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Chapter 8 Structural Loads

8.1 General Loads Concepts

8.1.1 Loads Definition and Categories
8.1.2 Static and Dynamic Loads
8.1.3 Design and Fatigue Loads
8.1.4 Normal and Failure Loads
8.1.5 Loads Airworthiness Regulations
8.1.6 Flight Loads Conditions
8.1.7 Ground Loads Conditions
8.2 Flight and Mass Envelopes
8.2.1 Diagram of manoeuvre
8.2.2 Flight envelope (V, h, NZ)
8.2.3 Selection of Mass States
8.3 Balanced NZ conditions
8.3.1 Overview
8.3.2 Pull-up and Push-over
8.3.3 Steady Turn
8.3.4 Wing Root Loads
8.4 Discrete Gusts
8.4.1 Step Gust encounter
8.4.2 Gust Alleviation Factor
8.4.3 Dynamic Tuned Gusts
8.4.4 Static Gusts with Flaps down
8.5 Bibliography

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8.1 General Loads Concepts

8.1.1 Loads Definition and Categories

The structural loads are the distribution of total forces and moments acting on the aircraft,
as a sum of:
Aerodynamic loads
Inertial loads
Propulsive loads
Landing gear loads
Aircraft loads can be classified attending to several criteria, as summarized in next table:
Depending on: Categories
Operational source Flight loads
Ground loads
Structural response Static loads
Dynamic loads
Reiteration Design loads
Fatigue loads
Aircraft condition Loads in normal conditions
Loads in case of system failures
Loads for structural damage tolerance
Table 8.1: Loads categories

8.1.2 Static and Dynamic Loads

In both flight and ground phases:
Dynamic Loads conditions are those that require taking into account the vibratory
response of the structure and the associated dynamic aeroelastic effects.
Static Loads conditions are those in which it is enough taking into account the static
quasi-steady structural deformation and the associated static aeroelastic effects.
The most relevant load conditions are enclosed in the next table:
Static Loads Dynamic Loads
Flight Loads Flight Manoeuvres Gust in cruise configuration
Gusts with flaps down Continuous Turbulence
Engine Failure: unsymmetrical Engine Failure: loads due
loads on the aircraft to dynamic vibrations
Ground Loads Ground Handling Dynamic Landing
Landing bookcases Taxi on unpaved runways
Take-off and rotation
Table 8.2
Main load conditions attending to operational source and structural response

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8.1.3 Design and Fatigue Loads

The Design Loads are the maximum loads that are foreseen to appear during the aircraft
operational life.
The Fatigue Loads are lower and reached more frequently than the design loads. They
can be more critical than the design loads for certain parts of the structure.

Load Design

Number of appearances
during the aircraft life

Figure 8-1

8.1.4 Normal and Failure Loads

The aircraft loads in normal conditions are evaluated assuming that all aircraft systems
work properly and the structure is undamaged.
These conditions provide the limit loads that the structure must be able to support
without permanent deformation.
The limit loads multiplied by a factor of safety (FS) of 1.5 are the ultimate loads that
the structure must support without rupture for at least 3 seconds.

Boundary of
ultimate loads

Boundary of
limit loads

The structure must work

within the elastic limits at
least up to the limit loads

Figure 8-2

Apart from the normal conditions, two additional scenarios must be considered:
1. Loads in case of failures of aircraft systems.
2. Loads to be combined with damaged structure.

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The aircraft loads due to failures of systems, such as flight control system, hydraulic and
electrical systems, sensors (see figure 8-3), fuel system, etc. are multiplied by factors of
safety (FS) between 1 and 1.5 and then applied as ultimate loads.

Figure 8-3
Schematic diagram of A330 EFCS (Electronic Flight Control System)

Depending on the consequences of the failure, these loads are classified in two groups:
Loads at the time of occurrence, when the failure provokes a transient condition that
develops significant aircraft loads. The factor of safety FS to be applied depends on
the probability of the failure per flight hour.
Loads for continuation of flight, when the failure originates a degraded condition that
worsens the normal flight and/or ground loads. The factor of safety FS depends not
only on the probability of the failure but also on the subsequent flight time with the
aircraft exposed to this scenario.
The failures can be detected or undetected. In the first case, realistic pilot corrective
actions can be considered at the time of occurrence and, if needed, operational limitations
can be established for continuation of flight.

