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The Complexities of Product Certification

Jun 18, 2018
By: Geanine Ballard, UA Director, Engineering Services Organization

Geanine Ballard, UA Director, Engineering Services OrganizationGeanine Ballard has been working in the Aerospace Industry for over 28 years, holding a variety of leadership roles in the area of aircraft and product certification. Ms. Ballard has been performing in key roles of program management, research and development, and product development. Her experience with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) certification programs vary in size, scope, and complexity and support Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) and Technical Standard Order (TSO) development programs on Part 23 and Part 25 aircraft.

Prior to joining Universal Avionics, Ms. Ballard worked at Bombardier Aerospace / Learjet in Tucson, Arizona, where she held several leadership positions. She supported certification and engineering activity at the Tucson Global Express and Challenger Completion Center, as well as the Service Center as the DAS and ODA Administrator, successfully managing hundreds of STCs over her career.

Ms. Ballard holds a Bachelor's Degree from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado, and is a Graduate of Colorado Aero Tech, where she completed the Avionics Certificate Program.

UA: What exactly does the UA Certification Department do?

GB: Universal Avionics' (UA) Certification Department is the focal point between the FAA and our company for the certification of our products. Our team coordinates each phase of the products' life cycle with multiple cross-functional internal teams, while closely managing our relationships with three main branches of the FAA: The Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office (LAACO), the Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO), and Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).

At the start of each new project, Certification and Engineering review the FAA requirements to create a Project Specific Certification Plan (PSCP) for application to the FAA for a TSO Authorization to obtain the product design and production approval and STC for the airworthiness approval for installation on an aircraft.

This plan outlines how UA proposes to show compliance to the regulations the FAA has established for a certain product. My team is responsible for the overall design review and compliance approvals, FAA part and installation conformity, and on-aircraft ground and flight testing. We accomplish this using our in-house Designated Engineering Representatives (DERs) and Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DARs). UA Product Certification TeamThis allows us to maintain more control over the schedule as opposed to using outside consultants for this phase of the process.

My team relies on our test aircraft when the software becomes available from our engineering team to fly same day to collect data and review crew user interface. UA's products really are developed for pilots by pilots, and our in-house flight test DERs help ensure everything is designed the 'Universal way.'

UA: Explain the process of certifying a new product.

GB: During the software development and verification process, certification provides support with testing in the lab and on our King Air F90 and Cessna Citation 650. When the software is robust enough to take to full certification, the Certification team continues with the airworthiness approval process for the installation on the aircraft. The STC supplements the original Type Design of an aircraft. The FAA requires us to complete on-aircraft testing for the software to supplement issuance of the TSO Authorization.

UA: What is UA's experience with the FAA?

GB: In our experience, the FAA seems to appreciate our level of integrity, honesty and ability to work with them even when challenges come up. Over the years, we have demonstrated our expertise, knowledge, and ability with the certification of our products, so much so that the FAA has delegated some steps to UA. For example, we often receive delegation for 'Applicant Show of Compliance' in lieu of TIA, which replaces the need for direct FAA participation in flight tests. This benefits UA, as it significantly shortens the time required to obtain TSOA and STC approvals.

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