and Chapter 47 for guidance

During Phase 3 the applicants Safety Management System will be validated. The responses to the SMS Design Validation Custom DCT must result in all “Yes” answers in order to accept the Applicants SMS design. After the Safety Risk Management (SRM) Design Validation is accepted, the SRM process should be used for the remainder of the certification process.

Before moving on to Phase 4 of the certification process all programs have been accepted or approved and, you must meet all Phase 3 Gate (PDF) requirements.

Phase 4: Performance Assessment

Performance assessment is the SAS function that helps ensure operational safety. During your demonstration events, inspectors use the Element Performance Assessments (EPA) data collection tool to collect information that will be used by the CPM to determine if your systems are performing as intended and producing the desired result.

During the Performance Assessment phase, you must:

  1. The Accountable Executive will confirm your operational readiness for this phase by conducting an internal safety performance assessment of your operating systems, using your company’s audit procedures and documentation as required by 14 CFR part 5, §5.73. After you ensure that all concerns found during the internal safety assessment are successfully addressed, you submit the results of the audit to the CPM.
  2. During this phase the applicant’s SMS will be reviewed for acceptance using the Design Demonstration DCT. The Safety Risk Management (SRM) design that was accepted in Phase 3 must be used during this phase. Actual acceptance of the SMS is indicated by the issuance of an Air Carrier Certificate.
  3. Complete an aircraft conformity evaluation as described in FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 10 Chapter 9 Section 1. The purpose of an aircraft conformity inspection is to verify that your aircraft conforms to its type design and is configured/bridged to your approved program and operations. Refer to FAA’s public website Aircraft Conformity for more information.
  4. Prepare for the demonstration of your proposed operation. Your role is to:
    • Submit plans for a demonstration emergency evacuation, ditching, and proving test.
    • Submit a request for a letter of authorization (LOA), in accordance with 14 CFR part 119, §119.33(c), for demonstrating appropriate operations under part 121. Make this request at least 10 business days before any aircraft flight demonstration. (See FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 3 Chapter 29, Section 4.)
    • Submit draft Operations Specifications (PDF).
  5. Complete tabletop exercises. Refer to FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 3, Chapter 29, Section 5. The purpose of this step is for the FAA to determine if your system processes and personnel perform at a level that justifies conducting proving tests. Your role is to:
    • Conduct the tabletop exercise with the certification project team and discuss the results of each scenario.
    • Make corrections to your system design and/or correct personnel performance issues before beginning proving tests.
  6. Conduct evacuation/ditching demonstrations, as required. Refer to paragraph 2-323 G in FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2 Chapter 3 Section 4.
  7. Conduct proving tests. Proving tests begin only after all Phase 4 Gate Prior to Proving Flights requirements (PDF) are met. Refer to Figure 2-99 in FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 2, Chapter 3, Section 2.

FAA team members will report their observations during these activities on the Element Performance Assessment (EPA) data collection tool or Custom Data Collection Tools. The CPM will analyze that data and make an assessment about the performance of an air carrier system. In the past we focused on finding what was wrong with the way the system was performing; the focus now is on what is right and what is working well. We will continue to identify deficiencies; but we are assuming that the system process, if it is well-designed, should be performing the way it was intended and producing the desired result.

There are categories of “performance affirmed.” See Table 10-6-1A of Order 8900.1 Volume 10 Chapter 6 Section 1. The CPM must be able to affirm the performance of each applicable Element in one of these categories before you can move to Phase 5 – Administrative Functions.

Phase 4 ends after the successful completion of the proving tests.

Phase 5: Administrative Functions


The air carrier certificate and approved operations specifications are issued to you after you have corrected all significant unsatisfactory items. This action completes the certification process. You shall not be certificated under any circumstance until the CPM and the CPT has determined that you are fully capable of fulfilling the responsibilities as charged by Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.) and that you will comply with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) in an appropriate manner.

FAA Form 8430-18, Air Carrier Certificate, shall be used for an air carrier certificate.

Issuance of Operations Specifications and Certificate

When it is determined that you have met all regulatory requirements, the appropriate certificate and operations specifications will be presented to you. The operations specifications are prepared in accordance with the procedures in FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 3, Chapter 18.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Economic Authority

Applicants for an air carrier certificate will not for any reason be issued operations specifications or a certificate until they have presented a copy of the DOT economic authority to the CPM. Proving Tests will not begin until the Department of Transportation issued the show Cause Order, or in the case of a CFR part 135 applicant applying for 121 authority, the Final Order.

Before issuance, the operations specifications will be signed by the applicant and the appropriate principal inspectors. The original certificate and operations specifications will then be given to the new certificate holder.

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Last updated: Monday, June 27, 2022