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Every avionic, developed for use in the cockpit has to complete a long and expensive certification process.

Is this only applying for avionics, installed fixed into the aircraft or also for apps like ForeFlight for example?

For example: If I had developed an app similar to ForeFlight to use on the tablet, is there anything I had to do in regards to certification or could I just sell it to pilots?

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    $\begingroup$ If it is permanently attached to the airplane then it needs some kind of approval—TSO, PMA, or STC. Otherwise, in Part 91 flying, you can use whatever you want—provided the PIC has determined that they do not cause interference with the radio or nav equipment. Handheld GPSs, and tablet EFB apps like ForeFlight and WingsX are not attached so they do not need approval. The exception is for Part 135 and 121 operations (charter and airline). They need to amend their op specs in order to use EFBs instead of paper. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Jul 3 '17 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ You don't specify which category of aircraft and which legislation you refer to. For instance, in most of Europe, if your plane does not have a type certificate, then your avionics don't necessarily have to be certified. You may have to employ a few certified instruments, but they would typically be mechanical (altimeter, tachometer, compass) and don't fall in the "avionics" category. This provides you with a path to develop and test avionics at lower cost, and when ready you can put your product through the certification process. $\endgroup$ – Monolo Jul 3 '17 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Experimental aircraft do not need certified (TSO'd) avionics. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jul 3 '17 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ Based on my work experience: is it essential for normal flight? yes -> "DAL A" no -> DAL B/C/whatever depending on how much "no" $\endgroup$ – Federico Jul 3 '17 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico it really comes down to failure modes, and you can always go up. I've seen PFDs certifiable to level C. The Phenom 100/300 & Hondajet HA-420 GCUs were level B. $\endgroup$ – selectstriker2 Jul 3 '17 at 17:42
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The answer depends on the functionality and capability of the app. Some basic apps do not need to be certified, whilst more complicated ones will (either by the airline or by the regulator).

Tablets are split into 3 categories (these are the US FAA definitions): 1) Portable devices not mounted to the aircraft with read-only access to aircraft data. 2) Portable devices that can be mounted and can share information with aircraft systems. 3) Permanently mounted devices with access to the flight management computer.

There are also 3 classes of app: A) Basic apps providing info such as aircraft manuals and procedures. B) More complex apps providing some navigation info, weather info or exterior views of the aircraft. C) More complex apps that can provide navigation information and can include 'own ship' position via GPS or the aircraft navigation platform.

Class 1 and 2 tablets can only host type A or B apps. Type A and B apps can be 'self certified' by the airline, providing that documentation on failure modes and usability is available. Some restrictions are in place for type B apps displaying, for example, weather info. Type C apps require regulator approval.

That's a brief summary, but it's very complex. Full details available
in this FAA document. Regulations worldwide vary, but most are broadly similar to those specified by the FAA.

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  • $\begingroup$ What about tablets that are not permanently attached to the aircraft and which do not get data from aircraft systems? Where do those fit into the classifications you mentioned? $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jul 5 '17 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ As mentioned, that's a Category 1 tablet. $\endgroup$ – os1 Jul 6 '17 at 10:16
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Type certified aircraft are going to have certifiable avionics approved through TSO, PMA, or TC/STC. Those avionics with software that must be certifiable will likely follow RTCA DO-178(B or C) Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification.

Following from JScarry's comment:

If it is permanently attached to the airplane then it needs some kind of approval—TSO, PMA, or STC. Otherwise, in Part 91 flying, you can use whatever you want—provided the PIC has determined that they do not cause interference with the radio or nav equipment. Handheld GPSs, and tablet EFB apps like ForeFlight and WingsX are not attached so they do not need approval. The exception is for Part 135 and 121 operations (charter and airline). They need to amend their op specs in order to use EFBs instead of paper

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