Progress towards achieving a US/Russian bilateral airworthiness agreement remains slow.


THE USA AND RUSSIA will break no speed records in their marathon efforts to complete a bilateral airworthiness agreement, say US aviation officials involved in the negotiations.

While some progress is reported in the "shadow certification" of the Ilyushin Il-96T cargo aircraft and the single-engined general-aviation Il-103, much remains to be done before these Russian-made aircraft are given US Federal Aviation Administration seals of approval. The Russians covet such an endorsement, as it could pave the way for sales in the West - especially to US customers.


Discussions about increased co-operation in aircraft-certification activities began in June 1990 between the FAA and the State Supervisory Commission for Flight Safety, or Gosavianadzor (GAN), of the former USSR.

In December of that year, the US Department of State received a Soviet diplomatic note requesting a US/USSR bilateral airworthiness agreement, and the technical process leading to it began in 1991. The dissolution of the Soviet Union shortly afterwards created political upheaval, however, and this was mirrored in the aviation community as the former Republics of the USSR each established their own civil-aviation authorities.

The centralised structures of the Soviet civil-aviation ministry and the GAN were divided between a variety of organisations, including Russia's Department of Air Transport and the Russian Commission for Air Traffic Regulation (Rosaeronavigatsiya) under the transport ministry, and the Interstate Aviation Committee of the CIS.

The Interstate Aviation Committee is known more commonly by its Russian acronym, MAK (Mezhgosudarstvenniy Aviatsionniy Komitet). The MAK has overall authority for various functions, including aircraft certification, and it operates through several organisations, including the Aviation Register (AR), which is directly responsible for CIS aircraft certification. A small organisation, the AR relies heavily on technical support and funding from the manufacturer design bureaux.

For the past five years, FAA and MAK AR officials have laboured over details of an agreement concerning the two aircraft selected by the Russians for the initial shadow-certification programme. The Il-96T freighter, with Pratt & Whitney engines and Rockwell-Collins avionics, and the Il-103, with a Teledyne Continental engine and a Hartzel propeller, were selected for the project because both new aircraft have major US components and, as a result, sales potential outside Russia. Earlier this year, Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines (ARIA) received $1 billion in financing from the US Export-Import Bank (Exim) to help it purchase 20 of the four-engined Il-96M/Ts.

Russian certification of the first production aircraft, the Il-96T freighter, could come before the end of this year. Partnair of the Netherlands said at the 1993 Paris Air Show that it wanted to buy five Il-96Ms.

Ilyushin is planning to deliver five to seven Il-96M/Ts a year, beginning in 1997. P&W PW2337 engines, Collins avionics, Sundstrand generators and other US components account for $50 million of the Il-96M/T's $80 million price. The aircraft is capable of carrying up to 375 passengers.

Technical meetings about the aircraft have been held. In addition, FAA officials have visited Russia to review the Russian aircraft design and certification process. Meetings have been held in the USA and Russia since 1991, and are planned to continue into the future.


Completing an airworthiness agreement is different from the continuing efforts between the FAA and the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) to "harmonise" the overall type certification process. In February, both sides adopted new rules, which created a common set of certification standards for US and European small aircraft. The new rules represent the first comprehensive regulatory harmonisation package from the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC).

The package of regulations applies to any new small aircraft, weighing less than 5,675kg. The new rules will reduce the burden on general-aviation manufacturers, which previously had to comply with individual aircraft-design standards of the USA and those of each country, which is a member of the JAA.

The ARAC, which includes European and US aviation officials and industry representatives, has reviewed differences in FAR and JAR rules for certification of small aircraft and has come up with an agreement on how to resolve the variances, which is acceptable to both the FAA and JAA. While harmonisation creates a common core of certification standards, an airworthiness agreement gives the US aviation agency the confidence to accept another nation's aircraft certification.

For example, in March 1995 the FAA awarded the 19-seat Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Y-12 regional twin-turboprop a Part 23 type certificate, making it the first aircraft designed and manufactured in China to be cleared for sale in the USA. The Y-12, powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-27, has been sold outside China, but has yet to find a US customer.