The loads for structural damage tolerance account for two possible scenarios in which the
structure is not intact. In these cases the set of applicable loads is relaxed with respect to
the normal conditions. The two situations are:
Fail-safe loads, to be combined with structural degradation due to internal failures
by fatigue and other sources. The residual structure must withstand with a factor of
safety FS=1 the normal loads up to the maximum cruise speed. That is, the limit
loads are considered directly as ultimate loads.
Discrete source loads, to be applied when there is a structural damage due to
external actions (for instance a bird strike, figure 8-4). The damaged structure must
withstand with a factor of safety FS=1 the loads which are reasonably expected to
occur after that.

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Figure 8-4: Example of bird impact effects

8.1.5 Loads Airworthiness Regulations

The design structural loads are calculated in accordance with certification bases like:
FAR-25 (civil, USA)
CS-25 (civil, Europe)
DEF STAN (military, United Kingdom)
JSSG and former MIL (military, USA)
Most usual regulations in transport aircraft are CS-25 and FAR-25 (subpart C Structure),
which are very similar between them. In general there are 2 kinds of paragraphs in the
regulations for loads:
Those establishing general application criteria, flight envelopes, design airspeeds,
load factors NZ, factors of safety, limit and ultimate loads definitions, fuel conditions,
power conditions, etc.
Those defining the manoeuvre and gust conditions that the aircraft must withstand.
CS-25 & FAR-25 general criteria to calculate loads are established in several paragraphs
of the regulations:
General criteria 25.301 Loads
for all loads
25.303 Factor of safety
25.321 General
General criteria 25.333 Flight manoeuvring envelope
for Flight Loads
25.335 Design airspeeds
25.337 Limit manoeuvring load factors
25.343 Design fuel and oil loads
General criteria 25.471 General
for Ground Loads
25.473 Landing load conditions and assumptions
25.477 Landing gear arrangement
25.489 Ground handling conditions
Table 8.3: General airworthiness criteria for loads

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8.1.6 Flight Loads Conditions

CS-25 & FAR-25 flight loads conditions for the complete a/c can be classified in 7 groups:
Flight Load condition CS/FAR Specific conditions
1 Balanced NZ conditions 25.331 Quasi-steady vertical turn at specified NZ
Steady level turn at specified NZ
2 Pitch manoeuvres 25.331 Maximum pitch action at VA
Checked manoeuvre (dq/dt versus NZ)
3 Discrete gusts and CT 25.341 Discrete tuned gust (*)
for cruise configuration Continuous turbulence (*)
(*) Both including structural dynamic effects
4 Discrete gusts with 25.345 Head-on gusts
flaps down Vertical and lateral gusts
5 Roll manoeuvres 25.349 Maximum roll acceleration (dp/dt)
Steady roll rate (p)
6 Yaw manoeuvres 25.351 Yaw including overshoot
Steady sideslip + rudder centring
7 Engine failure conditions 25.367 Transient after engine failure including
pilot corrective actions
Table 8.4: Flight Loads conditions
These flight conditions can affect to several aircraft zones. The major aircraft components
that typically can be sized by each flight condition are shown in figure 8-5 and table 8-5.

On the other hand, the main design parameters having an influence on flight loads are
collected in table 8-6.

