Airworthiness can be considered as the sum of: initial airworthiness and continuing airworthiness. Roughly speaking, the first is the work that goes on before an authority issues a Type Certificate for an aircraft and the second is what happens afterwards when it goes into service.
So, let’s assume we have an aircraft designed, manufactured and certificated in accordance with a set of requirements ready to enter service. It’s imperative that the aircraft is properly serviced and maintained, and problems are fixed as they are discovered.
To achieve this a continued airworthiness programme is needed to support an aircraft in service.
Included within this is the need for a maintenance programme. The reason for maintenance is to control the rate of deterioration of an aircraft. This is achieved by two types of maintenance. The first is preventive maintenance that relies on inspection and repeated activities to identify and fix problems. The second is remedial maintenance, which includes repairs, and fixing a problem after an abnormal event (heavy landing, bird or lightning strike etc.). All the above can be done for each aircraft as it is needed and set against an agreed schedule.
However, the story doesn’t end at that point. A continued airworthiness programme takes lessons learned from experience and applies them not just to one aircraft but to a whole fleet of the same design. It’s a philosophy that requires problems to be identified and reacted to with the aim of preventing their recurrence. That could be lessons learned from accidents, incidents, occurrences or analysis that wasn’t routine or planned.
Airworthiness is an integrated activity and so all the above impacts the approvals, processes and procedures that are applied. To undertake the work of continuing airworthiness there are approved organisations and licenced personnel to certify that work has been properly completed.
These are few words to describe an extensive system that works on a global scale. Airworthiness is a vital component of aviation that is ever vigilant so that we can fly safely.