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As I understand it, the FAA certifies certain aircraft types for IFR flight in general. All aircraft of that type are then certified, not something you have to do with each individual aircraft.

What are the minimum requirements for aircraft to be certified for IFR? Is it all location-sensing equipment?

And a bonus: can I get a single aircraft that is only VFR certified to be IFR certified if I add more equipment?

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As you say, the FAA certifies an aircraft for certain "kinds of operation". For a normal category airplane certified under 14 CFR 23, it basically says that it must be "established appropriate to the installed equipment":

§23.1525 Kinds of operation.
The kinds of operation authorized (e.g. VFR, IFR, day or night) and the meteorological conditions (e.g. icing) to which the operation of the airplane is limited or from which it is prohibited, must be established appropriate to the installed equipment.

The installed equipment required for IFR flight (beyond that required for VFR flight) is listed in 91.205(d) and is mostly equipment used to communicate with ATC and to maintain control of the airplane when flying without visual reference to the ground (so no navigation equipment is specified):

§91.205 Powered civil aircraft with standard category U.S. airworthiness certificates: Instrument and equipment requirements.

...

(d) Instrument flight rules. For IFR flight, the following instruments and equipment are required:

(1) Instruments and equipment specified in paragraph (b) of this section, and, for night flight, instruments and equipment specified in paragraph (c) of this section.

(2) Two-way radio communication and navigation equipment suitable for the route to be flown.

(3) Gyroscopic rate-of-turn indicator, except on the following aircraft:

(i) Airplanes with a third attitude instrument system usable through flight attitudes of 360 degrees of pitch and roll and installed in accordance with the instrument requirements prescribed in §121.305(j) of this chapter; and

(ii) Rotorcraft with a third attitude instrument system usable through flight attitudes of ±80 degrees of pitch and ±120 degrees of roll and installed in accordance with §29.1303(g) of this chapter.

(4) Slip-skid indicator.

(5) Sensitive altimeter adjustable for barometric pressure.

(6) A clock displaying hours, minutes, and seconds with a sweep-second pointer or digital presentation.

(7) Generator or alternator of adequate capacity.

(8) Gyroscopic pitch and bank indicator (artificial horizon).

(9) Gyroscopic direction indicator (directional gyro or equivalent).

As far as converting an airplane from VFR to IFR, the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) must specify that the airplane is designed for IFR flight, and then you could add the missing equipment to make it qualify.

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  • $\begingroup$ "(so no navigation equipment is specified)" - navigation equipment appears to be specified under part (2)? Or do you mean it doesn't specify exactly what navigation equipment is required, only that some is present? $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 2 '16 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ No lighting for instruments required? $\endgroup$ – Andrius Feb 2 '16 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @JonStory Not "some", but "suitable for the route to be flown." That part isn't specific because it can be met in various ways. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 2 '16 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrius There are different requirements for night flying, which include those. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 2 '16 at 16:04

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