Aircraft are certified as a certain category and class. Aircraft are
placed in a category according to their intended use and operating limitations.
For example, categories of aircraft include utility, normal, acrobatic,
commuter, transport, experimental, and restricted. The aircraft are also
grouped within their category according to their characteristics. For
example, airplane, helicopter, balloon, and glider are classes of aircraft.
The terms category and class can be confusing, since they can be used to refer
to both pilots and aircraft. A private pilot might have category and class
ratings of "Airplane, Single Engine-Land" and fly an aircraft certified in the
"Normal, Airplane" category and class.
§ 1.1 General definitions.
(2) As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a grouping of aircraft based upon intended use or operating limitations. Examples include: transport, normal, utility, acrobatic, limited, restricted, and provisional.
(2) As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a broad grouping of aircraft having similar characteristics of propulsion, flight, or landing. Examples include: airplane; rotorcraft; glider; balloon; landplane; and seaplane.
(2) As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means those aircraft which are similar in design. Examples include: DC–7 and DC–7C; 1049G and 1049H; and F–27 and F–27F.
Below is a little more detailed information about a few different categories of
A normal category of aircraft has nine seats or less, excluding pilot seats, and
has a maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less (referred to as a small
aircraft). It is intended for nonacrobatic operations. Allowable
maneuvers for such an aircraft include those maneuvers incident to normal
flying. Typical training maneuvers, including stalls, lazy eights,
chandelles, and steep turns may be performed in a normal category aircraft, so
long as the bank angle does not exceed 60 degrees and no "whip" stalls are
The utility category aircraft is also a small aircraft having nine or less seats,
excluding pilot seats. This category allows for limited acrobatic
operation. The same typical training maneuvers are allowable in a utility
category aircraft, except the aircraft is certified for up to a 90 degree bank
angle, instead of 60 degrees. Also, spins are sometimes approved for
specific utility category aircraft.
The acrobatic category aircraft is a small aircraft having nine or less seats,
excluding pilot seats, which is intended for operation without restrictions.
However, restrictions may be placed on a specific type of aircraft,
based on flight characteristics encountered during the aircraft's flight testing for certification.
Based on the circumstances of the certification, an aircraft might be certified
in the restricted category. The operation of a restricted category
aircraft often refers to the intended use, for example agricultural operations.
If operating a restricted category aircraft, the pilot must be familiar with the
legal operating restrictions of FAR Part 91 for restricted category aircraft.
One important restriction placed on this category of aircraft is that it not be
operated over a densely populated area or in a congested airway.
§ 91.313 Restricted category civil aircraft: Operating limitations.
The experimental category of aircraft is commonly found associated with
homebuilt aircraft. FAR Part 91 also contains several limitations for the
operation of an experimental category aircraft. Like the restricted
category of aircraft, experimental aircraft are also prohibited from operating
over a densely populated area or in a congested airway.
§ 91.319 Aircraft having experimental certificates: Operating limitations.
Limited, Provisional, and Primary Category Aircraft
Any aircraft in the limited, provisional, or primary category must follow
regulations for these aircraft set forth in Part 91 sections 315, 317, and 325,
What category is my aircraft?
The category of your aircraft will be shown on the airworthiness certificate.
Prior to operating an aircraft, make sure you are familiar with the specific
limitations and legal restrictions in place for that aircraft. As a
private pilot rated for single engine, land airplanes, the airplanes you fly
will likely be certified in the normal or utility categories.
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