Success story: Long road to EASA certification
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This is a translation of the original article in Russian

This story has began in a far 2005, when, right after the Mock-up committee was held, AR IAC (Aviation Register of Interstate Aviation Committee) gave an order to prepare for a misterious "shady" or "parallel" EASA certification. We had no idea what it was all about, and it turned out that AR IAC had no idea either. So, we had to learn as we go, without any preliminary preparations.

We have been preparing for our first meeting with a really mysterious name "Familiarisation" for about half a year. It all looked like pre-wedding fuss with a fiancée from a far-away city. Nobody knew, what what to expect and what exactly to prepare for. Thereafter, we have prepared with the breadth of the Russian soul. I remember all of my first presentation. It lasted for about an hour. In a deathly silence. It seemed, that our guests also felt like "a fish out of water", and hesitated to offend the hosts with some clumsy question. Strictly speaking, they had no questions at that moment. Questions had appeared much later, and there were so much of them, that sometimes my hair stood on end, and the only thing I wanted to know was when all this will end at last!

Our second meeting was much more specific. Soon we have learned, that though our AR-25 (Aviation Rules) are synchronized with FAR-25 and JAR-25 in theory, they still contain some "blind spots", so we have started basis reconciliation, that was completed only in 4 years in 2010! The differences were not crucial, but there were lots of them, especially in relation to interpretations. Most of the comments related to RCS (Remote Control System), that was so much like Airbus's, but created by Russian specialists. It was really funny to look at our European colleagues' faces during first introductory meetings. At some moment "behind the scenes" we were asked: «Where all these algorithms, that are so much alike A320's, have came from?»

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And we had to perform some excursus deep into the history of Soviet and Russian aviation, that had borrowed, of course, a lot of terms and definitions from French aviation industry, but in terms of development and engineering of modern aviation complex systems — had reached everything itself. At this stage of «Familiarisation» event our friends and colleagues from SCO-15 TsAGI had helped us a lot. It turned out that together we had created the most modern and innovative control system. For our European colleagues a visit to TsAGI with its unique, even nowadays, experimental equipment became a crucial moment. From that moment they got confidence, that these guys can really create airplanes. For me personally that moment became the most important result of initial work stage, as we have got a "Sukhoi + EASA" team with a shared goal — bring the modern and innovative product to the market that meets modern requirements of certification authotiries, instead of opposition «Sukhoi vs EASA». «Team work» phrase – has become nominal among us.

Huge positive role in team formation belongs to our friends – AR IAC experts R.A. Danilov and G.A. Ierusalimsky, and experts S.V. Boris and V.V. Birykov from CC FRI (Certification Center of Flight Research Institute) and expert S.V. Adelson from ACC of SCR CA (Aviation Certification Center of State Science Research Center of Civil Aviation), who from the very beginning stood on the need of usage of modern methods for airplane certification in terms of the B-Flight section, instead of using good-old IBC SC AS-3 (International Basic Certification for Section Flight of Airworthiness Standards-3).

The best description for further work is like a scenario for "Obvious and Incredible" TV-show. Colleagues from EASA proposed obvious steps, that were really incredible to implement for our practice. As it was mentioned earlier, from the very beginning we have confirmed that modern international experience will be used for airplane certification. It was easy to confirm, but really tough to implement. E.g. none of our flight certification programs was ready to be approved by EASA, because these programs were written backwards — with formal list of objects, procedures and systems to be tested standing in the first place instead of basis requirements. Basis requirements were used later, when it was understood, what we have actually done and obtained.

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Methodological support had also to be created from the very beginning. Remember, how much fights took place to decide — whether to mount a rod (our well-known «Pinnocio») or not, to install anti-spin parachute or not, with what control laws and algorithms to flight on high attack angles, what state should be considered an airplane stall, how to perform take-off, landing, driving on the surface and how to use all this stuff for compliance demonstration. In the modern certifications practice all these questions are straightforward from the Compliance demonstration point of view. I hope that they are not straightforward for us too.

I want also to tell you about our colleagues' general impression from performed flights. They wanted to fly our plane for the first time in November 2008, and even came to Komsomolsk-na-Amure for this purpose. But unfortunately EASA flights were not yet available, because our own pilots just started to fly on high attack angles tests. They were so disappointed! We have promised them that as soon as planes arrive in Moscow they will be allowed to perform their familiarisation flights, even using the NORMAL MODE.

And it has happened — in April 2009 EASA has completed their first introduction flights. I remember that day very well. Deep blue sky, sun shining 100%, warm breeze. It was ideal weather to get a pleasure from the flight. And they have got it. Phillip Castan has jumped down from the stepladder, and answering my question «What do you think?», has said with his Gascon smile: ”Almost perfect, Alexander!”. Francois Fabr is older, more experienced and what is more important — has a senior position, he was not so emotional in his assessments, but generally satisfied. Engineers Fabris Butan and Jean-Pere Marr quickly and clearly conducted a debriefing: «Not bad in general, we have some specific questions in relation to control systems, but handling characteristics are really good».

We were moving through the certification program and our ratings were becoming better and better. Our colleagues were just excited about plane's stall characteristics. Tests for stability and control, take-off and landing characteristics, vast and comfortable passenger and pilot's cabin – all this was appreciated positively. When we were in Toulouse, after several approaches to landing in turbulence, our colleagues have asked: «What have you done to the plane? It has no roll oscillation at all! We thought it's impossible to achieve with the side stick! How did you do it?». Later they added: «You know, we think it will be a great success, when you will complete plane development». For us it was a real pleasure to hear such words from test pilots, who participated in lots of Airbus projects, including А320 and А400.

Let me touch the cooperation topic. There were no problems at all. Same as in Russia, a good personal relationships with some expert or specialist is an important part of project's success. Our communication department, Certification department and of course FRC (Flight Research Complex) have gained a lot of credits for this. Traditional Russian hospitality, sincere attitude is valuable in every country all over the world. Our EASA's colleagues told me, that their opinion about Russia has changed a lot during the past 6 years. Now they see that Russian people are interesting and friendly, it's a pleasure to work and communicate with them. Every visit to Russia was a pleasure to for them, in spite of the fact that working on our project was much more intense than Airbus's or Boeing's projects where they had worked before. And this is not an empty phrase. I think that there was no such a case in EASA history, when in its legal day-off, or on Christmas holidays EASA experts worked with declarant's documents sending about 5–10 letter's and e-mails a day. And this was the way that Panel Flight worked over our Flight Manual, which English version release has become a final chord in EASA certification process. Their enthusiasm expanded to other EASA Panels that made possible a long-awaited recognition of our work quality all over Europe and Asia. Taking into account that EASA-type certificate is valid in many countries, we can say that our results are recognised on the bigger part of the globe! This ambitious goal was achieved not in 5 or 10 years, but only in 12 months, if we start counting from the date when AR IAC (Aviation Register of Interstate Aviation Committee) signed and issued its certificate.

Author - Alexander Dolotovsky (Deputy Chief Designer for aerodynamics CJSC "SUKHOI Civil Aircraft")

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24 Feb 2014 07:26


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