Lateral loads Lateral loads Lateral loads

Vertical Vertical Vertical

loads loads loads

Balanced NZ Pitch Gusts and CT, flaps 0

conditions manoeuvres (vertical & lateral)

Figure 8-5(a)
Typical potential sizing of a/c components by flight load conditions

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Lateral loads Lateral loads Lateral loads

Vertical Vertical Vertical

loads loads loads

Gusts with flaps down Roll Yaw manoeuvres and

(vertical, lateral & head-on) manoeuvres engine failure conditions
Figure 8-5(b)
Typical potential sizing of a/c components by flight load conditions

Flight Load condition Wing Fus. Fus. HTP VTP

vert. lat.
1 Balanced NZ conditions X Rear X
2 Pitch manoeuvres Rear X
3 Discrete gusts and CT, cruise configuration X X X X X
4 Discrete gusts, flaps down X Rear X
5 Roll manoeuvres Outer Rear X X
6 Yaw manoeuvres Rear X
7 Engine failure conditions Rear X
Table 8-5
Typical potential sizing of a/c components by flight load conditions

Manoeuvrability parameters Wing Fus. Fus. HTP VTP

vert. lat.
Maximum design vertical load factor NZ X X X
Maximum p or aileron deflection limits Outer Rear X X
Maximum or rudder deflection limits Rear X
Maximum q and dq/dt or elevator deflection limits Rear X

Operational parameters Wing Fus. Fus. HTP VTP

vert. lat.
Design weights (MTOM, MZFM, etc) X X X
Forward and rear limits of centre of gravity X X X X X
Design airspeeds and maximum Mach X X X X X
Table 8-6
Influence of design parameters on flight loads of a/c components

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Additionally, CS-25 and FAR-25 state:

Supplementary conditions in 25.361 to 25.373 for engine installation, pressurised
compartments and speed control devices.
Specific control surfaces and system loads in 25.375 to 25.459.

8.1.7 Ground Loads Conditions

Ground loads calculation requires availability of landing gear models.
CS-25 & FAR-25 landing conditions refer to dynamic landing loads and bookcases
stating static load calculations based on characteristic points of the time histories of
landing gear reactions:
o 25.479 Level landing conditions
o 25.481 Tail-down landing conditions
o 25.483 One-gear landing conditions
o 25.485 Side load conditions
o 25.487 Rebound landing condition
CS-25 & FAR-25 ground-handling conditions refer to a/c manoeuvres on ground:
o 25.491 Taxi, takeoff and landing roll
o 25.493 Braked roll conditions
o 25.495 Turning
o 25.497 Tail-wheel yawing
o 25.499 Nose-wheel yaw and steering
o 25.503 Pivoting
o 25.507 Reversed braking
o 25.509 Towing loads
o 25.511 Ground load: unsymmetrical loads on multiple wheel units

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8.2 Flight and Mass Envelopes

8.2.1 Diagram of manoeuvre

The vertical load factor NZ (in body axes, as shown in figure 8-6) is defined as the sum of
aerodynamic and propulsive vertical up-forces divided by the aircraft weight:
NZ (8.1)

X (FZA+FZT) = NZmg

Figure 8-6

Figure 8-7 depicts the manoeuvring envelope, also known as diagram of manoeuvre,
established by CS/FAR 25.333 in terms of required vertical load factor NZ versus
equivalent airspeed (EAS).

NZ NZmax



Figure 8-7

NZmax is the maximum design load factor as required by 25.337:

NZ max 2.1 MTOM 10000 ( with MTOM in lb)

In any case : 2.5 N
Z max 3.8

There are 3 design airspeeds involved in the diagram of manoeuvre:

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VC is the design cruising speed.

VD is the design dive speed, which must comply with condition (8.3) unless a lower
margin in a diving manoeuvre is justified by calculation and flight tests.
VD 1.25 VC (8.3)
VA is the design manoeuvring speed, which must comply with condition (8.4), being
VS1 the stalling speed at 1g (i.e. at NZ=1).
VA VS1 NZ max (8.4)

8.2.2 Flight envelope (V, h, NZ)

In practice, the minimum speed compatible with NZmax, namely corner speed Va, is
different from the design speed VA because of two principal reasons:
1) Usually a unique design speed VA is selected covering all weights. Then VA is
determined by MTOM, while the corner speed Va is lesser for lower weights, as
shown in figure 8-8.
2) Usually CLmax decreases with Mach, displacing the stall curve at high NZ towards the
right side with respect to the theoretical parabola given by the simplified formula
VS1 NZ , as shown in figure 8-9.

