I love it when I get emails and phone calls from our friends and customers asking various Genesys Aerosystems company questions. And one I seem to get a lot is: What does it take for Genesys Aerosystems to earn an FAA STC (Supplemental Type Certificate)?
Well, that’s a very good question and one that’s best answered by our Lead ODA (Organization Designation Authorization) administrator, Steven Joseph – with Genesys currently holding over 1,500 autopilot STCs, Steve’s probably been involved with as many STC programs as anyone in the business.
“In our case, the STC process is made a little easier thanks to the fact that all of our autopilots are already FAA TSO approved,” he said. “So the first step in the process is selecting which aircraft model(s) we are going to obtain the STC for. Each certificated aircraft already has its TC (Type Certificate) and the STC is a supplemental major modification to that existing FAA TC.”
According to Steve, once that’s done, he and his team get down to the real work of engineering an STC, which includes:
Determining what requirements this system must meet in order to be STC’d on a particular aircraft or aircraft series. Will the FAA permit it to be STC’d to the aircraft’s original certification regulations or must it be done to today’s more stringent levels?
• Developing a detailed certification plan (with a compliance checklist and conformity inspection plan), including reviewing the aircraft’s original TC and data sheet. Often, if we have an autopilot already STC’d on a similar make and model, we can use some of that data for the new project.
• Once the certification plan is approved by the FAA, we can then create the data package, which includes the installation drawings and instructions for the wiring, brackets, and other hardware. The package also includes all detailed drawings for all the installation components and all the compliance reports: System Safety, Structural Substantiation, Electrical Loads Analysis, etc.
“We are an ODA, so we are authorized by the FAA to issue our own STCs in-house. Where a non-ODA company would have to use contracted or company DERs (Designated Engineering Representatives) to approve the data and have the FAA accept the data and issue the STC, we use ODA Unit Members to approve the data and the Lead ODA administrator signs the STC,” Steve explained. “We have built up a lot of trust with the FAA over the years. Each project is a back-and-forth effort to ensure we’re all understanding what is expected.”
“Once the Data Package is approved, next comes building all of the brackets and parts to do the actual installation. When that’s done, both Genesys and FAA/ODA conformity inspections of the parts are completed,” he said. “The next step is to install the kit in the aircraft and complete the installation conformity, which means we’re getting close to the fun part – ground and flight testing.”
Steve also explained that flight and ground and flight testing is done in two stages: Phase one is our in-house (Genesys) ground and flight testing to ensue the autopilot meets all the FAA’s safety and regulatory requirements before they come fly it.
Phase two is the “Show Compliance Testing” with the FAA/ODA pilots whose job is to make sure the system performs the way we say it will. Most times that is just a formality since everything has been previously tested by Genesys Aerosystems. But, we and the FAA/ODA follow a precise plan to make sure nothing gets missed.
The last step in the STC process is to prepare and approve the final data package, which contains all the test reports and revised documentation or drawings, the Compliance Report, the Aircraft Flight Manual Supplement and the Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (maintenance manuals),” he said. Once that’s all done we issue the STC.
“But we’re not done,” Steve explained. “Now with the STC in hand we apply for our Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) Supplement, which authorizes us to produce the installation kit. Once the PMA is received, the autopilot can now be sold and installed on the aircraft model(s) now on the STC list.”
It’s an amazing amount of work performed by an incredibly talented and experienced team. Earning an FAA STC can take anywhere from six months, for a simple Part 23 or 27 aircraft, to up to a year, or more, for a more complex airplane or helicopter.
But we at Genesys Aerosystems wouldn’t have it any other way. We want to be able to rest easy at night knowing that our products are helping pilots all over the world fly safer. That’s just who we are.
Until next time, fly safely,