Airworthiness certificate

Not to be confused with Type certificate.

A Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA), or an airworthiness certificate, is issued for an aircraft by the national aviation authority in the state in which the aircraft is registered. The airworthiness certificate attests that the aircraft is airworthy insofar as the aircraft conforms to its type design. Each airworthiness certificate is issued in one of a number of different categories. A certificate of airworthiness is issued when the aircraft is registered in the name of the owner. Thereafter, a yearly currency fee is payable to renew the Certificate of Airworthiness. If this fee is not paid when due, the certificate expires and the owner must apply again for this certificate to be issued. The Certificate of Airworthiness can only be issued when a certificate of release to service from the maintenance facility declares that the maintenance due has been carried out and the aircraft is then certified as being airworthy.

In the USA, Australia and some other countries, each airworthiness certificate is classified as either a Standard Airworthiness Certificate or a Special Airworthiness Certificate.

Standard Airworthiness Certificate

A standard airworthiness certificate is an airworthiness certificate issued for an aircraft by the national aviation authority in the state in which the aircraft is registered. A standard airworthiness certificate is one of the certificates that are mandatory if an aircraft is to be used in commercial operations. In the USA, Australia and some other countries, a standard airworthiness certificate is issued in one of the following categories:[1]

The airworthiness certificate must be carried on board the aircraft and must be presented to a representative of the aviation authority upon request.

A standard airworthiness certificate remains valid as long as the aircraft meets its approved type design and is in a condition for safe operation. In the USA, a standard airworthiness certificate remains effective providing the maintenance, preventive maintenance and alterations are performed in accordance with relevant requirements and the aircraft remains registered in the USA.[2]

A standard airworthiness certificate ceases to be valid when the aircraft ceases to be registered. Change of ownership of an aircraft does not require re-issue or re-validation of that aircraft's standard airworthiness certificate.

In contrast to a standard airworthiness certificate, an aircraft may be issued with a special airworthiness certificate. Examples of aircraft which are not eligible for standard airworthiness certificates but may be eligible for special airworthiness certificates include agricultural aircraft, experimental aircraft, and some ex-military aircraft.[1]

Special Airworthiness Certificate

A special airworthiness certificate is an airworthiness certificate that is not sufficient to allow an aircraft to be used in commercial passenger or cargo operations. In the United States a Special Airworthiness Certificate is issued in one or more of the following categories:[3]

Category Purpose(s) Title 14 CFR Section
Primary Aircraft flown for pleasure and personal use 21.24, 21.184
Restricted Aircraft with a "restricted" category type certificate, including: 21.25, 21.185
Multiple Multiple airworthiness certificates 21.187
Limited Aircraft with a "limited" category type certificate 21.189
Light-Sport Operate a light-sport aircraft, other than a gyroplane, kit-built, or transitioning ultralight like vehicle 21.190
  • Research and development — an aircraft whose purpose is to test new design concepts, equipment, or operating techniques
  • Showing compliance with regulations — a prototype aircraft that is built for the purposes of demonstrating the airworthiness of a design
  • Crew training - an aircraft used solely for training that, for some reason, does not have a standard certificate (e.g. the NASA Shuttle Training Aircraft)
  • Exhibition
  • Air racing
  • Market surveys — a sales demonstration aircraft
  • Operating amateur-built aircraft
  • Operating kit-built aircraft
  • Operating light-sport aircraft
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems
21.191, 21.193, 21.195
Special Flight Permit Special-purpose flight of an aircraft that is capable of safe flight 21.197
Provisional Aircraft with a "provisional" category type certificate for special operations and operating limitations Part 21 Subpart C,
Part 21 Subpart I, Section 91.317


Interior of Australian Lockheed Super Constellation warning "This aircraft is not required to comply with the safety regulations for standard aircraft. You fly in this aircraft at your own risk."


  1. 1 2 14 CFR, 21.175, retrieved 2010-06-17
  2. 14 CFR, 21.181, retrieved 2010-06-17
  3. Federal Aviation Administration, 14 CFR, 21.175 (b), retrieved 2010-06-17

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