NZ Corner Design man.

speed speed

VS1NZ1/2 VS1NZ1/2




Figure 8-8
Difference between VA and corner speed due to weight effects

CLmax NZ Design Corner

man. speed speed



Mach VS1 VA Va

Figure 8-9
Difference between VA and corner speed due to compressibility effects

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Next figure shows a typical variation of the design speeds V A, VC and VD with altitude.
Usually the zone at high altitude is limited by maximum Mach: design cruise Mach (MC)
and design dive Mach (MD).
In this zone VA would
Altitude be equal to VC

VS1N1/2 in the
theoretical case of
constant CLmax Va VC VD


Figure 8-10
Typical design airspeeds

8.2.3 Selection of Mass States

Inside the Mass-Xcg diagram, usually the most significant mass cases for loads are:
Operating Empty Mass (OEM).
Minimum weight with fwd Xcg and rear Xcg.
Maximum Zero Fuel Mass (MZFM) with forward and rear Xcg; these cases can be
replaced by MZFM plus minimum reserve fuel.
Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM) based on the above MZFM cases.
MTOM with maximum fuel.
Maximum Landing Mass (MLM): equivalent cases to above MTOM ones, for landing
and approach configurations.

Mass Max.


Fwd c.g. Aft c.g.

Figure 8-11

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Selection of critical mass states for the fuselage

FAR/CS 25.321 requires:
To comply with the flight loads conditions at each weight from the design minimum
weight to the design maximum weight appropriate to each particular flight load
To consider any practicable distribution of disposable load within the operating
limitations recorded in the Aeroplane Flight Manual.
For those fuselage zones where inertia loads are dominant (or go in the same direction
than aerodynamic loads), the most critical cases correspond to maximum possible payload
in the extremes of forward and rear fuselage, combined with the minimum aircraft weight
compatible with the diagram Mass-Xcg.

Figure 8-12

Selection of critical mass states for the wing

Wing loads are specially influenced by the fuel distribution inside the aircraft. Figure 8-13
shows a typical arrangement of fuel tanks

Figure 8-13
Example of fuel tanks (A330)

At fixed NZ, taking as starting point the MZFM, the addition of fuel to the aircraft produces
the following effects on the wing:
Adding fuel always requires additional lift in the wing with respect to MZFM.
If the fuel is stored in tanks outside the wing, it is equivalent to additional payload.
As this worsens the flight wing loads, the fuel sequence is usually defined to fill
firstly the wing tanks and afterwards the fuselage and/or HTP tanks.

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If the fuel is received in the wing tanks, it produces wing loads alleviation due to the
inertia loads. Then:
o From the point of view of wing shear force (FZ), extra aerodynamic lift and
extra inertia alleviation are approximately counterbalanced. Even the net
load decreases, because extra lift is usually not supported to a 100% by the
wing, while the extra inertia load (relief) is.
o Wing bending moment (MX) is driven by the relative position of the fuel tank
c.g. with respect to the lateral aerodynamic centre of pressure (usually about
40% of wing span). In general, filling outer tanks decreases the bending
moment while filling inner tanks increases the bending moment at wing root.

Lift NZ W(a/c)
Bending moment
at wing root

Inner Outer Inertia loads

Empty fuel NZ

Figure 8-14

Next diagram shows a typical evolution of the wing root bending moment at fixed NZ.

Critical cases for MX

at wing root are typically

Figure 8-15

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8.3 Balanced NZ conditions

8.3.1 Overview
Balanced conditions at given NZ are calculated in 2 ways:
Vertical turn (pull-up & push-over)
Level turn
These conditions involve:
Null angular accelerations
Steady or quasi-steady angular rates at given NZ
Symmetric or quasi-symmetric flight conditions
Balanced NZ conditions are potentially critical for wing, HTP, rear fuselage and powerplant.

