part of a series dedicated to the airplane engine change

Words matter. A misunderstanding of words can be costly. I’m the case of the new FAA paperwork for the RV-8 airplane, the difference between “certified” and “certificated” cost 35 flight hours.

The last step of the airplane engine change to take place prior to the first test flight was getting updated paperwork from the FAA. The paperwork included a new airworthiness certificate and operating limitations.

I spoke with the regional FSDO (flight standards district office) and contrary to their usual stereotype, my contact was very friendly and helpful. I sent in the requested forms and “letters of request”. A couple weeks later I received a call detailing my new paperwork and required test flights. The shocker was the duration of my testing – 40 hours ?! Everything I read and everyone I spoke to with knowledge said I would have a test period of 5 hours.

Without ruffling feathers and getting my trusted contacts in trouble I tried to get the 40 hours down to the expected 5 hours. None of my discussions were succeeding.

On the third call with the FSDO I pleaded “dumb” and asked for clarification on the key sticking point – “a certificated engine”.

certified vs certificated
certified vs certificated


The new-to-me engine is no longer “certified”.

The engine had been certified at some point but long ago it was removed from a certified airplane and overhauled and then installed in another certified airplane for about 100 hours before being removed and stored. Along the way, the logs had been lost. Without the logs, there was no proof of its pedigree and maintenance. It could no longer be used in a certified airplane. The RV-8 is an amateur built experimental aircraft so a non certified engine is no problem as long as it’s well maintained and inspected for safety.

I wrongly was accepting that the engine installed in the airplane was no longer certificated because it was no longer certified. The certification process is associated with the engine model and not with the specific engine.

Once I understood my mistake, I explained the airplane had a “Lycoming O-360-A4A”. The FSDO representative said, “OK, the engine has certificate # E-286” and then amended my paperwork to read “phase 1 flight test period of 5 hours”.

I really shouldn’t be surprised a single work could be so significant. All of the above is covered in the FAA document 8230.2J which is a short little 197 page document covering airworthiness certification.

Words matter. The reduce paper act is dead. Countless trees gave their lives to the cause.