The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is empowered by the U.S. Congress to promote aviation safety by prescribing safety standards for civil aviation. Standards are established for the certification of airmen and aircraft, as well as outlining operating rules. This is accomplished through the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), formerly referred to as Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). Title 14 of the CFR (14 CFR) is titled Aeronautics and Space with Chapter 1 dedicated to the FAA. Subchapters are broken down by category with numbered parts detailing specific information. [Figure 1] For ease of reference and since the parts are numerical, the abbreviated pattern 14 CFR part ___ is used (e.g., 14 CFR part 91).

This guidance is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied upon by the FAA as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other administrative penalty. Conformity with the guidance is voluntary only and nonconformity will not affect rights and obligations under existing statutes and regulations.

Title 14 CFR, Chapter 1, Aeronautics and Space and subchapters
Figure 1. Title 14 CFR, Chapter 1, Aeronautics and Space and subchapters

While the various subchapters and parts of 14 CFR provide general to specific guidance regarding aviation operations within the U.S., the topic of aircraft certification and airworthiness is spread through several interconnected parts of 14 CFR.

  • 14 CFR part 21 prescribes procedural requirements for issuing airworthiness certificates and airworthiness approvals for aircraft and aircraft parts. A standard airworthiness certificate, FAA Form 8100-2 [Figure 1-4], is required to be displayed in the aircraft in accordance with 14 CFR part 91, section 91.203(b). It is issued for aircraft type certificated in the normal, utility, acrobatic, commuter or transport category, and for manned free balloons. A standard airworthiness certificate remains valid as long as the aircraft meets its approved type design, is in a condition for safe operation and maintenance, and preventative maintenance and alterations are performed in accordance with 14 CFR parts 21, 43, and 91.
  • 14 CFR part 39 is the authority for the FAA to issue Airworthiness Directives (ADs) when an unsafe condition exists in a product, aircraft, or part, and the condition is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design.
  • 14 CFR part 43 prescribes rules governing the maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alteration of any aircraft having a U.S. airworthiness certificate. It also applies to the airframe, aircraft engines, propellers, appliances, and component parts of such aircraft.
  • 14 CFR part 45 identifies the requirements for the identification of aircraft, engines, propellers, certain replacement and modification parts, and the nationality and registration marking required on U.S.-registered aircraft.
  • 14 CFR part 91 outlines aircraft certifications and equipment requirements for the operation of aircraft in U.S. airspace. It also prescribes rules governing maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations. Also found in 14 CFR part 91 is the requirement to maintain records of maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations, as well as records of the 100-hour, annual, progressive, and other required or approved inspections.
FAA Form 8100-2, Standard Airworthiness Certificate
Figure 2. FAA Form 8100-2, Standard Airworthiness Certificate

While 14 CFR part 91, section 91.205 outlines the minimum equipment required for flight, the Airplane Flight Manual/Pilot’s Operating Handbook (AFM/POH) lists the equipment required for the airplane to be airworthy. The equipment list found in the AFM/POH is developed during the airplane certification process. This list identifies those items that are required for airworthiness, optional equipment installed in addition to the required equipment, and any supplemental items or appliances.

Figure 3 shows an example of some of the required equipment, standard or supplemental (not required but commonly found in the aircraft) and optional equipment for an aircraft. The equipment list, originally issued by the manufacturer, is maintained by the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS). An aircraft and its installed components and parts must conform to the original Type Certificate or approved altered conditions to meet the definition of airworthy in accordance with 14 CFR part 3.5.

Certification requirements for pilots, medical certificate requirements, and operating rules are found in the following parts:

  • 14 CFR part 61 pertains to the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors. It prescribes the eligibility, aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency training, and testing requirements for each type of pilot certificate issued.
  • 14 CFR part 67 prescribes the medical standards and certification procedures for issuing medical certificates for airmen and for remaining eligible for a medical certificate.
  • 14 CFR part 68 contains requirements for operating certain small aircraft without a medical certificate.
  • 14 CFR part 91 contains general operating and flight rules. The section is broad in scope and provides general guidance in the areas of general flight rules, visual flight rules (VFR), instrument flight rules (IFR), and as previously discussed aircraft maintenance, and preventive maintenance and alterations.

Flight Standards Service

The FAA’s Flight Standards Service (FS) sets aviation standards for airmen and aircraft operations in the United States and for American airmen and aircraft around the world. Flight Standards is organized into four functional offices: Office of Safety Standards, Air Carrier Safety Assurance, General Aviation Safety Assurance, and Foundational Business.

The primary interface between FS and the general aviation community/general public is the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). The FSDOs are responsible for the certification and surveillance of certain air carriers, air operators, flight schools/training centers, airmen (pilots, flight instructors, mechanics and other certificate holders). FSDO inspectors also handle general aviation accident investigation at the request of, or in cooperation with, the National Transportation Safety Board.

Each FSDO is staffed by Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASIs) whose specialties include operations, maintenance, and avionics. General Aviation ASIs are highly qualified and experienced aviators. Once accepted for the position, an inspector will satisfactorily complete indoctrination training conducted at the FAA Academy. The indoctrination training coursework for a General Aviation Operations Inspector, which is oriented to the tasks to be performed by an ASI in the general aviation environment, includes classroom and flight training on pilot certification activities.

Thereafter, the inspector will complete recurrent training on a regular basis. Among other duties, the ASI is responsible for administering FAA practical tests for pilot and flight instructor certificates and associated ratings. Questions concerning pilot certification and/or requests for other aviation information or services should be directed to the FSDO. For specific FSDO locations and telephone numbers, refer to