small aircraft, in the 1930s. Many aircraft that were certified to that early standard are still flying today, like the venerable Piper J-3 Cub.
CAR 3 essentially effect became the world’s standard for light aircraft, until it was replaced in the 1960s by the US FAR Part 23 certification standard. Later standards were added, like the European JAR-VLA standard for “Very Light Aircraft” and the current Canadian CAR 523 standards for small aircraft. All those standards were based on CAR 3 and FAR 23 and they are all very similar to FAR 23 today. This has the advantage that any aircraft designed to FAR 23 can quickly be certified in other countries, such as Canada, since our standards are close to FAR 23.
Overall, the concept of “certified aircraft” has historically been a success, as it has produced safe, aerodynamically stable and predictable aircraft. The production of almost all certified light aircraft came to a halt in the mid-1980s aviation economic bust. At that time non-certified aircraft filled in the gap and have become the dominant force in new aircraft since that time. Non-certified aircraft in Canada include amateur-built, basic and advanced ultralights, owner-maintenance and limited class aircraft.
By 2000 most factory built certified aircraft were back in production and some new designs, such as the Cirrus SR22, Lancair 300 Columbia and Diamond DA40 Star were introduced, bringing some of the engineering innovations of the homebuilt aircraft and sailplane designers to certified, factory-built airplanes.
Today, in the USA, new certified aircraft are on the rebound from their disappearance in the 1980s and are selling quite well. In Canada, non-certified aircraft still account for almost all of the new aircraft registered in the country each year. This is mostly due to the cost – there is no doubt that certification is expensive and the result is that a completed, new, certified aircraft is about three times the cost of a similar performing amateur-built aircraft. On the plus side, there continues to be a booming market in used certified aircraft in Canada, as their prices are often very close to similar, if newer, non-certified types, such as amateur-builts.
The advantages of certified aircraft over non-certified aircraft include:
All certified aircraft have predictable and stable handling and flight characteristics.
Most certified aircraft have a readily available supply of parts, even if the original manufacturer is out of business.
There is a lot of help available for the maintenance of most certified types – most AMEs can work on most types of certified aircraft.
The aircraft are generally “ready to fly” (unless you buy one that needs rebuilding) and therefore you don’t have to spend years of building before you get to fly the plane.
COPA Guide to Certified Aircraft 5