A shadow Part 25 certification is under way for the Harbin Y7-200, which is powered by two P&W PW127s, and is fitted with Rockwell-Collins avionics and an AlliedSignal Engines auxiliary power unit. The firm hopes to win FAA certification of the aircraft - the Chinese version of the Antonov An-24 - before the end of 1996.


Elizabeth Yoest, the FAA's deputy director for aircraft-certification services, says that the US aviation agency continues to work with its Russian counterparts in assessing Russia's civil-aircraft certification system. Although it does not have to be identical to FAA certification, "-it must provide us with a level of confidence that they understand our airworthiness standards and can apply them in the same way that we would", she says.

"They must have in place a system that continuously monitors the operational safety of any product that they would certify. They must also be independent from the design entities, thus providing a level of oversight that we can be comfortable with," adds Yoest.

Through the shadow certification, "-we are watching them and assessing their competence as they go through the steps we would go through if we were certifying a product", she states. "Although we have come a long way and made quite a bit of progress, there are still issues that need to be worked out before a bilateral can be successfully concluded," she says. She adds that the Russians have made considerable progress in establishing their systems and increasing their knowledge of US airworthiness standards, and how those are to be applied.

There remain, however, unresolved matters, including "some system-level issues" which are not related to any particular aircraft. There is also work relating to the oversight and establishment of airworthiness certification and procedural-type regulations, says Yoest. She notes that there are "-open issues about clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the different aviation organisations now in place".


In 1993, Anthony Broderick, then the FAA's associate administrator for regulation and certification, said that efforts toward a bilateral airworthiness agreement by the FAA and its Russian counterpart had not made as much progress as the FAA had hoped.

In an informal progress report, he noted that differences remained in aviation-engineering approaches, design philosophies and certification standards and practices. Broderick - who recently retired - said that the FAA had reservations about the comparability of US and Russian certification systems in respect of crash-worthiness, production and continuing air-worthiness.

He noted that FAA personnel had not witnessed many certification tests or conducted joint flight tests. English translations of Russian technical documents and regulations were hard to obtain. He also said that oversight of production plants was not yet well established.

Three years later, Broderick concludes that the bilateral project "-is certainly moving slower than anybody had intended when the programme started".

He blames the snail's pace on "-resource constraints on the part of the Russians, mainly in the industrial sector. Data necessary to be reviewed by FAA and Russian aviation authorities has been slow in coming from Ilyushin."

In agreeing with Broderick that cash-strapped Iluyshin is much to blame, a US industry official familiar with the shadow certification says: "The pace is not very satisfactory. Things are taking a terribly long time." The official, who declines to be identified, says that it took the FAA nearly two years to convince the Russians that the shadow certification would not progress until the technical data was forthcoming. "The Russians have been at the root of the problem in not producing the data required by the FAA," he concludes.


Broderick says that there are differences, which need to be addressed and resolved about data provided to the FAA. "You can have differences in philosophy, but you have to understand how those differences relate to the data that the FAA needs in order to do a certification," he says.

The FAA's Yoest can not say precisely when the shadow certification will be completed, but she notes that "-typically, a bilateral assessment process like this happens over a course of five to eight years".

Al Astorga, the FAA's manager of international airworthiness programmes staff, says, somewhat facetiously: "We're closer today than we were in 1991." Yoest believes that the work is more than 50% completed.

Now an outside observer, Broderick can not predict when the bilateral airworthiness agreement will be finalised. "Earlier in the year, when we reviewed the programme, it looked like there might be a chance to do something this year with the Il-103. I do not know what progress has been made since then," he states.

The US industry official understands that shadow-certification work on the Il-103 is "fairly close" to being completed. Based on Yoest's status report, however, work appears to have bogged down this year, largely because of Ilyushin's inability to provide technical data.

Astorga believes this shadow certification is only the first step. He says that other designs identified by Russia will eventually be added to the bilateral airworthiness agreement.

Source: Flight International