What is Airworthiness?

16 Mar 2022

2 min read

Airworthiness is a very important concept in aviation law. The main authorities in this respect are the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (the ‘Agency’) and domestically the Airworthiness Inspectorate Unit established within the Civil Aviation Directorate. 

Airworthiness, loosely defined as the ‘fitness to fly’, is a concept that alludes to the idea that an aircraft and its constituent components satisfy the necessary requirements for safe operation. This protects the crew members, whether air or ground crew, and passengers. Whilst this is mostly a technical concept, it is closely tied to the legal sphere. Airworthiness incorporates both initial airworthiness, being the satisfaction of initial conditions, as well as continuing airworthiness which recognizes the need for a continuous status of safe operation throughout an aircraft’s lifetime. For airworthiness to be satisfied, an aircraft’s structure must remain the same throughout its lifespan.

Apart from the advantages drawn from ensuring initial and continuing safety standards, airworthiness is important since it is a major consideration when awarding a Certificate of Registration and is the main reason for the cancellation of aircraft registration.

Malta’s aviation safety laws are a combination of European and international standards and harmonisation. In fact, Malta’s main inspirations in this respect are the European Union’s European Aviation Safety Agency (the ‘Agency’) and the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the latter two entities having close cooperative ties.

The Air Navigation Order requires an aircraft to possess a Certificate of Airworthiness AND an Airworthiness Review Certificate issued by the country of registration of that aircraft as well as compliance with the conditions of that certificate for an aircraft to fly. Minor exceptions to this apply, such as in respect of flights beginning and ending in Malta without passing over other countries.