Driving down the cost of airplane programs requires “Certification by Analysis”

By Durrell

As a frequent traveler, I am often amazed at the safety and efficiency of modern air travel. Flying has become the safest form of transportation and it’s not by accident (no pun intended). The rigorous certification standards airplane makers are held to before a new aircraft is given clearance to fly is extraordinary. This focus on safety has had a very positive impact on the industry, but at a cost. Certification for a new aircraft can cost an airframer 10s of millions of dollars to achieve first flight.

It is this expense that has prompted many airframers to look at their certification process and evaluate strategies to reduce costs. Although there are many methods of certification that impact program costs it is often the physical testing requirements mandated by the FAA and other regulatory agencies that have the largest impact on spending.

As a consequence of the extraordinary cost of certification, the industry has pushed for increased usages of simulation in the certification work instruction. This strategy is often referred to as “Certification by Analysis” (CBA) which broadly speaking is the usage of simulation as an alternative to physical testing.

At the recent CFD Vision 2030 Future Technologies symposium, I had the chance to join a panel discussion on the impact of CFD on the aerospace industry. In addition to the core CFD technologies like new turbulence models, the panel discussed the use of CFD in the certification process. Boeing presented their vision of “CBA” and their plans to increase the impact of CFD on reducing certification cost.

Inspired by that work we invited Andrew McComas from TLG aerospace to discuss their use of CFD in accelerating aircraft certification. TLG has been on the leading edge of the CBA movement and will share their experience in the context of some recent work in the area. Andrew and his group have made significant progress in the last 5 years to extend to use of CFD for certification and will share what they’ve learned. As Airbus A3, Uber, Kittyhawk, and others air mobility companies start to introduce the commercial offerings certification will by their final obstacle to overcome and the learns from TLG and others will only aid them on their journey of certification. 

Register for the live event Certification with CFD

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at