At HAV we have been working with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other European manufacturers of buoyant aircraft, to develop and finalise the certification basis for airship-based aircraft designs. This is an important step on our path to Type Certification. You can access the final certification basis here. In this article we break down what it means for Airlander.
What is Type Certification?
Our Head of Airworthiness previously wrote an article on how we certify Airlander for worldwide operation, which you can read here. To recap there is a legal requirement for an aircraft design to be approved by the authorities. A Type Certificate states that an aircraft design meets the airworthiness design requirements and can be expected to fly safely when operated and maintained in accordance with the approved manuals.
The certification basis
To achieve the Type Certification the organisation designing the aircraft must show compliance with a set of official regulations, this is called the certification basis. For most aircraft the certification basis is long established. For Airlander there was no current certification basis, which means there were no design rules for modern aircraft using airship technologies.
Working with the regulators
At HAV we work very closely with the regulators and authorities to ensure Airlander and its operations will comply with regulations and policies around the world. In 2017, during our flight test programme, we began conversations with EASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the design rules for aircraft like Airlander. Design rules (also known as the certification basis) tend to be internationally common, so talking to two of the largest regulators in the world was a good starting place.
EASA and the FAA wanted us to work on a new set of performance-based rules, these are rules that then leave the manufacturer to identify how they will meet them. As an organisation paving the way in hybrid aircraft technology the regulators were keen for us to contribute to the design parameters so that they will be applicable to hybrid aircraft, as well as more traditional lighter-than-air airship designs.
We worked for a number of years on this with EASA and Flying Whales, an organisation developing airships, to ensure the certification basis could be implemented industry wide.
Once we had created a draft set of design rules, EASA released them for a consultation during which industry experts and the general public are invited to comment on them. Following this process, the final certification basis was published in January this year.
This is an exciting milestone as we have the final design rules which we must meet to be Type Certified by EASA. We worked closely with EASA as until January 2021 it was our domestic authority. Since January 2021, our domestic authority is the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), meaning that our Type Certification programme will be carried out by the CAA. We intend to propose to the CAA and other regulators around the world that they adopt SC GAS as their certification basis.
We will be working closely with the CAA, EASA and the FAA, throughout the design, production and flight test programme to ensure a smooth and timely launch of a Type Certified Airlander into the market.
The newly published EASA certification basis is a really important part of the foundations that we require to allow us to deliver Airlander and rethink the skies.