Airworthiness is a term used to describe whether an aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 has been certified as suitable for safe flight
Air safety
Air safety is a term encompassing the theory, investigation and categorization of flight failures, and the prevention of such failures through regulation, education and training. It can also be applied in the context of campaigns that inform the public as to the safety of air travel.-United...

. Certification is initially conferred by a Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) from a National Airworthiness Authority
National Airworthiness Authority
The National Aviation Authority is the government statutory authority in each country that oversees the approval and regulation of civil aviation.-Role:...

, and is maintained by performing required maintenance actions by a licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
An Aircraft maintenance engineer is a licenced person who carries out aircraft maintenance. This same title is used in a number of different counteries, including:*Aircraft maintenance engineer *Aircraft maintenance engineer...

. Required scheduled maintenance actions are detailed in the Aircraft's System of Maintenance. Minor inspections are typically every 100 flight hours, with more intensive maintenance inspections at longer intervals.

The application of airworthiness defines the condition of an aircraft and supplies the basis for judgment of the suitability for flight of that aircraft, in that it has been designed with engineering rigor, constructed, maintained and is expected to be operated to approved standards and limitations, by competent and approved individuals, who are acting as members of an approved organization and whose work is both certified as correct and accepted on behalf of the State.

One notable example of an aircraft that was not legally airworthy is Larry Walters
Larry Walters
Lawrence Richard Walters, nicknamed "Lawnchair Larry" or the "Lawn Chair Pilot", was an American truck driver who took flight on July 2, 1982 in a homemade airship. Dubbed Inspiration I, the "flying machine" consisted of an ordinary patio chair with 45 helium-filled weather balloons attached to it...

' "Lawn chair flight." on July 2, 1982 in a homemade "aircraft" he called Inspiration I.

In the U.S., Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapter F, Part 91.7 states: "a) No person may operate an aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition. b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command
Pilot in command
The pilot in command of an aircraft is the person aboard the aircraft who is ultimately responsible for its operation and safety during flight. This would be the "captain" in a typical two- or three-pilot flight crew, or "pilot" if there is only one certified and qualified pilot at the controls of...

 shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur."

Definition of airworthy

The USA Federal Aviation Regulations
Federal Aviation Regulations
The Federal Aviation Regulations, or FARs, are rules prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration governing all aviation activities in the United States. The FARs are part of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations...

, Part 21, §21.183(d) has a procedural definition of airworthy:

"other aircraft An applicant for a standard airworthiness certificate for aircraft not covered by paragraphs (a) through (c) (a:"New aircraft manufactured under a production certificate." b:"New aircraft manufactured under type certificate only." c:"Import aircraft.") of this section is entitled to a standard airworthiness certificate if --
(1) He presents evidence to the Administrator that the aircraft conforms to a type design approved under a type certificate or a supplemental type certificate and to applicable Airworthiness Directives;
(2) The aircraft (except an experimentally certificated aircraft that previously had been issued a different airworthiness certificate under this section) has been inspected in accordance with the performance rules for 100-hour inspections set forth in part 43.15 of this chapter and found airworthy by--
(i)The manufacturer;
(ii)The holder of a repair station certificate as provided in part 145 of this chapter;
(iii)The holder of a mechanic certificate as authorized in part 65 of this chapter;
(v)The holder of a certificate issued under part 121 of this chapter, and having a maintenance and inspection organization appropriate to the aircraft type; and
(3)The Administrator finds after inspection, that the aircraft conforms to the type design, and is in condition for safe operation."

The true definition of the word "Airworthy" was never included in the Code of Federal Regulations until the 14 CFR Part 3, General Requirements, was established. The definition was included in the guidance, such as Advisory Circulars and Orders, but never in the Rule. Part 3 defines the definition of Airworthy as, the aircraft conforms to its type design and is in a condition for safe flight.

A more generic and non-process oriented definition is required. Airworthiness is defined in JSP553 Military Airworthiness Regulations (2006) Edition 1 Change 5 as:

The ability of an aircraft or other airborne equipment or system to operate without significant hazard to aircrew, ground crew, passengers (where relevant) or to the general public over which such airborne systems are flown

This definition applies equally to civil and military aircraft.

An example of a method used to delineate "significant hazard" is a risk reduction technique used by the military and used widely throughout engineering known as ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable). This is defined as:

‘The principle, used in the application of the Health and Safety at Work Act, that safety should be improved beyond the baseline criteria so far as is reasonably practicable. A risk is ALARP when it has been demonstrated that the cost of any further Risk reduction, where cost includes the loss of capability as well as financial or other resource costs, is grossly disproportionate to the benefit obtained from that Risk reduction.’

In Canada Canadian Aviation Regulations
Canadian Aviation Regulations
The Canadian Aviation Regulations are the rules that govern civil aviation in Canada.-Establishment:The CARs became law on October 10, 1996 replacing the former Air Regulations and Air Navigation Orders. The authority for the establishment of the CARs is the Aeronautics Act...

, CAR 101.01, Subpart 1 - Interpretation Content last revised: 2007/12/30

"airworthy" - in respect of an aeronautical product, means in a fit and safe state for flight and in conformity with its type design;

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