8.3.2 Pull-up and Push-over

Vertical turns are unsteady manoeuvres where the aircraft is performing a turn in a vertical
plane. For loads calculation purposes, both extremes of the manoeuvring envelope, at
NZmax and NZ = 1, can be fulfilled with this kind of vertical manoeuvre.
At NZ > 1: Lower point of the trajectory in a pull-up.
At NZ < 1: Upper point of the trajectory in a push-over.
It is a symmetrical manoeuvre, with null roll rate and null yaw rate.
It is a non-steady manoeuvre because d/dt0, changing and consequently the
projection of the gravity force in body axes. So the loads have to be understood as
instantaneous loads just happening at the extremes of the trajectory.
The pitch rate is given by:

q NZ 1

L = NZ mg


Figure 8-16

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8.3.3 Steady Turn

Level turns are steady manoeuvres where the aircraft is performing a turn in a horizontal
plane. Only the positive extreme of the diagram of manoeuvre at NZmax can be covered
with this manoeuvre.
It is a steady turn with = 0 and NZ > 1.
It is non-symmetrical (yaw rate, rudder and roll controls are not null), but can be
considered quasi-symmetrical.
Pitch rate:
1 g
q NZ (8.6)
Yaw rate (there are two possible turns with r > 0 and r < 0 respectively):
r q cos q (8.7)

L = NZ mg


mg r

Figure 8-17

8.3.4 Wing Root Loads

Given NZ, there are two simplified formulas to estimate the shear force FZ and the bending
moment MX of the exposed wing at root:
1 CLew
FZ m m ew Nz g (8.8)
2 CLac
1 CLew
MX my aer y root m ew y ewcg y root Nz g (8.9)
2 CLac
CLew / CLac = exposed wing to complete aircraft lift ratio.
m = aircraft mass.
mew = mass of exposed wing (including fuel).
yroot = lateral position of wing root (with respect to the plane of symmetry).
yaer = lateral position of exposed wing lift centre of pressure.
yewcg = lateral position of exposed wing centre of gravity (including fuel).
NZ = vertical load factor.
g = gravity acceleration.

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8.4 Discrete Gusts

8.4.1 Step Gust encounter

For some aircrafts (particularly transport aircraft flying at high speed), the design maximum
loads are not caused by manoeuvring but result from encounters with gusts or air
Figure 8-18 illustrates an aircraft that abruptly encounters a vertical step gust. Really,
gusts have not usually a sharp-edged shape; but most standards for gust loading are
specified in terms of an equivalent step gust.
The main effect of the vertical gust is to change the effective angle of attack. This suddenly
increases the lift and can create very heavy loads on the wings structure.

Figure 8-18

For a relative small Vgust compared to the flight speed V:

The change in angle of attack is given by (8.10):

arctg Vgust V Vgust V (8.10)

The change of lift coefficient is given by (8.11), where CL is the lift slope of the
complete aircraft:

CL CL CL Vgust V (8.11)

The change of lift is given by (8.12):

1 2 Vgust SCL V Vgust
L QSC L V SCL (8.12)
2 V 2
The change of load factor is given by (8.13):
L CL V Vgust
N Z (8.13)
W 2 ( W / S)
Considering up & down gusts and assuming that the flight prior to the gust encounter is at
1g, the load factor that is reached due to the gust is:
CL V Vgust
NZgust 1 NZ 1 (8.14)
2 ( W / S)
For a given aircraft weight (W), the incremental load factor (NZ) given by the equation
(8.14) is proportional to the flight speed (V) and the gust intensity (Vgust), apart from
compressibility (Mach) effects on CL. This evolution of NZ with V and Vgust is represented
in figure 8-19, which is comparable to the diagram of manoeuvre given in figure 8-8.

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Figure 8-19

8.4.2 Gust Alleviation Factor

Although the step gust is a good simple model, in the design specifications and regulations
the equation (8.14) is modified by a gust alleviation factor Kg, which accounts for the fact
that true sharp-edged gusts do not exist.


