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If I were to build a plane of my own design as a prototype for possible sales, what steps would I need to take to get an airworthiness certificate from the FAA? If it's truly a certified aircraft and not a homebuilt?

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    $\begingroup$ You are asking what the entire process of certification is? First thing you do is make one that you can run through the certification program, you can't certify an aircraft without building one first, then you have to fly it. Certification is a long, very expensive process. Until you get certification, your aircraft will be experimental. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 6 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ I edited your question to make it a little clearer, I hope! If I got it wrong, please edit again or be just roll back to the previous version. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Feb 8 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Actually I have a design that I believe would be commercially feasible. I understand that I would need to be part 23 compliant I understand that once the design was accepted that I would need a min of 3 prototypes. 21 for ground testing, I to fly and 1 for destructive testing of the design limits. I am under the impression that getting it from paper design so to speak to full certification would be between 2 and 5 mil. Is that anywhere even near a correct number? $\endgroup$ – Joe Dively Feb 10 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeDively You haven't said how big the aircraft is or how complex. An eight year old swag for a part 23 aircraft is $$25m for design and test and another $25m for certification. This does not get you a production certificate. generalaviationnews.com/2012/09/09/the-cost-of-certification $\endgroup$ – Pilothead Feb 11 at 2:28
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You can't legally fly any aircraft heavier than an ultralight unless it is certified. Your prototype will be certified as Experimental Category in one of these classes. The certification is awarded based on inspection during construction, on completion, and after a flight test period. The design is not subject to FAA approval.

If you want to manufacture aircraft for sale, you need approval of the design. This is called a Type Certificate. For smaller general aviation aircraft the appropriate regulation is Part 23 which states the requirements. There are also Advisory Circulars which provide clarification on approved means for satisfying the design requirements.

To avoid the expense of inspecting and flight testing every aircraft as is required for the experimental category, manufacturers instead obtain a production certificate. This reference is for larger part 21 aircraft. The production process is approved rather than inspecting each aircraft as it is produced. Each aircraft is still flight tested, but this may take an hour or less as compared to an Experimental flight test, which is 40 hours.

Reading these four references will give you some limited understanding of what you are asking. Here is an 2012 swag at certification costs. Part 23 was estimated at $$25m for design and testing, then another $25m for certification. This does not get you a production certificate.

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    $\begingroup$ "You can't legally fly any aircraft unless it is certified." I'll point out that ultralights don't need airworthiness certifications. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Feb 8 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 You are correct. $\endgroup$ – Pilothead Feb 8 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Pilothead Those articles and others related to the topic were very helpful. I guess me next step is to have a talk with the FAA about what I want to accomplish and see what they have to say. $\endgroup$ – Joe Dively Feb 10 at 4:56

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