Aircraft can be brought into the US and be made airworthy by FAA standards. What about aircraft legally modified in other countries?

For example, there is a new STC to put a Rotax 912 into Cessna 150s approved by the EASA. Can that STC be made legal in the US even though no similar STC exists here?

If yes, is this just due to relations between the EASA and FAA, or can this be done with aircraft coming from anywhere?

  • $\begingroup$ AOPA has a lengthy article on the subject of importation but I don't think it really answers my quesion. aopa.org/Pilot-Resources/PIC-archive/Aircraft-Ownership/… $\endgroup$
    – StallSpin
    Apr 1, 2014 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ as long as you are willing to follow through with the certification process I don't doubt they would allow it $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2014 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak but what is the process? A normal person couldn't afford to do the full STC certification process. A one-time 337 approval might work but that's not really an "official" way to do it since there's no guarantee it will be accepted. $\endgroup$
    – StallSpin
    Apr 1, 2014 at 22:17

2 Answers 2


Well, pretty much anything can be given a US airworthiness certificate provided it's not literally falling to pieces. You could certificate such an aircraft as a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the Experimental category -- Specifically one of:

Experimental -- Research and Development
To conduct aircraft operations as a matter of research or to determine if an idea warrants further development. Typical uses for this certificate include new equipment installations, operating techniques, or new uses for aircraft.


Experimental -- Showing compliance with regulations
To show compliance to the airworthiness regulations when an applicant has revised the type certificate design data or has applied for a supplemental type certificate or field approval.

If your goal is to ultimately get this aircraft a Standard airworthiness certificate you would probably want the latter, to allow you to conduct test/certification flights in the modified aircraft.
To then get a standard airworthiness certificate things are a bit more murky. You could get a US STC based on the European STC & using this aircraft as the example for conformity inspections and flight testing, but that would require going through the STC process.

The other option would be the 337 process, in which case you are also going to need an A&P mechanic (preferably one with Inspection Authorization) and the cooperation of your local FSDO to approve the modification as a "major alteration" (FAA Form 337 - Instructions here).

As you alluded to in your question, something like installing a Rotax engine in a Cessna 150 is a "Major Modification" that has no "FAA Approved Data" (STC procedure/drawings/etc.) to include with the 337, so you would need to submit "Acceptable Data" for your modification (the European STC is a good starting point) and work with the FAA to obtain approval for the modification.

This is something you would want to talk to the FAA about before purchasing an aircraft with such a modification (there's a good chance they may not approve the modification, which would leave you with an unairworthy aircraft, or one restricted to the Experimental category).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is pretty much the answer I expected. Aircraft certification is such a convoluted business... $\endgroup$
    – StallSpin
    Apr 2, 2014 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ @StallSpin It's actually not all that bad - If you BUILT a Cessna 152 from plans & installed a Rotax engine in it the FAA would rubber-stamp your "Experimental - Amateur Built" airworthiness certificate after a few flight tests. What makes this case more painful is you're modifying a certificated design (in such a way that it no longer conforms to its type certificate or an approved supplement - both of which would have had appropriate flight tests proving their safety). $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Apr 2, 2014 at 6:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If I were faced with this problem, my first call would be to the EAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association. $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2014 at 15:32

If the aircraft you import to the US was certified by country that the US has a aviation bilateral agreement with (https://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/international/bilateral_agreements/baa_basa_listing/) your ability to import the aircraft would be improved and much easier because the BASA (Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement) among many things recognizes the other country's certification process with focus on certification differences such as the STC you mentioned (e.g. Issue Papers and Certification Review Items). The US does have a BASA with EASA.


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