(1-cos) gust

Figure 8-20

Actual response of the aircraft to smooth gusts is less than predicted by the preceding
analysis for step gusts. Inserting the gust alleviation factor Kg yields next equation:
K g CL V Vgust
N Zgust 1 (8.15)
2 ( W / S)
In previous equations, V and Vgust are true airspeeds (TAS) while is the actual density.
Generally it is better to use equivalent airspeeds, replacing equation (8.15) by (8.16) that
0 = sea-level density
VE and VEgust = flight EAS and gust EAS, respectively
K g 0 CL VE VEgust
NZgust 1 (8.16)
2 ( W / S)
This equation (8.16) lets to compare gust loads with manoeuvre loads by means of the
load factor NZ. Note that:
Regulations establish NZmax for pull-up manoeuvres.
Regulations specify the gust intensity (VEgust); then NZgust grows with flight speed.
High speed aircrafts tend to be sized by gusts while low speed aircrafts tend to be
sized by manoeuvres.
Particularly, the Pratt-formula (8.17) has been widely used to formulate Kg for gusts with
shape (1-cos) and gust length equal to 25MAC. The non-dimensional mass coefficient ,

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given by equation (8.18), where c is the MAC, accounts for the adaptation of the aircraft
to the gust. This coefficient indicates the ratio between inertia and aerodynamic vertical
forces. Note that light aircrafts develop more alleviation (smaller Kg) than heavy aircrafts
because they have more tendency to be shifted by the wind, decreasing the effective angle of
Kg (8.17)
S c CL





0 50 100 150

Figure 8-21

8.4.3 Dynamic Tuned Gusts

CS 25.341 requires calculating dynamic loads due to vertical and lateral gusts with cruise
configuration (flaps 0).
Gust shape is (1-cos) with gust gradient H varying from 30 to 350 ft.

Figure 8-22
Gust intensity depends on altitude, speed, operational parameters and gradient H, as
given by equation (8.19), where Fg is an operational alleviation factor (around 0.9):
1/ 6
Uds Uref Fg (8.19)
Reference gust velocities are:
o At VC: Uref (EAS) = 56 fps at s/l, 44 fps at 15 kft, 26 fps at 50 kft.
o At VD: 50% Uref (EAS).

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The analysis must take into account unsteady aerodynamic characteristics and all
significant structural degrees of freedom including the rigid body motions. Such analysis is
complex and needs a refined structural model. However, it is possible to apply the
following simplified method for preliminary design purposes:
Pratt-formula can be applied at gust gradient 12.5MAC.
Once estimated NZ, the same equations (8.1) and (8.2) used for balanced
manoeuvres are valid to estimate FZ and MX at wing root.
Some dynamic-tuning loads adjustment factor (based on previous experience) can
be applied on top of the previous results.

8.4.4 Static Gusts with Flaps down

CS 35.345 requires calculating static loads due to:
Vertical (up & down) and lateral gusts of 25 fps, shape (1-cos) and gust length
25MAC (gust gradient 12.5MAC).
Head-on gust of 25 fps (EAS).

25 ft/s

Head-on gust

Figure 8-23

These conditions are potentially critical for wing torsion, flaps, horizontal tailplane and rear

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8.5 Bibliography
References for chapter 8:
8R1. D. P. Raymer.
Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach.
AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) Education Series.
1st edition 1989 5th edition 2012.
8R2. A. K. Kundu.
Aircraft Design.
Cambridge University Press.
8R3. D. Howe.
Aircraft Conceptual Design Synthesis.
Professional Engineering Publishing.
8R4. T. Lomax
Structural Loads Analysis for Commercial Transport Aircraft
AIAA Education Series, 1996.
8R5. European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
Certification Specification and Acceptable Means of Compliance for Large
Aeroplanes, CS-25
Amendment 16, Mar-2015.
8R6. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Title 14 of Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
Part 25: Airworthiness Standards: Transport Category Airplanes
Amendment 25-141, Sep-2015.

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