In February 2018, the Brazilian Air Force's (FAB, in Portuguese) Institute for Industrial Development and Coordination (IFI, in Portuguese) received a significant distinction for its technical capacity: the Military Airworthiness Authority Certificate from the National Airworthiness Council (NAC), a U.S. government organization that comprises U.S. military technical authorities. NAC certifies IFI's continued performance on airworthiness, inspection, certification, and production activities on military aircraft under its jurisdiction.
For FAB Colonel José Renato de Araújo Costa, IFI's director, the certification is a testament to Brazil's level of competency in all life cycle phases of aerospace and defense products. “In practical terms, it facilitates the exchange of information related to all mutually operated products, which help ensure performance, safety, and availability of our aircraft,” Col. Araújo said.
The officer told Diálogo that NAC's recognition reaffirms the institute's prestige as a certified authority, facilitating the negotiation of international reciprocity agreements with other similar institutions and organizations around the world and the emergence of contracts or cooperation agreements between the Brazilian defense industry and foreign armed forces or defense industries. “The advantages of the certification not only extend to the Air Force, Army, and Navy commands but also to [Brazil’s] aerospace and defense industry, as NAC can acknowledge more quickly certificates the institute issues. The local industry benefits from the possible U.S. acquisition and operation of national products,” explained Col. Araújo.
NAC examined the following criteria in its assessment: material and available human resource conditions, document collection and management framework, inspection methodologies for maintenance organizations, and production line supervision. The evaluation criteria also included IFI's work during fleet certification for the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) and Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese), based on work done on EC725 (known as H-36 Caracal in Brazil) helicopters of the armed forces’ three branches.
The certification process began in 2015 and included analysis of technical-administrative documentation and technical visits in both countries. The first meeting took place in the United States in 2016, when a preliminary IFI team held meetings with NAC members to initiate the process for mutual recognition.
In 2017, NAC visited IFI facilities. “During this meeting, a highly qualified technical group verified that IFI, complemented by continued airworthiness activities, under the auspices of FAB's Aeronautical and Warfare Material Directorate, has the processes, procedures, levels of expertise, and necessary capacity and authority to be recognized as a Military Airworthiness Authority,” Col. Araújo said.
In July 2018, an IFI technical group will go to the United States to better understand the nature of NAC's work. The visit aims to audit U.S. military airworthiness technical authorities to establish mutual recognition between the Brazilian and U.S. authorities on aeronautical certifications. During the visit, the same criteria the American institute used will be adopted in Brazil. “The main focus will be on activities managed by technical authorities: the U.S. Army Aviation Engineering Directorate, the U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command, and the U.S. Air Force Technical Airworthiness Authority,” Col. Araújo said.
A superior path
For Col. Araújo, the institute's course since its inception in 1971 resulted in the certification. The director highlighted IFI's important contribution to the development of Brazil's national defense industry, referring to the civil certification of Embraer's Bandeirante aircraft and other factors that fostered the company's growth, including the pursuit of safety for national military aircraft.
“The IFI falls under the Aerospace Science and Technology Department and is located in São José dos Campos, in the interior of São Paulo state,” stated the Brazilian Air Force Public Affairs Office. In Brazil, aircraft certification for military use falls on the institute. The National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC, in Portuguese) certifies civilian aircraft. The certification process for military aircraft follows the same guidelines top certified organizations around the world adopted. The agency employs 280 people, including civilian and military. IFI certifies all aircraft FAB, EB, and MB use, like the H-36 Caracal (EC725) helicopter, Gripen NG fighter jet, and the KC-390 freighter, a new plane Embraer developed in Brazil.
KC-390: the final phase of certification
According to Col. Araújo, the certification process for the KC-390 follows the current worldwide philosophy regarding military aviation: as civil as possible, as militaristic as necessary. “Considering that military aircraft operate above densely populated areas, in aerodromes, and share the skies with civilian aircraft most of the time, it's pertinent for these aircraft to incorporate all design, safety, and operation guidelines in force in civil aviation,” he said.
According to the officer, civil certification for the aircraft advances along with ANAC's issuance of a provisional certificate. In 2018, military teams began to assess whether requirements are met through laboratory and on the ground testing and analyses. “Once completed, the applicant is allowed to present evidence of compliance with military requirements to obtain the IFI Military Certificate,” he said.
The most challenging aspect of the KC-390's certification, Col. Araújo said, due to the multidisciplinary and innovative nature of the project, was to put together a team of highly trained and qualified individuals. “It was necessary to structure a certification process aligned with the best practices existing in the world, such as using the accredited project organization concept in coordination with the applicant and maximum use of civil certification concepts,” he said.
The General Accreditation Coordinating Body of the National Meteorology Institute, Quality and Technology of Brazil—signatory of the Multilateral Recognition Agreement for the International Accreditation Forum—also recognizes IFI’s work. The institute maintains many agreements, partnerships, and memorandums of understanding with several countries, including Sweden, Canada, France, and Spain.