Aircraft Certification Service

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aircraft Certification Service in the Office of Aviation Safety is comprised of more than 1,300 engineers, scientists, inspectors, test pilots and other experts who are responsible for the design and production approval, airworthiness certification, and continued airworthiness programs of all U.S. civil aviation products.

Why is the FAA transforming the Aircraft Certification Service?
The Aircraft Certification Service Transformation is aimed at increasing the FAA’s efficiency and effectiveness. As part of the FAA’s efforts to improve its responsiveness to the U.S. aviation industry as it certificates new products, the agency is refreshing its certification strategy, investing in management systems to improve performance and the organization. Streamlining its regulations and policies will help the industry move products to market faster and retain competitiveness.  Read more about the long-term realignment strategy in the new Blueprint for AIR Transformation.

What is the Aircraft Certification Transformation?
On July 23, the Aircraft Certification Service will implement a new, functionally-aligned organizational structure (PDF) to execute the certification strategy. Realignment is the first visible phase of the transformation process.

What are the benefits?
The benefits of a functionally-aligned organization are:

  • Consistency and Standardization -- Improves consistency and standardization by establishing single functional lines for certification, standards, and system oversight.
  • Innovation --Fosters innovation by engaging applicants and industry early to understand new concepts and ensure a viable path to compliance.
  • System Oversight – Shifts focus from transactional compliance activities to system oversight and early involvement in standards development.
  • Streamlined Certification Facilitates early industry engagement and risk-based monitoring to eliminate unnecessary FAA involvement in the “critical path” during certification.
  • Metrics-Based Analysis – Establishes business practices for utilizing metrics to determine efficacy of Industry/FAA associated with compliance and time to market.
  • Agility and Adaptability – provides agility and adaptability to meet the challenges of the dynamic global aviation industry.

What is changing? 
The Service’s current organization is structured to support local office engagement with industry through four product-based directorates with geographical certification responsibilities.

before_realignmentAs the aviation industry becomes increasingly global, industry feedback suggests that the Service is unable to keep pace with the industry demands and cannot maintain consistency and standardization.

To respond to these challenges, the FAA needs a structure that better aligns personnel and executive leadership with the work performed. It will incrementally shift the focus of resources to enable early engagement with industry and promote more consistent oversight of the aviation system. The agency expects an effective realignment to produce an incremental reduction in involvement during the certification program. In turn, freed resources will be refocused on areas of high safety impact and areas that the Service does not currently have the capacity to support, such as fleet safety activities, new technology, or working with emerging foreign airworthiness authorities.

Realignment:  An Interim State on the Road to Reorganization
In 2017, the Service is using an incremental approach to implement a new, functionally-aligned structure to institutionalize the process improvements that are currently in progress. Realignment, the first visible phase of this approach, groups similar organizations together to create the functional divisions while maintaining existing sub-division organizational structures.  For example, existing local offices, such as Aircraft Certification Offices (ACOs), Standards Staffs, Technical and Administrative Support Offices, Manufacturing Inspection Offices (MIOs), and Manufacturing Inspection District Offices (MIDOs), etc. will be moved to align with the functional divisions.


During this phase, the existing industry points of contact will be retained to ensure seamless relationship management and to facilitate contact with the appropriate FAA employees.  As an outcome of realignment, the directorate structure will cease to exist. 

A Functionally-Aligned Organization 
The future organization is structured into five functionally-aligned divisions. Three of these divisions perform essential regulatory functions:

  • Policy and Innovation improves the Service’s standards and policy with a particular focus on enabling new technology and innovative business models;
  • Compliance and Airworthiness maintains and improves the FAA’s gold-standard track record for certifying and assuring continued airworthiness of specific products;
  • System Oversight coordinates and integrates safety oversight for the aircraft design and manufacturing community.

The other two Divisions provide the internal infrastructure needed to assure exceptional performance:

  • Organizational Performance monitors the Service’s performance relative to internal metrics and leads in planning and implementing strategic changes to improve performance;
  • Enterprise Operations provides core services including human resources, finance, information management, and workforce development support to assure effective management of resources needed to accomplish the Service’s mission.

This organization is led by the Aircraft Certification Service Executive Director, who is supported by two deputies. One deputy is focused on tactical “regulatory operations” issues and the other is focused on “strategic initiatives.”